December 4 is a historic day in the world of journalism. How could I not, on this date in 1791, The Observer was published for the first time. The Observer is the world’s first weekly newspaper founded by WS Bourne.
At the beginning of its appearance, The Observer was based on the principle that it would be a neutral and impartial media. As the founder, WS Bourne believes this newspaper will be a means of generating money for him. But his guess was wrong, within three years, he actually had a debt of 1,600 Pounds Sterling!
To cover his debt, WS Bourne tried to sell the rights to The Observer to the government. However, they turned down WS Bourne’s offer. Even so, the government agreed to provide subsidies on the condition that the government has influence over the news that will be published. As a result, The Observer turned into a government propaganda tool with provocative news.
In 1807, Lewis Doxat was appointed new editor of The Observer. Five years later, this newspaper reporter Vincent George Dowling not only wrote about the assassination of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, he also caught the killer!
Willian Innell Clement, owner of several newspapers, bought The Observer in 1814. Even though it was still supplied with subsidized funds from the government, this newspaper dared to oppose government policies under Clement’s leadership.
Clement opposes the government’s ban on providing trial details of the Cato Street Conspirators case accused of trying to kill a cabinet member. This freedom of the press became a characteristic of various newspapers in the following years. The Observer is known for its trademark focus on in-depth coverage of politics.
Clement retained ownership of The Observer until his death in 1825. During his tenure, the newspaper supported parliamentary reforms and opposed Chartism, which was a national protest movement against working class male suffrage during political reforms in Britain.
Then in 1857, Doxat, editor of The Observer, sold the newspaper to Joseph Snowe who also took over as editor. Under Snowe’s leadership, the newspaper adopted liberal political stances, such as supporting the north during the American Civil War and supporting universal suffrage in 1866.
The Observer changed ownership again, in 1870. It was the wealthy businessman Julius Beer who bought the paper and appointed Edward Dicey as editor. After Julius died in 1880, the newspaper was taken over by his son, Frederick.
Unfortunately, Frederick had little interest in journalism. This is in contrast to his father, Dicey. In 1889, Henry Duff Traill took over as editor after Dicey’s departure. Two years later, Rachel Beer replaced Traill. Frederick’s wife was an editor for thirteen years!
Entering the 20th century, The Observer was bought by Lord Nortchloffe after Frederick’s death in 1903. After retaining his position as editor for several years, in 1980 Northcliffe appointed James Louis Garvin as editor.
Garvin quickly turned this newspaper into something that could influence politics, so that the number of prints increased from 5 thousand to 40 thousand within a year after his arrival.
However, the rise of the newspaper caused a dispute between Garvin and Northcliffe. Disagreements between the two led Northcliffe to sell The Observer to William Waldorf Astor in 1991 and transfer ownership to his son, Viscount Waldodrf Astor, four years later.
Under his control, the Viscount handed The Observer back to Garvin. During this period, The Observer’s print count reached 200,000 during the war and the Great Depression or economic downturn in Britain in 1930.
It wasn’t until 1948 that The Observer was completely free of political discussion, when David Astor was made owner and editor. Astor turned this newspaper into a non-party publication. During Astor’s reign, The Observer produced many famous writers, such as George Orwell, Conor Cruise O’Brien, and Kim Philby.
From 1977 to 1993, The Observer was owned by two giant international companies, Atlantic Richfield and Tiny Rowland’s Lonhro. The emergence of other weekly newspapers, such as The Independent, put The Observer under pressure.
So that in 1993, the Guardian Media Group acquired the newspaper in 1993. The Observer maintained its reputation by exposing cash-for-access scandals and leading the way in various coverage.
On January 8, 2006, The Observer was relaunched in the Berliner format and became the UK’s only color weekly newspaper. In 2007 The Observer was named National Newspaper of the Year by the British Press Awards.
John Mulholland was appointed editor of The Observer in January 2008, replacing Roger Alton, who has been editing news since 1998. In late 2008, The Observer moved from Herbal Hill, Farringdon to a new office with The Guardian magazine at King’s Cross.
The Observer was redesigned and published in February 2010, after further scrutiny of the role of the weekly newspaper in these changing times.
In June 2011, Guardian News & Media (GNM), publisher of The Guardian and The Observer newspapers, announced plans to become a digital-first organization.