The News of the World: 1843-2011 - Press Gazette

The News of the World: 1843-2011

The News of the World was launched on 1 October 1843 by John Browne Bell heralded as “The Novelty of Nations and the Wonder of the World” priced at just 3d.

“Our motto is the truth, our practice is fearless advocacy of the truth,” said Bell. His intention was, he said, “to give the poorer classes of society a paper that would suit their means, and to the middle as well as the richer a journal which, by its immense circulation, should command their attention”.

By the end of 1844 circulation had reached 18,000 and ten years on it had the largest circulation of any weekly paper.

The half-century following the death of Bell in 1855 saw a decline in the fortunes of the paper until 1891 when the Bell family sold out to a consortium of families headed by George Riddell, Lascelles Carr and Charles Jackson. Sir Emsley Carr, nephew of Lascelles Carr and son-in-law of Jackson, was appointed editor, a position he was to hold for 50 years.

The paper flourished under his editorship, and the newspaper industry in general benefited from his talents. Carr established the right to sell newspapers in Scotland on Sundays, and he pioneered the newspaper competitions and circulation-boosting schemes, taking the circulation from 40,000 to 4,400,000 at his death in 1941.

The News of the World remained a family concern, with members of the Jackson and Carr family on the board when the paper was acquired by Rupert Murdoch in 1969

Sales peaked in the 1950s at as many as 8.5m copies. As recently as 1990 the paper was still regularly selling more than five million.

In today’s vastly more crowded and fragmented media market it still commands a colossal readership.

In May it averaged 2,657,22 sales a week. According to the National Readership Survey it has 7.5m readers a week.



The first edition of the News of the World – “Unexampled in merit and unparalleled in price, printed with a new, distinct and elegant type” – was published on October 1 price 3d. The initial circulation was 13,000.


The paper was printed at Holywell Street in the Strand in London and by the end of the year circulation had risen to 18,000.


The News of the World moved premises to Exeter Street where its two presses took five days to turn out its weekly print run of 47,700.

1854 – 55

A mixture of crime, news of the Crimean War, sport and scandal lifted circulation to 200,000 copies a week – more than any other newspaper to that date.


The Bell family sold the paper to a consortium of families headed by George Riddell, Lascelles Carr and Charles Jackson. Sir Emsley Carr was appointed editor.


The paper moved to Bouverie Street off Fleet Street and proclaimed on its front page “More news than any other Sunday paper.”


The paper was now being printed on 84 presses at the rate of half a million copies an hour using 12 tons of ink and 900 tonnes of paper.


Circulation averaged 8,436,000 during the year. The June issue saw 8,659,000 copies printed at Bouverie Street and in Manchester, the largest print run in the history of any English language newspaper.


The News of the World took over the Empire News and the first issue to carry the new masthead appeared on October 23.


Rupert Murdoch acquired the News of the World.


Sunday, the News of the World colour magazine, was launched and circulation immediately shot up by half a million.


The paper changed to a tabloid format and re-launched with a front page scoop about Prince Andrew’s Caribbean affair with model Vicki Hodge.


The News of the World broke an exclusive story about Princess Michael of Kent’s relationship with a Texan property millionaire. In the same year circulation rose to more than 5,000,000.


The News of the World, together with the other News International titles, moved overnight to Wapping.


The News of the World outsold the combined circulations of its two principal rivals for the first time; a position maintained and enhanced ever since.


In October, the News of the World celebrated its 150th anniversary with a huge party and fireworks display on the bank of the River Thames in London.

Six days before Christmas the paper broke the exclusive story of a secret romance between Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones, who marry in 1999.


Former Tory Cabinet Minister David Mellor was revealed to be cheating on his wife with a Countess in a major News of the World exclusive. In the same year the Chief of the Defence Staff resigned within hours of the disclosure by the News of the World of his affair with Lady Bienvenida Buck, former wife of Tory MP Sir Antony Buck.


The News of the World was awarded “Scoops of the Year” by Granada’s “What the Papers Say” awards, in recognition of the outstanding number of scoops the News of the World had had in the past year.

Again the News of the World led in the Royal field, breaking the news of Princess Diana’s secret trysts with England rugby captain Will Carling.


The News of the World found and interviewed Britain’s most wanted man, a runaway bishop, with his divorcee lover, producing the memorable headline “Runway Bishop Confesses to News of the World: ‘Why I Sinned'” .


A major news year culminating on 31 August with the memorable late night series of editions reporting the tragic overnight death in Paris of Diana, Princess of Wales. Presses were still rolling printing an all black front page at 8am Sunday morning.

For Diana’s funeral the newspaper amassed what it claimed was the world’s biggest ever newspaper reporting team for a single event with 55 writers ensuring even the tiniest details were recorded. The notes, plans and routes maps the News of the World used to cover the service, cortege and burial, are now locked away in a historical archive.


Jeffrey Archer quit as Tory candidate for Mayor of London after the News of the World exposed his false alibi for the night he was accused of sleeping with a call girl.


The News of the World won Scoop of the Year in the 1999 What The Papers Say awards for their revelations about Jeffrey Archer.

November 2002

The News of the World splashed with revelation of an alleged plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham with pictures showing the arrest of five men the previous tday.

The trial against the five later collapsed after it was revealed that one of the defendants was a NoW informant who had been paid £10,000.

April 2004

Revealed David Beckham’ secret affair with Rebekah Loos – story later won British Press Awards Scoop of the Year

October 2004

Published a series of articles alleging Scottish MSP Tommy Sheridan had taken part in group sex and used drugs. The paper was later sued for libel – but in December 2010 Sheridan was convicted of perjury

March 2005

News of the World picked up three prizes including Newspaper of the Year at the British Press Awards.

February 2006

Revealed that Lib Dem leadership contender Mark Oaten had paid for the services of a male prostitute leading him to withdraw from the race.

April 2006

Sun and News of the World paid more than £100,000 in damages to footballer Andy Cole after falsely accusing him of being involved in a ‘gay orgy”.

May 2006

News of the World won Sunday Newspaper of the Year at the London Press Club awards for a third year running.

January 2007

News of the World royal editor Clive Goodman and full-time investigator for the paper Glenn Mulcaire were jailed for intercepting mobile phone voicemail messages to find stories. Andy Coulson resigned as editor. Veteran red-top executive Colin Myler later named as editor

March 2008

Published a front-page story alleging that Max Mosley had taken part in a Nazi-themed orgy with five paid dominatrices. Mosley later won a High Court trial after claiming invasion of privacy and won £60,000 damages. He successfully argued that the orgy did not have a Nazi theme. Costs for the NotW were believed to total £1m.

July 2009

The Guardian revealed that News International had paid £1m in settlements to three phone-hacking victims and that the scandal was far more widespread than previously believed with thousands of phones hacked.

The News of the World responded by saying it had been “the subject of some ferocious and, at times, hysterical attacks on its credibility, integrity and journalistic standards”. It accused The Guardian of being “inaccurate, selective and purposely misleading”.

February 2010

After hearing evidence from numerous News International executives the Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee accused them of ‘collective amnesia’over phone-hacking. They said it was inconceivable that, has stated by NI staff, no-one other than Clive Goodman knew about phone-hacking at the paper.

March 2010

Max Clifford settled his phone-hacking claim against the News of the World for a reported sum of £1m in a deal which was understood to have been thrashed out with Rebekah Brooks.

May 2010

A News of the World sting revealed that Sarah Ferguson had offered to provide access to Prince Andrew for £500,000.

April 2011

The News of the World won four prizes at The Press Awards, believed to be its biggest haul ever, including scoop of the year for Mazher Mahmood’s cricket match-fixing revelations.

April 2011

Two individuals were sent to prison after being exposed for trying to sell a baby by a News of the World sting.

July 2011

The Guardian reported new allegations that in 2002 an investigator employed by the News of the World hacked the mobile phone voicemail messages of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.

7 July, 2011

News Corp Europe and Asia chief executive James Murdoch announced that he has taken the decision to close the News of the World stating that Sunday, 10 July, will be the last edition.



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