This Week in History: The New York Sun Starts a Newspaper Revolution

This week in 1833 saw the first publication of the Sun. No, not that Sun – this was the New York Sun, and its ground-breaking reporting, simpler style of writing and lack of political bias shaped the lives of Americans for decades to come.

Benjamin Day, founder of the New York Sun. Credit: O’Brien Frank

The Sun was one of the first ‘penny press’ newspapers – newspapers that cost, actually yeah you get the picture. Focusing heavily on human interest stories, the Sun was the first newspaper to report on crime, suicide, death and divorce. It was also the first newspaper to make reporters go out and collect stories of their own, instead of relying on whatever readers would send in and plagiarising other newspapers.

Perhaps the New York Sun’s greatest achievement was its role in the evolution of the media. Newspapers went from primarily an interest of the wealthy to a powerful and informative tool aimed at the wider population.

These ideas may sound blindingly obvious now, but back in 1833, they were revolutionary. And whilst most papers made money from political party backing, and therefore often spouted little more than propaganda, the Sun knew its low price and working-class appeal would keep it in the black. Indeed, within three years the Sun was the highest selling newspaper in America.


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