The News & Observer

The News & Observer is an American regional daily newspaper that serves the greater Triangle area based in Raleigh, North Carolina. The paper is the second largest in the state (first is the Charlotte Observer). The paper has been awarded three Pulitzer Prizes; the most recent of which was in 1996 for a series on the health and environmental impact of North Carolina's booming hog industry.[3] The paper was one of the first in the world to launch an online version of the publication,[4] in 1994.

The News & Observer
The June 16, 2009, front page of
The News & Observer
TypeDaily newspaper
Owner(s)The McClatchy Company[1]
PublisherSara Glines
EditorRobyn Tomlin
Founded1865 (as The Sentinel)
HeadquartersRaleigh, North Carolina, United States
Circulation68,833 daily
98,499 Sunday


The News & Observer traces its roots to The Sentinel, which was founded by the Rev. William E. Pell in 1865 'to help expose corruption in state politics" (to maintain white supremacy) during the Reconstruction Era. paper's struggles to stay relevant and make money led to new ownership in 1868. With the new owner The Sentinel began to cover the Democrats' push to retake the North Carolina Legislature, along with the impeachment of Gov. William W. Holden in 1871.

The Sentinel went bankrupt a little over ten years after the paper was first founded. The owners of the newly founded Raleigh Observer, Peter M. Hale and William L. Saunders, bought the now-bankrupt paper, ending its publication and focusing on the Raleigh Observer. After about ten years the paper ran out of money, so the two owners sold to the owner of the Raleigh News, Samuel A. Ashe.

Ashe combined the two papers under the new banner The News & Observer in September 1880, making it the sole daily paper in Raleigh. Ashe ran the company personally until 1894, focusing on politics and the Democratic party. Ashe used connections within the Democratic Party to get an upper leg on upcoming stories. This model worked well for the paper until Ashe lost favor in the Democratic caucus, leading the paper to fall on hard financial times for the fourth time in its history.

The voice of white supremacy

In 1894 the paper was sold at auction, this time to a Washington, North Carolina native who was a strong Democratic supporter. Josephus Daniels, with help from Julian S. Carr and other friends, bought the paper. Quickly Daniels refocused the News and Observer to combat rampant corruption and other problems he saw within the state. Put differently by Daniels himself, "The News and Observer was relied upon to carry the Democratic message and to be the militant voice of White Supremacy, and it did not fail in what was expected, sometimes going to extremes in its partisanship."[5]:39 Daniels believed that "the greatest folly and crime" in U.S. history was giving negros the vote.[5]:37

In the Findings of the Wilmington Race Riot Commission, Daniels is the only name mentioned as a cause of the Wilmington insurrection of 1898,[6]:1 According to historian Helen Edmonds, the paper "led in a campaign of prejudice, bitterness, vilification, misrepresentation, and exaggeration to influence the emotions of the whites against the Negro."[6]:61 The result was the only successful coup d'état in American history, the overthrow of an elected government by force.

In 1900 he used the paper to support soon-to-be Governor Charles B. Aycock, another white supremacist, during his bid for the office. He also used the paper to advocate female suffrage, workers' compensation, state industrialization, better roads and crop rotation.[7]

Daniels also used the News and Observer to persuade North Carolina citizens to support the disenfranchisement of blacks in the 1910s and 1920s. Daniels later renounced the racist policies of the 1910s News and Observer.[8]

In 2006, on occasion of the release of the report of the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission, the newspaper offered "an apology for the acts of someone [Daniels] we continue to salute in a different context…and for the misdeeds of the paper as an institution." The newspaper published a 16-page special report on the events of 1898.[9]

After Daniels

Daniels continued to run the paper until his death in the mid-1940s. After his death his four sons assumed management of the company. All four sons contributed to the operation of the paper, but Jonathan Daniels, editor from 1933 to 1941 and from 1948 until 1964, kept the paper in the direction of appealing for school desegregation and a reduction in race related discrimination. It was also under Jonathan's leadership that The News and Observer bought out the Raleigh Times and moved to a building on South McDowell St. in downtown Raleigh, where they stayed until the building was sold in 2015.

On September 3, 1934, The News and Observer began a column about state politics called "Under the Dome", which started on the back page, moved to the front and now runs in the local section.[10]

In 1968, the Daniels family hired Claude Sitton, who had been a correspondent for The New York Times and later an editor there. Serving as the editorial director of the paper, he promoted The News & Observer as a government watchdog and moved the news of the paper away from the personal and partisan stances it had taken under Josephus Daniels. However, its editorials were still often aligned with the Democratic Party. A year later, the Mini Page children's supplement was created and published. Today, it is one of America's most widely used children's newspaper supplements.

In 1971, Sitton became the editor and the paper began buying and publishing smaller local newspapers, starting with The Island Packet in Hilton Head, South Carolina and The Cary News in Cary, North Carolina.

On March 16, 1980, a welder's torch started a fire and burned through newsprint threaded through the press, injuring three and causing millions in damage.

In 1987, the staffs of The News & Observer and The Raleigh Times merged, and on November 30, 1989, the last edition of The Raleigh Times was published. In 1988, The News & Observer endorsed its first Republican candidate for statewide election, showing, perhaps, a distancing from Democratic partisanship.

Throughout the early 1990s, The News & Observer divested itself of various local newspapers in South Carolina and the North Carolina mountains, and by September 1993, Sunday sales of The News & Observer reached 200,000 for every week. However, the newspaper still owns The Cary News, Chapel Hill News, and the Smithfield Herald among other newspapers. In 1994, the paper created, becoming an Internet service provider and began publishing the NandO Times online newspaper.

In 1999, The News & Observer was named one of America's 100 best newspapers by the Columbia Journalism Review, and one of the 17 best-designed newspapers in the world by the Society for News Design.

With McClatchy's acquisition of most of Knight Ridder's properties in 2006, the state's two largest papers—the N&O and the Charlotte Observer—are now under common ownership.

In September 2008, the News and Observer offered buyouts to all 320 newsroom employees, approximately 40% of its staff, in an effort to cut expenses. Previously the company had shut down its Durham news bureau and in a separate event laid off 70 employees.[11] Layoffs and buyouts have continued since then.[12]

In 2015 the newspaper announced it would sell its facility in downtown Raleigh for redevelopment, which will entail demolition of much of the facility. New presses will be installed at the newspaper's auxiliary production facility in Garner. Editorial offices will remain in a portion of the redeveloped facility.[13]


1996 – Pulitzer Prize in Public Service
In the Winter of 1995 The News & Observer released a nine part series on the booming pork industry in North Carolina. The series covered environmental and health risk of the waste disposal systems used within the pork industry in the state. The award was presented to the paper for the work done by Melanie Sill, Pat Stith and, Joby Warrick.[3]
1989 – Pulitzer Prize in Criticism
Michael Skube was awarded for his writing about books and other literary topics.[14]
1983 – Pulitzer Prize in Commentary
Claude Sitton was awarded for his distinguished commentary.[15]


On May 17, 1995 the News & Observer Publishing Company was sold to McClatchy Newspapers of Sacramento, California for $373 Million ending 101 years of Daniels family ownership. In the mid-1990s Flexo Machines were installed allowing the paper to print thirty-two pages in color which was the largest capacity of any newspaper within the United States at the time. The McClatchy Co. Currently operates a total of twenty-nine daily newspapers in fourteen states with a combined weekday circulation of 1.6 million and a Sunday circulation of 2.4 million.

Other publications

The News & Observer Publishing Co. owns ten bi-weekly newspapers that are no longer published, as of January 2018. They have been replaced by a free-distribution weekly named "Triangle Today" that focuses on entertainment in the region rather than traditional local news.[16]

See also


  1. "Our Markets". Sacramento, California: McClatchy Company. Retrieved March 26, 2017.
  2. "McClatchy - Markets".
  3. "The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)". Retrieved 2016-06-11.
  4. Top 100 Web Sites, PC Mag. Ziff Davis, Inc. 1998-02-10. p. 122.
  5. Campbell, W. Joseph (1999). "'One of the fine figures of American journalism": A Closer Look at Josephus Daniels of the Raleigh News and Observer". American Journalism. 16 (4). pp. 37–55. doi:10.1080/08821127.1999.10739206.
  6. 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission (2006). "1898 Wilmington race riot report". Research Branch, Office of Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
  7. Case, Steven (2009). "Josephus Daniels". NCPedia.
  8. "A Hundred Years Dry: The U.S. Navy's End of Alcohol at Sea". USNI News. 2014-07-01. Retrieved 2016-06-11.
  9. Strupp, Joe (November 20, 2006). "Why North Carolina Papers Apologized for Role In 1898 Race Riots". Editor & Publisher.
  10. Leonard, Teresa (September 3, 2014). "Happy 80th birthday, Under the Dome". The News & Observer. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  11. Coletta, Chris (September 3, 2008). "N&O offers buyouts to 320 workers, entire newsroom Triangle Business Journal". Triangle Business Journal.
  12. "".
  13. Bracken, David (2015-11-16). "N&O reaches deal to sell downtown Raleigh headquarters". News & Observer. Retrieved 2016-04-29.
  14. "Michael Skube". Retrieved 2016-06-11.
  15. "Claude Sitton". Retrieved 2016-06-11.
  16. "Community News". newsobserver. Retrieved 2016-06-11.


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