"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
The United States is one of the few countries where the government is specifically prohibited from licensing the press or reporters or otherwise shutting down a newspaper simply because they don't like the content. While the average Joe knows their rights are protected by the court case of Miranda v. Arizona
, most people are unaware of one of the pivotal cases denying press censorship in the United States: Near v. Minnesota
, which basically said the government can't shut down a newspaper no matter how much it finds its content objectionable. Of course, freedom of the press is guaranteed in the first amendment to the Constitution.
Note that when the term "licensing" is used in this article, it is in the sense that you have to have a license to be a doctor, or a hairdresser, or to drive a car
. But a newspaper can't be required to have that sort of a license. They can still be required to have a business license (such as is used for local taxes) and to operate their newspaper according to building codes and zoning laws (so no putting your big industrial press on a high wooden platform in a residential neighborhood). These laws requiring a license must basically be what is called "ministerial" in nature; as long as they pay a reasonable business license tax they can't be refused a license. Some places, such as Los Angeles
, don't even require newspapers to have a business license in order to avoid a potential First Amendment challenge, although one suspects that if a newspaper did
try to put a big industrial press on a high wooden platform in a residential zone, the city would find a way to stop that.
In the U.S., over and over again, the courts have held that anything a reporter finds in public reports or in the audience in open court is fair game to report, and when courts have issued orders to the press not to publish things happening in the open courtroom — or found newspapers in contempt for publishing what they were told not to — the appeals courts have consistently found those restrictions to violate the First Amendment.
These protections on the press are not uniform in North America, they generally apply only to newspapers (and magazines) in the U.S. In Canada, courts can
impose prohibitions on the press. This is why, when there is a major criminal case, copies of American newspapers reporting on Canadian crimes being tried will be confiscated at the border. The Canadian newspapers will have already censored the story.
As a result, newspapers (and other media) in the United States are extremely vigilant in covering crimes, political misconduct and scandal
, free in the knowledge that, absent malice
they can basically say almost anything about a politician and not only will they not be shut down, it's highly unlikely that they'll be sued. If you sue a newspaper for defamation/libel in its reporting, you have to be able to prove that it either knowingly printed false information, or recklessly disregarded the possibility that what they printed was false.note
And in the US, the truth is an absolute defense
— if the newspaper can show that what they reported is factually true, or even that it reasonably believed what they printed was true at the time they printed it, it's pretty much the end of the trial. This standard (which is referred to as actual malice
) was established in the Supreme Court
case New York Times Co. v. Sullivan
, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).
A Florida law made it a crime to report the name of an alleged rape victim. A newpaper got the name of the victim from court records that the court failed to keep sealed. They reported it, and were prosecuted for violating the law. The U.S. Supreme Court held that law to be unconstitutional. Florida Star v. B.J.F.
, 491 U.S. 524 (1989).
There are a few exceptions for "national security
" issues, in that basically it's illegal to 'out' a hidden CIA agent; this was the case of the "Valerie Plame" scandal in the 2000s. The theory behind this is that the First Amendment states that the freedom of the press cannot be abridged
, i.e. reduced; since information relating to "national security" can put lives at risk if made public, and the interest of the press in revealing that information conflicts with the interests of the people whose lives are put at risk in keeping their lives, the press never had the right to reveal that information in the first place (at least, this is the theory).note
So excepting this limited issue, it basically means the press has the (virtually) unlimited right to report any public fact without censorship or fear of prosecution.
That doesn't mean American reporters have carte blanche
to do anything to report on a story. Depending on what has happened, if a reporter breaks a law covering a story, they sometimes will be prosecuted, especially if the incident is embarrassing. There was one case where a reporter showed how weak the Los Angeles County Welfare Department was in checking on the background of applicants that he was able to apply for — and receive — welfare checks. The district attorney originally threatened to prosecute the reporter (for welfare fraud), until he realized that it would give even more publicity to the story and make the county look worse.
It is worth noting that the remarks about the political leanings in this article are written to American standards. Therefore, many publications referred to as center-left in this article would probably be perceived in the rest of the world as either center-right (as in Britain) or even right-wing (Europe and Latin America).
Newspapers in the United States are printed in one of two formats. The most common for daily and weekly standard newspapers is a long format, roughly 11"x17", which is called a broadsheet
, and the type that half that size, about equivalent to the common paper format of 8 1/2" x 11", which is called a tabloid
. Because some very popular weekly newspapers in the U.S. which carried stories which were either total fiction, or were mostly pandering to people's interest in scandal and sensationalism were published in the tabloid format, the term tabloid
has a negative connotation; calling a newspaper a tabloid
is considered a smear as to the quality of the publication. To try to combat this, as these newspapers were typically sold in supermarkets, the term "supermarket tabloid" is sometimes used to refer to the less-reliable newspapers which are published in that format.
The Sunday edition of a newspaper is (or was in most markets) normally an extra-thick issue containing a magazine section, comics section, coupons, and other sections. Doing this on Sunday is no longer universal; The Washington Post
briefly moved these extra items to the Saturday issue. Other papers have dropped them instead.
Much like in the UK (and much unlike the rest of the world), American papers still have considerable readerships in spite of competing with TV/radio news (although it actually put the news industry in danger between The Fifties
and The Seventies
) and even the Internet. However circulation figures have fallen dramatically since The Nineties
, with average readership being two-thirds compared to the existent sixty years ago. But it wouldn't be until the ongoing financial crisis when the entire publishing industry was put into a nosedive.
It was at one time common for cities, and not just large ones but also Anytown USA, to have two
(or even more) local papers, one espousing support for conservative policies and the other more liberal (and all
of them would probably publish both a morning and evening edition, at least during the week). In most places, the publishers finally decided that the market just wasn't large enough to support two papers and merged with their rivals (a trend that was largely complete a couple of decades ago), which is why most U.S. newspapers today have names like "The Smallville Sun-Dispatch" or "The Metropolis Globe-Tribune".
The terms "Early Edition" and "Late Edition" came from the previous practice of papers producing an afternoon edition, released in time for factory workers to pick it up on the way home from a 7-4 shift. As technology has shifted
, so did the publishing industry, and the last paper to produce an afternoon edition (the Buffalo News
) stopped doing so years ago. A variation does survive, however, in the practice in many cities of producing an early Sunday edition of the newspaper on Saturday, mainly to let coupon clippers and bargain hunters get a start on weekend shopping.
This change is a frequent topic in fiction, as the plight of newspapers scrambling to adapt is a good source of drama/comedy.
National newspapers in the United States:
- USA Today — Famed for its colorful charts and graphs and their sports section's heavy emphasis on college and high school sports polling in association with ESPN, otherwise just a bland collection of wire reports, although it's also the only public outlet where the full weekly Nielsen Ratings chart is disseminated in any form. Has the highest circulation of any American newspaper, due to its publisher Gannett owning many local papers around the country (which print digested news sections of USA Today because of budget cuts which allow Gannett to have their local staffs focus on local news) and adding to its aggressive availability; one technique is to convince hotel chains to deliver one free to each room every day. That adds up to a lot of newspapers. It is also worth noting that, while it is frequently derided as lightweight journalism, it has broken a few important stories in recent years.
- The Wall Street Journal — Financial-focused newspaper, though it's tried to expand its reach in recent years. The actual reporting is well-regarded by most people, regardless of political affiliation. The editorial page, however, is a bastion of conservatism. Often uses hand-drawn portraits of news figures called "headcuts" instead of photographs. Published by Dow Jones—yes, the very same Dow Jones that publishes the Dow Jones Industrial Average, aka the Dow—recently bought by Rupert Murdoch.
- Incidentally, one of News Corp/Murdoch's biggest changes to the paper was adding color photographs on the front page.
- The Wall Street Journal has one very important feature. Because any contract where one party pays interest on borrowed money where the interest rate can change must use a third-party to determine what the interest rate should be, with the exception of contracts involving government guarantees, typically any contract (a credit card, a mortgage, a car loan, etc.) will use the current interest rate of either prime rate or the London Interbank Rate (LIBOR) plus a certain percentage amount as published on the last day of the month in the Wall Street Journal. This means that the WSJ actually has more effect on what several million people pay in interest than the Federal Reserve Bank does.
- Some consider the Christian Science Monitor to be the third national paper in the United States. As it is published by the Boston-based First Church of Christ, Scientist, some may consider it a cult-based newspaper like the Washington Times. This follows a standard rule most people use in thinking about religion: "My religion is mainstream, therefore any I disagree with or have never heard of is a cult or a trap of Satan." As it is run by a nonprofit, it cherishes its independence from the for-profit model and as such, its non-religion articles are generally well written. (Only one proselytizing article per day runs.) Went from a daily printing model to a hybrid weekly printing/online all week model in 2009.
Most other papers are local, generally known as The [city name] [paper name]
. In practice, The New York Times
is available nationwide and other major papers are available throughout their regions of influence: the Chicago Tribune
, the Omaha World-Herald
, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
in the Midwest, the Los Angeles Times
on the West Coast, The Seattle Times
in the Pacific Northwest, etc.
States cannot license or regulate newspapers, thus there are no "official newspapers" for those governments besides internal publications. However, state governments often contract with a capital city paper or the largest newspaper in their state to publish legal notices and bills which take effect upon publication in that paper (for instance, laws are not in effect in the state of Wisconsin until a notice of them is placed in Madison's Wisconsin State Journal
Counties and cities will also take the same direction and publish legal notices to become binding upon publication.
The federal government will often publish legal notices meant for a national and regional audience in the following papers and USA Today
, but they do not follow the same process as the states, thus no paper can be declared the "official national newspaper".
Not officially national, but two papers with wide-reaching national influence are:
- The New York Times — Founded in 1851. Daily read of the East Coast intelligentsia, known as the "Old Grey Lady" (although since they've started printing in color it doesn't make sense anymore) and the "Newspaper of Record." Most famous for publishing the "Pentagon Papers," which was a classified government report on how the USA got into and ran the Vietnam War. The government tried to stop it from being published, but the courts ruled that the government had to show an extreme danger before the press could be stopped from publishing something. No comics, but the best crossword in the nation. The Times also owned the Boston Globe newspaper and a stake in the Red Sox (with both being sold in 2013). Despite its fame, it's still not recession-proof — for the first time in history, it now runs ads on the front page. Despite nominally being a New York paper, a national edition of it is easily available in most parts of the country, if only by being the paper sold at most Starbucks (which also gives a hint as to its readership). A rarity in today's market, the Times is still a basically a family business, with a majority of shares controlled by the Ochs/Sulzberger family since 1896. They also used to own some TV stations in middle-sized markets, like WNEP 16 (ABC) in Scranton, PA; these stations were sold in 2007 to Oak Hill Capital Partners, forming the core of Local TV, LLC; they also acquired many ex New World/Fox-owned stations that Fox sold, like WJW-8 in Cleveland; as of 2014, Local TV has been bought out by the Tribune Company.
- The Washington Post — Main paper of the capital region. Most famous for exposing Watergate, as seen in the movie All The Presidents Men. Both the Post and the New York Times were in competition to be the first to report on Watergate as it unfolded, but the Post first brought it to light and did most of the exposing. One reason was that they had the informer Deep Throat (a top FBI official, the late W. Mark Felt) to help them. Also has good sports coverage: its sportswriters Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon are national celebrities from their daily arguments on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption. From 1961 to 2010, The Washington Post Co. was also notable as the publisher of the nationally-circulated magazine Newsweek, and currently also owns the Kaplan education and test-prep company, a chain of television stations (known as Post-Newsweek Stations until 2014, despite both namesakes being sold off; now it's Graham Media Group), the telecommunications provider Cable ONE (prior to 1997, it was Post-Newsweek Cable), and the online magazine company Slate (which it purchased from Microsoft in 2004). In August 2013, the Post was sold to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos by its long-time owners, the Graham family. With that transaction, The New York Times was left as the only large-scale, family-owned newspaper in the country.
These two papers are widely considered to be the top of the journalistic profession in America, and you can expect any young reporter in fiction to dream of working at either one. In general, the Times
does better in reporting international news, as well as arts and culture, while the Post
is considered to be the go-to for political news. Both are often cited as being proof of the liberal bias
of the press. The accuracy of this accusation is debated, and some observers disagree with it. The reporting of both is claimed by some to have a liberal bias, but no one disputes that the editorial and op-ed pages do. On that front the Times
has several columnists, such as Paul Krugman and Maureen Dowd, who do tend to make conservatives' blood pressure rise.note
On the other hand, they also boast right-of-center writers such as Ross Douthat, and the late William Safire, who in addition to his political column wrote a highly-regarded column on the American English language
for the Sunday edition for many years.note
Oh, and David Brooks
. Both the Times
and the Post
(generally) try to play the role of the centrist voice of reason/Loyal Opposition in their editorial coverage, with the results that they irritate conservatives when a Republican president is in power and annoy liberals when a Democrat holds the White House. The NYT
attracted international attention in 2014 when one editorial openly criticized his policies. The Post
did get into a bit of a flap when several bloggers accused columnist Jennifer Rubin of being a Romney campaign mouthpiece in 2012, but this was understood to be an anomaly.
Other papers of note:
- Chicago Tribune — Conservative Midwestern broadsheet. Once a rather national paper, but the decline of the industry in general and some horrible mismanagement in particular actually sent it and the other Tribune Company papers into bankruptcy for a time. Best known for their famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline following the 1948 election, which successfully predicted ahead of time President Thomas E. Dewey's defeat of challenger Harry S. Tru— er, wait◊. Moving on...
- Chicago Sun-Times — Tabloid, more liberal rival to the Tribune. Notable for the late film critic Roger Ebert, and being the newspaper in the show Early Edition.
- The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press — Once, all major and many minor American cities were blessed with multiple daily papers; today, Detroit is one of the few "two-paper towns" left. Formerly rivals, they have a 100-year joint-venture structure in which business and journalistic busywork are shared while retaining separate editorial staffs. As a result, the News is more right-leaning while the Free Press leans left. Mainly local and regional stories, plus the sort of focus on the auto industry that the Washington Post puts on politics or the LA Times puts on Hollywood. As Detroit has fallen on hard times, so have both papers, and both now only deliver home/office subscriptions towards the tail end of the week, with lighter papers on Monday-Wednesdays only available through retail channels and a heavy emphasis on their websites.
- Los Angeles Times — Biggest paper on the West Coast, owned by the Tribune Company (named for the aforementioned Chicago Tribune). Like the Chicago Tribune, was once something of a nationally-renowned (albeit not necessarily nationally read) paper, but has taken a bad turn over the last decade or two due to the decline of the industry and bad management. Previously owned by Times Mirror before Tribune bought it in 2000.
- New York Post — Founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801; has gone through a dizzying series of ownership and format changes, and holds the record for the oldest continually-published daily newspaper. While it had previously been known for having a liberal slant, since The Eighties it's been owned by Rupert Murdoch, and is as sleazy, sensationalist, and right-wing as you can get while still technically remaining a newspaper. Brits, think a Noo Yawk-accented version of the Daily Mail, or The Sun without the Page Three stunnas (though if the headline is saucy enough, they'll put the tits right into the story). Arch-rival to the Daily News, a slightly less obscene NYC tabloid. (Slightly.) A great deal of overlap in readership with the Times, but most Times readers will not admit this. Mainly read as a sports paper, and for its infamously obnoxious headlines ("Headless Body Found in Topless Bar"; "Masturbating Mugger Pulls Another One Off"), to the point where it has even published a book full of their most famous ones. Known to detractors as the "New York comPost".
- The Washington Times — Established by the Unification Church, headed by South Korean expatriate Sun Myung Moon, with the express aim of being a conservative alternative to the (not very liberal in the first place) Post. Has lost over three billion dollars, since DC liberals read the Post and DC conservatives hold their noses and also read the Post to keep on the same footing as the liberals. Still, the Church continues to fund it, as they want to shift American opinion to the right in order to take out the North Korean government so the Church can expand its influence to the entire Korean peninsula, and from there, the world. Good luck with that, Moonies. Detractors refer to it by the rather uncreative nickname of "the Moonie Times" due to its Unification Church ties.
- The Denver Post and (Denver) Rocky Mountain News — Denver was also a two-paper town. The Post's sportswriter, Woody Paige, appears on ESPN's Around the Horn. The News was placed for sale by its owner, the E.W. Scripps company, in December 2008. Due to the economic crisis, there were no takers. Publication ceased on February 27, 2009. It was a Tear Jerker for a good number of people (not only employees of course). (Scripps has returned to Denver, though; they acquired the TV stations formerly owned by Mc Graw-Hill in 2012, including the flagship, Denver's 7ABC, KMGH.)
- The National Enquirer — The king of the trashy supermarket tabloids. Brits, think of The Sunday Sport without (much of) the porn. Its owner from 1954 to 1988 allegedly had Mob ties, and thus refrained from discussing anything pertaining to their activities. Unlike most newspapers, it will pay sources for tips, a practice that is frowned upon by journalists. Generally read for entertainment value, as little of what is inside can genuinely be classified as news; the main reason why it took so long for the mainstream media to catch onto the news of John Edwards' affair was because it was the Enquirer that broke the story, causing many to dismiss it out of hand (New York magazine was the only one that followed it up at the time). One of their exposes — which proved to be false — also managed to get themselves enshrined in the legal history of the United States. Bizarrely, its publisher's Boca Raton offices were one of the targets of a anthrax attack in 2001, which killed a photo editor.
- Globe — A rival tabloid to the Enquirer. Gained some notoriety in the '90s for publishing the autopsy photos of Mexican pop singer Selena Quintanilla-Perez and child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey (the latter issue was pulled from newsstands in a number of Boulder, Colorado stores). Generally more oriented towards political news than its celebrity-focused tabloid rivals, albeit with the same degree of sensationalism; during the George W. Bush administration it ran articles claiming that Bush was a cocaine addict cheating on his wife Laura, and during the Barack Obama administration it has given its endorsement to "birther" conspiracy theories.
- The Weekly World News — An over-the-top parody of supermarket tabloids, known for running stories about aliens, Bigfoot, demons, and other monsters; one recurring character, "Batboy", became a cult favorite. Sadly now defunct, although it has been reborn as a section in Sun (a similar paper, only more toned-down and a Stealth Parody — not to be confused with the British paper).
- The Onion — One of the most famous satirical newspapers in existence. It also has a non-satirical, but often snarky, entertainment section called The AV Club which maintains a separate existence despite still being housed in the same paper.
- The New Hampshire Union Leader — Formerly the Manchester Union-Leader (note the dropped hyphen as well). Otherwise typical regional paper that rises to prominence once every four years just before the beginning of the Presidential primary season, on the back of it's home state's first-in-the-nation primary. Under its former publisher, William Loeb, it was one of the leading conservative papers in the United States.
- The Des Moines Register is likewise another local paper that enters national news consciousness due to the Iowa caucuses being the first chance anyone gets to vote in the deathmarch to the White House. They're also known for sponsoring the only long-distance event in all of cycling where riders can expect to gain weight.
- Stars and Stripes is the newspaper of the U.S. Armed Forces. It is published under the auspices of the Department of Defense, though it maintains editorial independence, and is generally available in and around every major U.S. base in the world.
- The Baltimore Sun — Formerly a paper of national stature, it (like so many other papers) declined heavily over the recent decades. It is most notable for being a major setting of Season 5 of The Wire, as the show's creator was a former reporter there. Also famously the home turf of the writer and cynic H.L. Mencken.
- The Philadelphia Inquirer—Note it's an "I," not an "E" like the tabloid. The Inky to its friends, it's the third-oldest surviving newspaper in the US (founded 1829 as The Pennsylvania Inquirer). It's had a roller-coaster history, cycling between national prominence and local rag. It's currently in a local-rag phase; its last period of major national prominence was the period from about 1975 to 1995, when it won a number of Pulitzers and broke all kinds of significant national stories (one of the last major ones being a scandal about a charity supposedly providing care packages to soldiers in the Gulf War being used to scam donors).
- The Examiner — A newspaper which licensed the name of the defunct San Francisco Examiner, which is distributed for free in cities such as San Francisco, Denver, Washington and Baltimore which is generally about as a 'wire service regurgitation' title as you can get. Mostly known on the Internet though for their website which publishes paid stories for many metro areas in the United States. The keyword sadly, being paid, as the stories are often poorly written, barely sourced, sometimes plagiarized and in a few cases, even are pushed on forum sites for writers desperate for clicks; on quite a few sites like The Other Wiki, the Examiner site is blacklisted from being used as a reliable source.
If you are in New York City
, there are probably a few more newspapers available than in most US cities. In addition to the Wall Street Journal
, New York Times
and New York Post
mentioned above, you can find:
- The New York Daily News, the arch-rival to the New York Post. Notorious as the paper of people who ride the New York City Subway (who found the tabloid format easier to handle in the 1920s). Perhaps slightly less tabloid and conservative than the Post. Maybe. If a TV show or movie set in New York wants to show popular outrage at some action (when, say, Da Chief rants at the Cowboy Cop), they usually show variant versions of the News and the Post (for example, in the L&Overse, the New York Ledger is obviously meant to be the Post, down to the typeface used for the flag). The paper is famous for its gigantic, almost full-page headlines, which are usually humorous due to terseness or a pun. Despite being a regional paper, the Daily News has a surprisingly wide publishing range since New Yorkers can be found all over the country.
- Newsday is the newspaper for Long Island and Queens, but can be found in the metropolitan area. Was owned by Times Mirror, then Tribune, and currently owned by local cable company Cablevision (also owner of the Madison Square Garden and most of its tenants), with their website only available to paper and Cablevision subscribers and those who don't mind paying $40 a month to access it online. Has recently developed a self-important streak: articles on ongoing news stories are often accompanied by thumbnail-sized shots of their own covers illustrating "How Newsday covered the story". Then again, given how many papers on this list have been suffering in the economy, perhaps the public needs reminding that they publish more than a comics section and movie listings.
- The New York Sun, which was founded in 2002 as an intentionally right-wing five-day daily, taking its name from an older paper that went under in 1950 (more known for the Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus editorial). Circulation was never high and the paper operated at a loss to try and build for several years. In a letter to readers published on the front page of the September 4, 2008 edition, it was announced that the paper would "cease publication at the end of September unless we succeed in our efforts to find additional financial backing." They didn't. Publication ceased on September 30.
Further complicating matters, most newspapers (big and small) in the United States are owned by one of a couple dozen newspaper companies
, such as Gannett, News Corp, McClatchy and MediaNews.
In addition to newspapers, there exist several national news and news-related magazines, of various political leanings. Typically, they are the go-to source for more in-depth reporting than what you will find in a newspaper, which is devoted primarily to stating the facts and, in the case of the op-ed and letter pages, the personal views of various writers.
This type of American magazine can be divided into three subtypes; in order of depth, they are the weekly general newsmagazine, the weekly political newsmagazine, and the monthly political/cultural magazine.
Weekly general newsmagazines
These are general-purpose publications with no specific, identifiable editorial position. They tend to cover every topic from politics to the economy to health to culture from a fairly middle-brow, middle-wing, middle-class perspective, although they frequently publish opinion pieces from people with more overt political views. The print editions can generally be found pretty easily on newsstands — even convenience stores are known to stock them on occasion.
- Time is the largest news magazine in the world, with over 45 million subscribers worldwide, less than half of whom are in the U.S. It is published weekly. They are famous for their annual "Person of the Year" award, which goes to whoever they feel had the greatest influence on world events; it was originally created in 1927 after getting flack for not putting Charles Lindbergh on the cover after his famous flight. The "person" may not necessarily be a living human being — the award went to the personal computer in 1982, and to "The Endangered Earth" in 1989. Note that the award is not meant as an honor, but is simply given to whoever is deemed to have had most affected the course of the year, for good or ill — winners in the past have included Adolf Hitler (1938), Josef Stalin (1939 and 1942), and Ayatollah Khomeini (1979). This distinction is sometimes lost on people, who have often protested the granting of what they feel to be an "honor" to dictators and warmongers, and has led to some rather wishy-washy decisions since the 1980s, like making Rudy Giuliani Person of the Year in 2001 instead of Osama bin Laden or "You" in 2006.
- Newsweek has traditionally played second fiddle to Time in terms of both readership and respectability. From 1961 until 2010, it was owned by the Washington Post Company. After losing money for two years, in 2010 it was sold to Sidney Herman, the 90-year-old founder of a speaker company, and then was merged with The Daily Beast, a poor man's Huffington Post and current pet project of Tina Brown.note This has led to an increasing amount of pop culture stories (including cover stories) and opinion pieces in its pages. Most recently, it aroused controversy for publishing a fanservice-y cover photo of Sarah Palin in form-fitting workout gear. Like Time, it is a weekly magazine. Newsweek published its final print edition on December 31, 2012, but continued to be published online until it returned to print under new ownership in 2014.
- U.S. News & World Report: Alongside Time and Newsweek, the third of the "Big Three" American news magazines. It tends to lean more center-right than the above magazines, while eschewing sports, entertainment and celebrity news. Originally a weekly, it went to a biweekly, then monthly format in 2008, before finally going online-only at the end of 2010 (though it still prints special issues). It is best known for its annual rankings of American colleges and universities.
Weekly(ish) politics magazines
These magazines have a strong focus on "hard news", presented with a definite political lean one way or another. They tend to eschew everything else, with the exception of "culture" — books and the arts (including film and television). These magazines are definitively more high-brow than the "Big Three", and thus have a correspondingly reduced focus on things like personal finance.
- The New Republic (TNR to its friends) is broadly center-left, having supported the Soviet Union in its early years, although it turned against it during the Cold War once Soviet policy became more aggressive (while maintaining a similarly oppositional stance against McCarthyism). It moved to the right during Andrew Sullivan's tenure as editor in the '90s (including running an inflammatory article on race and intelligence at the height of the "Bell Curve" controversy), though it has since shifted back following his departure; on the other hand, a retrospective high point during Sullivan's tenure was when Sullivan put forward the first argument in favor of gay marriage as the cover article in the August 28, 1989 issue of TNR.note Has generally supported a pro-interventionist foreign policy, to the irritation of many otherwise similar-minded liberals. Their editor from 1948 to 1956, Michael Straight, had worked as a spy for the KGB during the '30s. Originally a weekly magazine, it changed to a biweekly publication model in 2007.
- National Review: A conservative biweekly magazine founded by William F. Buckley. It played a major role in shaping much of the policy of the "New Right" coalition that would eventually bring Ronald Reagan into power, while simultaneously helping to purge American conservatism of its more odious elements (the anti-Semites, the Birchers and, starting in the '70s, the segregationists). It remains one of the most influential conservative news outlets around.
- The Weekly Standard: Another conservative magazine, this one published weekly and founded by Rupert Murdoch in 1995. Its adherence to the Right is primarily due to its association with Neoconservatism, with an international focus (being an aggressively anticommunist and interventionist one); its domestic opinions are mostly centered on libertarian-ish economics, but you get the feeling the Standard doesn't care quite as much about that. During Murdoch's ownership, it lost over a million dollars a year, though Murdoch wouldn't sell it until 2009. Since then, it has become more successful. Noted for its editor, conservative opinion leader William Kristolnote —it would be fair to say that were this a British publication, it would have the nickname The Weekly Kristol.
- The Nation: The oldest American weekly news magazine, founded in 1865 by abolitionists in New York. It is heavily left-wing in its reporting and editorial board — almost every editor it had from the turn of the 20th century to the '70s had been investigated by the federal government for suspected subversive activities, and during World War I it was suspended from U.S. mail for its anti-war stance. Advertises itself as having "that famous liberal media bias that you can't find anywhere else", in an obvious Take That conservative media outlets' belief that most of the mainstream American media is liberal.
- Mother Jones: A left-wing publication, named after labor organizer Mary Harris Jones. Based in San Francisco, it is the largest left-wing news magazine in the country, though its bimonthly model means that it prints far fewer issues than The Nation does. Michael Moore worked as an editor for it for a few months in 1986. During the '80s, it was notable for its staunch feminist stance and its support for various Central American leftist movements, including the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. In the 2012 election it gained a rather large amount of prominence for being the source to which Mitt Romney's infamous "47%" remarks were leaked (by Jimmy Carter's grandson, no less).
- The New Yorker: A nearly-weekly (published 47 times a year). The classic journal of American culture and politics, with a definite lean to the former; it operates in a space closer to the monthlies listed below than the rest of the more news-focused weeklies. Widely respected as an outlet for journalism and analysis. Quite liberal, but not too. Dissimilar to other magazines in that it has a substantially larger readership with over a million subscribers. The magazine is famous for its editorial cartoons, which often feature Comedic Sociopathy; it's said that a successful New Yorker cartoon can be captioned with "Christ, what an asshole!"
- New York magazine, originally a lifestyle-and-culture magazine focusing on New York City, has started to enter the nationwide consciousness with increasing politics coverage (led primarily by Jonathan Chait); the extensive use of writer blogs closely mirrors The Atlantic and The New Republic. Its still-strong focus on culture makes it in many way more similar to the monthly magazines (listed below) rather than the other news-oriented weeklies. Its image is basically "The New Yorker's hipsterish grandson (who probably lives in Brooklyn)." As of 2014, now a biweekly (rather like TNR).
- Foreign Policy is a publication focusing on international affairs, trends and American foreign policy. Originally founded as an academic quarterly in 1970, it was relaunched as a bimonthly magazine that has since gained quite a few journalism awards. Officially bipartisan in its political reporting, its writers and contributors tend to be center-left and center-right in general. That said though, this can also pop up in the form of articles that either contradict or explicitly attack each other, though their overall quality more than makes up for it. It also publishes an annual "Top 100 Global Thinkers" list, an online poll covering public figures, intellectuals, politicians and activists regardless of their political leanings or reputation.note As of 2014, it's part of the Slate Group, which is in turn run by the Washington Post.
In addition, The Economist
, while published in Britain, has a large American following, possessing a circulation in the U.S. three times higher than what it has in its home country
. Sure, the U.S. has far more people than the U.K., but British news magazines rarely get any
circulation in America.
Monthly news/culture magazines
These are the deepest of the deep, the highest of the highbrow, and the most serious (and frequently depressing) of the lot. Their circulations tend to be quite small, and they can be quite hard to find indeed if you don't know where to look. Again, reviews of books and the arts appear—and the artier, the better, for all genres of art.note
These tend to not only include reviews of fiction, but also publish it — even, on occasion, going back to the ancient tradition of serializing novels. Investigative journalism
may figure in here. Political leanings tend to be worn on the sleeve for all to see.
- Harper's: Like The New Yorker, but with less prestige and a way more obvious — and extreme — liberal slant. Notoriously pessimistic since at least 2000—take the New Yorker off its antidepressants, and you have a fair image of Harper's. Famously published several of David Foster Wallace's short stories and non-fiction essays.
- The Atlantic Monthly: Founded by no lesser minds than Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (with the motto "of no party or clique"), it's had something of a turbulent history and its political position has varied wildly. The Atlantic today is known as a moderately center-right outlet—but as the Republican Party has turned more to the right and populism, it and its readers have found themselves increasingly siding with its counterparts at the more liberal magazines as the common cause of maintaining an intellectual tradition comes to outweigh partisan loyalty. The identification with the right isn't helped by its bloggers, one of whom has long been arch-lefty Ta-Nehisi Coates, and with the addition of Peter Beinart (quite the liberal) in 2014,note it's only going further away from that characterization.
- Rolling Stone: Nowhere near as highbrow in its arts coverage as the others, nor as hard to find; its origins as a '60s counterculture magazine is the reason for both. However, it gained a reputation over the course of The Seventies for good in-depth investigative/political journalism—led by the "National Affairs Desk", aka Hunter S. Thompson (who remains on the masthead—twice). After an extended Dork Age during which it was much less respected (including an embarrassing association with Hair Metal), it gradually gained its reputation back, with reviewers well-respected and the National Affairs Desk being revived to former status with Matt Taibbi and a few others conducting hard-hitting reporting (it is also the only outlet to hire the aforementioned David Foster Wallace to do political reporting, who followed John Mc Cain around during his first presidential run in 2000). As you might have guessed, center-left to liberal to very, very left (as in, calling investment banks like Goldman Sachs "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money" left) in its political/investigative journalism. On the other hand, its music reviews, although good, can be almost embarrassingly behind the curve.
- The American Conservative: Cutting out most of the cultural coverage, this one is very young and thus hard to find—in physical stores, that is. It's easily available online, and its contributors' blogs make it blur the line between the two media. As you might have guessed, this one is very staunchly conservative — although the contributors are paleoconservative intellectuals to a man, and are mostly rather troubled by the Republican Party's support for free trade and military intervention, to the point where a good number of them endorsed Barack Obama in 2012.
- CounterPunch: Founded by Alexander Cockburn (who had previously worked for The Nation) in 1994, it covers politics and social issues with a heavily left-wing stance. It has over time made its radical and staunchly leftist credentials loud and clear, considerably more so than The Nation. On the other hand, its tendency for hosting anti-Semitic screeds and the crankier sides of the left-wing, along with a very confrontational if not fervent overtone in its journalismnote has made it infamous.
- Reason: A moderate libertarian magazine with a circulation of around 70,000. Generally Center-left and center-right in its reporting, it covers economics, society, science and politics in general. Although its stance was far more to the right its early years, on average it's basically The Washington Post as done by libertarians.
- The National Interest: Founded by Irving Kristol in 1985, it is a bi-monthly magazine focusing on American politics and international affairs. Originally neo-conservative at its founding, these days it is similar to The Atlantic in that it's moderately center-right in its political position while also including libertarian and liberal authors. Notably, Francis Fukuyama's (in)famous The End of History was originally published here.note Since 2001, it's been published by the Center for the National Interest, a realist think-tank formerly known as the Nixon Center.
Other print media
A peculiar part of the newspaper scene in the United States are alternative weeklies. More likely to be published by independent concerns (although Village Voice Media is rising), these publications tend to express left-of-center views, but are not dogmatic in terms of columnists. The journalism itself is more likely to have an expressed viewpoint, and they tend to have stronger reportage than the daily press. Despite this, they are mostly free, completely subsidized by advertising. They tend to be the leader in their market for coverage of local entertainment and the arts.
Down the journalism ladder, you have the constituency presses, which cover the information needs of a community that is deemed to be under-represented by the rest of the media. The most common of these in the U.S. are the Latino (which is some cases means the only need is language), black, gay and religious presses, and most immigrant/ethnic communities likewise have their own papers in their respective languages. These also tend to publish on a weekly basis. Such publications are also common in the suburbs, where they cover local issues that the metropolitan dailies may overlook, particularly development issues.
Other publications include magazines solely designed to sell homes and cars, or rent apartments in a given area; there is almost never any news or opinions in these, and Craigslist has killed many of these publications. "Shoppers", free newspapers delivered to every home or placed in shop racks, include some light journalism, columns and features, but are mainly designed to get advertising to a mostly guaranteed audience for the price of mail delivery, though some homes just place them right in the recycling bin without a glance.
At nearly every college in America, independent student newspapers are published. At the bigger schools, they come out on a Monday-Friday basis during the academic year, with smaller colleges having less frequent publication days. These newspapers do train journalists for professional careers, but are not substitutes for Journalism School educations (though they can be complementary with them). They tend to into run into more free speech issues, due to the pressures of college administrations, hyper-sensitive readerships and unpolished staff, though in towns with terrible commercial newspapers with 'wire service regurgitation' or anti-student/university reputations, they are the top paper in their city; such is the case of New Haven's Yale Daily News
being regarded in a much higher way than the commercial Register
Below them are high school newspapers that include many school newspaper newshounds
, which pretty much will never say one bad word about their administrations, though underground student publications and social media have undermined high school journalism somewhat. Elementary and middle school newsletters with the rarest of exceptions are always in the hands of the faculty and administration because they're the only ones who can give access (or work) to the presses and computers.
At the bottom rung of the enterprise is the activist press, which is blurred with activist magazines and websites, to the point where the only real difference is the lack of staples or a computer. These papers tend to push very radical politics and views, usually socialist (or further left), far-right
. Most of these have permanently fled to the internet, sensing the "death of printed journalism" narrative that has only recently — and at high cost — come to the mainstream press.
A final note
The classic Yes, Prime Minister
exchange on the subject of British Newspapers
can be replicated thus with respect to the American media (unfortunately, the U.S. doesn't have enough national papers to fit the template):
: Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads and watches what. CNN
is watched by people who think they run the country, The New York Times
is read by people who think they ought
to run the country, The Washington Post
is read by the people who actually do
run the country, USA Today
is read by the wives of the people who run the country,note
CNBC is watched by people who think they own the country, The Wall Street Journal
is read by the people who actually do
own the country, MSNBC
is watched by people who think the country ought to be run by another country,note
and Fox News
is watched by people who think it already is.note
Smarmy Civil Servant Alice: Mr. President, what about people who read The National Enquirer?
President's Body Man Charlie
: National Enquirer
readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big boobs.