The United States is one of the few countries where the government is specifically banned 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 his 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 the newspaper's content objectionable. Of course, freedom of the press is guaranteed in the first amendment to the Constitution.
The United States Government "sort of" prints a "newspaper" five days a week (except federal holidays). It's printed on newsprint, but in 8½″ × 11″ tabloid format, and it's called the Federal Register. It carries notices by government agencies when they are about to propose regulations (to allow public comment), or when they create a regulation, e.g. when the FCC decides when a TV station can broadcast obscenities, or when the Department of Transportation agrees to a request to move a county on the edge of one time zone to another, the notice is printed in the Federal Register; most of these are published there because they have to be in order to take effect. No other "news" appears in the Federal Register, and mostly it's lobbyists and lawyers who read it. After regulations have been finalized and published in the Federal Register, they are numbered and published in volume format as the Code of Federal Regulations which is the permanent archive version of the Federal Register.
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 to be 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 United States, over and over again (with one very narrow exception we'll explain in the next paragraph), 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 publish — the appeals courts have consistently found those restrictions to violate the First Amendment.
About the only restriction on publishing material which is in public sources has generally been related to the identities of spies, what is referred to as the "national security" exception. Because a magazine did some research where they combined various public documents and open publications (what would be called "data mining" today when done using computers) to discover who they were, and outed the names of a number of undercover U.S. spies (known as "NOC"s or "Non-Official Cover" agents, i.e. agents whose cover was not governmentalnote and thus did not grant them diplomatic immunity), some of whom were executed by the countries they were spying on, the U.S. Congress passed, the President signed, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld, a law that makes it illegal to "out" or identify a covert spy, even if you find out from openly published government records. This was why there was such an outcry when that happened in the case of Valerie Plame, a woman who ended up being publicly identified as a CIA employee by columnist Robert Novak, although in this case no charges were ever filed (basically because Novak (1) was a highly respected conservative pundit, (2) did not realize he was blowing Plame's cover, (3) was almost certainly working as an Unwitting Pawn for Dick Cheney, and (4) was possibly going senile—he died six years later of brain cancer). This rule regarding secret intelligence agents is the one and only exception to the rule that reporters in the U.S. may freely, legally report and publish, without fear of reprisal, anything they find in public records.
Also, courts have no power to prevent newspapers and television from reporting what happens in a trial. Unless a media outlet is a plaintiff or defendant, the court has no jurisdiction over them and no power to stop them from reporting what is public in a court proceeding. Attempts to find a newspaper in contempt for disobeying a court order not to print something seen in the court have been struck down. See Landmark Communications, Inc. v. Virginia, 435 U.S. 829 (1978).
These protections on the press are not uniform in North America, they generally apply only to newspapers (and magazines) in the United States. 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 are a public figure and 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
Now, what about how they print something, is it enough that something is true, or does it have to be true and not malicious, or does truth even matter? In the United States, 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).
But even actual malice doesn't matter, if it's true. The somewhat (in)famous District Attorney of New Orleans, Jim Garrison - popularized by Oliver Stone's movie JFK - held a press conference in which he complained that the judges in the county were making it difficult to prosecute crimes because they took too many vacations, and a few other things, and he was convicted of criminal libel. The U.S. Supreme Cout, in Garrison v. Louisiana, 379 US 64 (1964), said it agreed with the Supreme Court of New Hampshire, which said in State v. Burnham, 9 N.H. 34,(1837), "If, upon a lawful occasion for making a publication, he has published the truth, and no more, there is no sound principle which can make him liable, even if he was actuated by express malice. . . ."
There are a handful of valid legal defenses in libel and slander cases, but journalists are taught that the only one they should rely on in is truth. If you print something incorrect and escape a libel verdict as a result of another defense, you won in the court of law, but you still royally screwed up in a journalistic sense.
A Florida law made it a crime to report the name of an alleged rape victim. A newspaper got the full name of the victim from the police report that the Sheriff's department failed to keep sealed. They reported it, and were sued by the victim for violating the law. The U.S. Supreme Court held that law to be unconstitutional in this circumstance, i.e. the newspaper hadn't done anything wrong. The court said the outcome could have been different had the newspaper committed misconduct, e.g. a reporter had stolen the original document, bribed a cop to give them a copy, etc. Florida Star v. B.J.F., 491 U.S. 524 (1989).
We did mention earlier that there is a exception for "national security" issues, in that basically it's illegal to 'out' a hidden CIA operative; this was the case of the "Valerie Plame" scandal in the early 21st century. 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. (Plus, since they hadn't actually cashed the checks, it's probably likely a jury would have seen through what it was: a reporter caught the welfare department "with its pants down" and the DA was trying to punish the reporter for catching them acting stupidly.) Furthermore, fabrication and plagiarism are not crimes, but are considered to be two of the biggest breaches of journalistic ethics, and reporters who are caught doing either typically lose their job and reputation.
History of print journalism in the United StatesUnlike most of the New World, the American colonies had a very vibrant journalistic industry, albeit one hamstrung by Crown restrictions and occasional censorship. Among the most successful newspapermen of the 18th century was none other than Benjamin Franklin. Seeing the press as an essential force, the First Amendment gave it complete freedom. At first, this would lead to highly-partisan rags that carried ad hominem attacks aimed at political rivals. While less incendiary publications prevailed, most newspapers depended on political parties until the end of the 19th century.
Beginning in the 1870s, and continuing over a half-century, the American newspaper industry changed completely. The telegraph allowed a quicker reception of information, also demanding a more fast-paced approach to journalism as did the rapid growth of the nation's bigger cities. Advertising became a more important source of revenue, displacing political bigwigs and subscriber bases, expanding the reach of newspapers. These changes were successfully championed by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, whose "newspaper war" of the 1890s led to "yellow journalism", which carried hard-hitting investigations beneath a surface of crime and sensationalism, as well as the establishment of nationwide chains of newspapers joined by the licensing of news and other features to other papers across America and beyond.
As with traditional media in general, and print in particular, the state of the American newspaper industry is not good: We generally try to avoid time-dependent statements here on TV Tropes, but, sadly, it's difficult to imagine a future where that statement isn't true. The decline pretty much began in the mid-late 1990s, when the newspaper industry saw the "Information Superhighway" as being no bigger a threat than radio and television, which had been the bogeymen of newsmen during previous eras, establishing websites as they had bought radio and TV stations several times in the past. But the rise of the Internet and the so-called democratization of information coincided with the public's tastes shifting into more personalized choices, which particularly went against the journalistic model of the American newspaper, based on an emphasis on middle-of-the-road objectivity (which was commercially effective, in spite of right-leaning readers believing that most papers were unquestionably liberal while left-leaning readers thought they were too quiescent to corporate ownership) and street salesnote as well as advertising.
On the first point, this model was was widely criticized by journalism experts and theorists for being too bland and over-reliant on "wire service regurgitation", especially as companies spent the 1990s downsizing newsrooms with the belief newspapers could rely on running mostly syndicated content, leaving less important beats (i.e. school districts) to community weeklies. Ironically, this came at a time people became more opinionated and suspicious of traditional media, and thus, readership fell, although this was offset in the early 2000s with 9/11 and the early years of The War on Terror. It didn't really help that the style-book of the industry had gone almost unchanged since the 1950s if not earlier, which made newspapers look rather prudish in a landscape now dominated by political pundits saying stuff you'd never read in an op-ed page as well as crowdfunded/non-profit journalism not worried about driving away advertisers.
More importantly though, several want ad sites sprung up, such as Cars.com for motor vehicles, Monster for employment offers and eBay/Craigslist for everything else, allowing sellers to publish free (rather than paying to have an ad reaching not more than 50 miles unless the paper had a very wide distribution area) and buyers to find what they want with a word-search (instead of patiently peeking through columns or whole pages of ads). Considering that as much as a quarter of newspapers' revenues came from classified advertising, this became a catastrophe for the finances of many publications. But the actual crisis began between 2006 and 2009, as average circulation numbers began a free-fall that has continued to this day, and the worsening economy meant companies cut back on advertising money, particularly that aimed at newspapers considering the rapidly declining readership figures. The rise of cable/pay TV and satellite radio only meant more trouble for larger conglomerates that operated numerous broadcast TV and radio stations.
By the time the Great Recession came into full swing in early 2008, most newsrooms had been slashing their staffs for over two years. And by the time the economy began to recover, Facebook and other social media sites rose into prominence, not only competing for the public's attention, but also taking an ever-increasing share of display ad dollars the same way it happened with classified ads years earlier. Newspapers are desperately scrambling to find a workable 21st-century economic model, and some might yet succeed. However, there's little doubt that the halcyon days of the American newspaper are in the past.
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″ × 17″, which is called a broadsheet, and the type that half that size, about equivalent to the common paper format of 8½″ × 11″, which is called a tabloid. Because some very popular weekly newspapers in the United States 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, full-color 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.
It was at one time common for cities, and not just large ones but also Anytown, U.S.A., 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 between Monday and Saturday). 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 decades-long trend that was largely complete in the 1990s), 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 a.m.-4 p.m. shift. As technology has shifted, so did the publishing industry, and the last major paper to produce an afternoon edition (the Buffalo News) stopped doing so in 2006. 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's sometimes called the "McPaper"), it has broken a few important stories in recent years. For its first 30 years it rarely editorialized about political issues (which added to its reputation as a "banal" outlet), although beginning in the 2010s it began taking a rather soft liberal slant, condemning the GOP for the 2013 federal shut-down and the 2015 immigration revolt in Congress among other issues. In 2016, it "un-endorsed" presidential candidate Donald Trump, a first for the newspaper. It is also unique for carrying rebuttals to many of its editorials.
- 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—owned by Rupert Murdoch since 2007.
- 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. note 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 and the publication is widely admired in the journalism field. (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, The Washington Post and (to a lesser extent) the other Big Apple papers are readily 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, the Boston Globe in New England, 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).note 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." The Times is one of the most famous and respected newspapers in the world, and has broken many important and historical stories over the years. Among its biggest scoops was this publication of 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 — it began running ads on the front page in 2009. 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). It also publishes an international editionnote that is readily available around the world. 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, with Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim being the second-largest share-holder, setting a trend for billionaires to invest in (or downright buy) newspapers. 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 Beltway Blowhards. Most famous for exposing Watergate, as seen in the movie All the President's 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, although it has yet to be seen if Bezos will keep the paper in his family.
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 (or at the very least, neoconservative) bias, but no one disputes that the editorial and op-ed pages do. (Case in point: the Times has not endorsed a Republican for President since 1956, and the Post has never endorsed a Republican for President.) 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 (a role that the WSJ and USA Today have tended to fill sometimes as well in recent years), 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 Obama's 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:
- New York Post — Founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1801, the Post 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 1976 it's been owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation (except for a brief and extremely chaotic period in the late 80s/early 90s which the paper would rather forgetnote ), which turned it into a right-wing bastion. The Post is as sleazy and sensationalist 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). The gossip section that Murdoch created after he took over, known simply as "Page Six" (though it hasn't been confined to that page for a long time), pretty much pioneered the modern style of celebrity reporting. Arch-rival to the Daily News, a slightly less obscene NYC tabloid. (Slightly.) A great deal of overlap in readership with the Times (especially for their sports coverage), 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", which actually inspired the title of a film; "Masturbating Mugger Pulls Another One Off"), to the point where it has even published a book full of their most famous ones, though it's also known for less humorous front page images, such as when they ran a large photo of John Lennon at the morgue on its December 11, 1980 front page. Known to detractors as the "New York comPost". The paper is also somewhat nostalgic for the days of Rudolph Giuliani, and even the days before (now there are so many hipsters that business is quite hard for them). An Urban Legend claims that Rupert Murdoch once asked the CEO of an upscale department store (apparently Bloomingdale's) why his company didn't advertise in the Post. The CEO responded, "but Rupert, your readers are our shoplifters."
- New York Daily News — The arch-rival to the Post, founded in 1919. 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 than the Post, as well as a more liberal counterpart (pretty much an American version of the Daily Mirror, though not as left-wing note ), known for being as slavishly pro-Bloomberg as the Post is known for its pro-Giuliani stance (they both hate Mayor De Blasio). It is also noted for advocating gun control and migrant reform more than any other paper in the country. The paper is also famous for its gigantic, almost full-page headlines, which are usually humorous due to terseness or a pun, and more recently for its provocative and scathing front-page reports on tragedies, atrocities and controversial figures and statements. Despite being a regional paper, the Daily News has a surprisingly wide publishing range since New Yorkers can be found all over the country (they actually had a daily national edition in the 1990s). It was owned by the Tribune company until 1993 (except for a brief period in 1991 when it was co-owned by Robert Maxwell) when it was sold to real estate mogul... Mortimer Zuckerman, who in 2017 sold it back to Tribune Publishing for one dollar, although Zuckerman briefly continued as publisher.
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).
- 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. Ray Barone of Everybody Loves Raymond was a sports columnist for the paper.
- The New York Sun, which was founded in 2002 by Canadian media mogul Conrad Black as an intentionally right-wing five-day daily (much like the Canadian National Post, which he founded in 1997), 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, being unable to compete with the Times and also being hit by Black's prosecution for embezzlement and tax fraud (which forced him to withdraw within a year) 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 and publication ceased on September 30, becoming an online portal largely focusing on political news and conservative commentary (including from former owner Conrad Black).
- The New York World-Journal-Tribune was not just a paper with a rather unwieldy name, but also a short-lived attempt to keep the city's remaining middle-class newspapers alive, the World-Telegram and Sun, the Journal-Americannote and the Herald-Tribunenote . It only lasted eight months, between September 1966 and May 1967, with the Daily News becoming an Spiritual Successor of sorts. The last remnant of any of the papers that made up this one is the long-running reference book series The World Almanac and Book of Facts, which was first published by the World in 1868 (hence the name), was kept around by World-Journal-Tribune owner Scripps from after the paper ceased publication in 1967 until 1993, when they sold it to another publisher. It is currently distributed by Simon & Schuster.
- The Evening Graphic only ran for eight years (1924-1932), but it became a symbol of life in the Big Apple during The Roaring '20s. Owned by Bernarr Macfadden, a physical culture advocate, it published every salacious story possible, even pasting the faces of public figures over people enacting "events" they were involved in, its pictures of the Browning divorce case in 1927 becoming its most famous. It also ran the "news" of recently deceased actor Rudolph Valentino being greeted by Enrico Caruso and St. Peter at the pearly gates (maybe this was something to expect, since Macfadden also published a number of popular, though shamelessly sensationalist pulp magazines, including True Story). It also became the basis for the 1930 play Five Star Final (written by a former employee of the paper), its 1931 film adaptation being one of Edward G. Robinson's break-out roles.
- The paper's largest claim to fame might be the creation of the gossip column, with Walter Winchell and Ed Sullivan (yes, that Ed Sullivan) working for the paper.
- The Village Voice, founded in 1955 and so named for its long-time home in the Greenwich Village and East Village neighborhoods of Manhattan, was the United States' first alternative weekly newspaper and pioneered the magazine-style writing and culture coverage that would be found in later papers of that style. The Voice was the home of a cadre of well-known and respected culture writers, including influential music critic Robert Christgau, political columnist Nat Hentoff, food critic Robert Sietsema, nightlife and gossip writer Michael Musto, media critic Erik Wemple, sex columnist Rachel Kramer Bussel, film critic J. Hoberman, and music writers Chuck Eddy and Maura Johnston. Nearly all of those writers were laid off by the paper between 2006 and 2013 during a period of volatility and changing owners, and the paper itself saw its once sterling reputation in the journalism industry crater as new owners filled its pages with more dubious content. The Voice was closed in 2018 and its website very rarely published new material for several years. It was revived as a monthly publication under new ownership in April 2021, with only Musto returning from its best-known stable of writers.
- Chicago Tribune — Conservative Midwestern broadsheet. Much like the LA Times, 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 (now tronc) 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. It was owned by Murdoch for a time in the 80s (and by an associate afterwards) and later by Conrad Black in the 90s, becoming a bastion of conservatism, but this era is considered to be an Old Shame.
- Los Angeles Times — Biggest paper on the West Coast, owned by the Tribune Company (named for the aforementioned Chicago Tribune). Was once something of a nationally-renowned (albeit not necessarily nationally read) paper, but has taken a bad turn over the last fifteen years due to bad management from the Tribune Company. Still noted for decent coverage of Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its star reporter Matt Pearce has a massive following on Twitter due to his professional-but-casual style of reporting. Previously owned by Times-Mirrornote before Tribune bought it in 2000. In 2018 was sold to local businessman Patrick Soon-Shiongnote .
- 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 status. 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 Inquirer also owns the Philadelphia Daily News, a populist tabloid (explicitly calling itself "The People's Paper" and advertising itself as "Philadelphia's pain in the a** since 1925") that nevertheless manages to be half-way respectable (probably because of its more-or-less common editorial line with the Inquirer; it's also definitely more like the New York Daily News than the New York Post in other aspects as well). Both papers' contents appear on Philly.com, which has a surprisingly high profile nationwide for a locally-based news website.
- 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.
- The Boston Globe — The paper of record for the entirety of New England. It is currently owned by John Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox.note Well known for its Spotlight investigative journalism team, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning work investigating the sex abuse scandal in the city's Catholic churches was turned into an Oscar-winning film. In recent years, the Globe became one of the first major newspapers to publish a regular section dedicated to marijuana coverage, which launched alongside its recreational legalization in Massachusetts in 2018. Boston is also one of the last remaining two newspaper cities; The Globe shares Beantown with the older but less-read tabloid Boston Herald (It used to be considered a three-paper town, with the alt-weekly Boston Phoenix being equally highly regarded, but it was shuttered in 2013).
- The Baltimore Sun — Formerly a paper of national stature, it (like so many other papers) declined heavily since the mid-1990s. 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 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 moment 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 McGraw-Hill in 2012, including the flagship, Denver's ABC affiliate KMGH.) The Post itself has been the victim of some absolutely brutal cuts by its private equity owners, to the extent that the paper is a shadow of its former self and Post journalists openly insult the owners on Twitter.
- 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 political 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. Detractors refer to it by the rather uncreative nickname of "the Moonie Times" due to its Unification Church ties.
- 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 its home state's first-in-the-nation primary. Under its former publisher, William Loeb, it became one of the leading conservative papers in the United States, although it began to take a more libertarian position during the 2010s. Its Sunday edition is known as the New Hampshire Sunday News.
- 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 death-march 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.
- The Dallas Morning News is the largest paper in Dallas. Has a conservative lean, as is to be expected in the Lone Star State, but is well regarded by everyone in the state and won a series of Pulitzers in the 1990s. A.H. Belo, the founder of the Morning News, later became a national media magnate whose company once owned papers and television stations around the country (including the Providence Journal below). It's one of the two biggest papers in Texas (which in turn makes it one of the most read papers in all of America) along with...
- The Houston Chronicle, which is the paper of record for America's fourth-largest city. It is currently the flagship paper for the Hearst Communications empire and is one of the biggest papers, in terms of the size of its staff, in a non-coastal city.
- The Tampa Bay Times is a long-running paper previously known as the St. Petersburg Times, owned by the Poynter Institute journalism school. Since its 2012 revamp, it's gained national prominence, wide admiration and a truckload of Pulitzer Prizes for a series of long-form, investigative pieces about the education system, politics and housing in Florida; it's also done a lot of stories about the Church of Happyology's influence in the state, almost to the point of being one of the church's foremost enemies. A front-runner for "Best Medium-Sized Newspaper in the Country," going back to its St. Petersburg Times days.
- The Hartford Courant, out of Connecticut, is probably best known nationally for being "the longest continually published newspaper in America", in those Exact Wordsnote , having started in 1764 as a weekly before converting to a daily in 1837. Has had some ups and downs over the years, but is generally well-regarded in the area.
- The Providence Journal, the largest paper in Rhode Island (and one of just three dailies in the whole state), is a similarly venerable New England paper that lays claim to being the "oldest continuously-published daily newspaper" in those Exact Words (the Courant is older, but it was a weekly when it was founded. The New York Post has been a daily since 1801, but it was forced to stop publishing during two mid-20th century newspaper strikes). The ProJo as it is called in the area, is well regarded in Rhode Island despite a series of lay-offs that has greatly reduced the size of its newsroom. Like many papers, it's been through several owners over the years, and is now owned by Gannett, which also owns the second-largest daily in the state (The Newport Daily News). The Journal is also notable for its involvement in the creation of the American diner, as the earliest precursor of the diner was created in 1872 to feed the paper's reporters. Unusually, the paper's building in Providence has its own dedicated ZIP code, even though the ProJo now only uses a portion of its longtime home.
- The Richmond Times-Dispatch (known to its detractors as the "Times-Disgrace") is the newspaper of record in the state of Virginia. The nickname comes from its history of being a conservative-leaning newspaper, consistently endorsing Republican candidates for president until 2016 (when they endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson). Probably better known for its annual "Tacky Christmas Lights Tour". Formerly the flagship paper of Media General, it was sold to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and sold again to Lee Enterprises.
- The Times-Picayune is the newspaper for New Orleans. Most notable in the past few decades for its Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2006, but also for the period between 2012 and 2014 when it moved from daily publication to thrice-weekly; That resulted in New Orleans becoming the largest city in the United States (and the first major metro area) without a daily newspapernote , a very unpopular decision that was reversed soon thereafter: an "early Sunday" edition appeared on Saturday evenings while the other days of the week were covered by a tabloid edition, before reverting to a seven-day broadsheet in 2014. Also, Baton Rouge's The Advocate extended to NOLA in the meantime, making the "Big Easy" a two-paper town for the first time since 1980.
- The Onion — One of the most famous satirical newspapers in existence. Founded in Madison, Wisconsin, it is now located in Chicago. 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. Was a national, free, weekly print newspaper —in broadsheet, no less— from 1988 to 2013. At the end of its print run it was only being carried in three cities, down from a peak of 20 a few years earlier. It is currently one the flagship sites for Univision's Gizmodo Media Group.
- Stars and Stripes — 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 Examiner — Formerly known as the San Francisco Examiner, it gained fame in the late 19th century by being an early example of sensationalism and muck-racking that eventually launched the Hearst empire. After becoming an evening paper in 1965 after an agreement with the rival Chronicle, it lost prominence and Hearst Corp. sold the paper in 2000 (buying the Chron from the de Young family). The paper was acquired by the Fang family, which turned it into the modern-day freesheet in 2003. It was then sold to the Anschutz family's Clarity Media in 2004, the new owners establishing free dailies in Washington and Baltimore under the Examiner banner, although the former became a conservative magazine in 2013 and the latter shut down in 2009. The free Examiner (which was spun off from Clarity Media in 2011, being sold to administration) is generally thought 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.
Further complicating matters, most newspapers (big and small) in the United States are owned by one of a couple of dozen newspaper companies, such as Gannett/USA Today Network (which owns the former Gatehouse and Scripps-Howard newspapers), Hearst, News Corp, McClatchy, Digital First and MediaNews.
- The National Enquirer — The king of the trashy supermarket tabloids. Brits, think of The Sunday Sport without (much of) the porn. Founded as a Sunday evening paper espousing an arch-conservative editorial line, being quite sympathetic to the KKK, it became the first paper to break the news of the Pearl Harbor attack. Its owner from 1952 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.
- Founded in 1926 as broadsheet The New York Evening Enquirer by a Hearst protegé, during the '30s and '40s it supported fascism and isolationism, to the point it and its owner were indicted for sedition by a grand jury in 1942 for subverting the morale of US troops via the owner's editorials against US military involvement in World War II, with the charges later dropped. It was never successful in its broadsheet incarnation.
- Between 1953 and 1967, its main focus was gore and violence, getting the idea from people congregating around auto accidents; after its owner got the idea of selling the paper at supermarket checkouts, it changed its focus to topics like celebrities, the occult and UFOs.
- 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).
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 newsmagazinesThese 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, 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. An ownership change in 2012 (TNR was bought by one of the co-founders of Facebook) and an editorial overhaul in 2014 resulted in a rather significant change to the magazine's philosophical bent, to the extent that it even ran a piece relentlessly examining and criticizing its own unpleasant history with racial issues.
- 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, though some of its editorial stances notably against police brutality and in favor of Black Lives Matter sets it apart from its kin.
- 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). Today, it is probably most famous for the work of its political analyst/blogger Kevin Drum and investigative journalist Shane Bauer.
- 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 magazinesThese 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 at least since 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 (formerly The Atlantic Monthly): Founded by no lesser minds than Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (with the motto "of no party or clique") in 1857—so old that it was the vehicle for the original publication of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" (you know, the one that goes "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord..."). It's had something of a turbulent history and its political position has varied wildly. The Atlantic circa 2021 is owned by Laurene Powell Jobs (the widow of Steve Jobs) and has a broadly left-of-center perspective, though it publishes a pretty diverse range of writers (Elizabeth Bruenig is pretty much the only Catholic conservative socialist you'll read in a major American publication) and is mostly respected across the political spectrum for the quality of its writing. Its coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, won a Pulitzer Prize.
- 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 '70s 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 McCain 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.
- The New Criterion: Quarterly magazine of arts and culture from a "high culture" perspective. Explicitly conservative but almost never delves into partisan politics. Known mostly for its (fairly in-depth for a national magazine) coverage of the global classical music scene, its annual poetry contest, and its l o n g (80-120pp) issues.
- 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.
- Jacobin: A self-described "democratic socialist" magazine founded in 2011 by its current editor and publisher, Bhaskar Sunkara, it is close to the Democratic Socialists of America and to the "Bernie Sanders wing" of the Democrats. Has launched autonomous foreign editions in Italy, Germany and Brazil via a franchise model, and bought Tribune magazine in 2018, which has basically been a "British Jacobin" since then, to the point of sharing their publisher. Focuses on politics instead of culture, and is quarterly unlike the others.
- Wired: Founded in 1993 by Louis Rossetto, his partner Jane Metcalfe and Ian Charles Stewart, this magazine is focused on technology, but is not a "computer magazine" like the others - rather, it describes how tech shapes culture, the economy, and politics and, indeed, has itself created or popularized trends in the intersection of said worlds. Was the mouthpiece for the so-called "Californian Ideology"note and had an early scoop with William Gibson's still talked-about 1994 article "Disneyland with the Death Penalty" about Singapore (which got the magazine banned from the country by its government). Although not as strong as it used to be, it's still influential in the tech world. From 1998 to 2006, the paper magazine and its website (then called HotWired, later Wired News) were owned by separate companiesnote , until the former's owner bought the latter. The website was the first commercial online magazine, created banner adsnote , first measured the effectiveness of online advertising, was one of the first to attempt behavioural advertising, and first applied real-time web analytics.
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, 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. They also tend to be the leader in their market for coverage of local entertainment and the arts, particularly music. Despite this, they are mostly free, completely subsidized by advertising. Much of this advertising seems to be rather questionable; typically a lot of "massage parlors" and escort services advertise through alt-weeklies. Until it was legislated out of existence by anti-trafficking laws, Village Voice Media operated the Backpage website (itself named for the fact that these ads would run on or near the back page of these weeklies), which was notable for many of the same sort of advertisements. The difficulties experienced by the journalism industry in the 2010s hit alt-weeklies especially hard, and several long lasting and popular publications ceased publication, including The Village Voice and The Boston Phoenix.
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.
Nearly every college in America publishes a student newspaper. 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're where j-school students can get actual real world experience with what they've learned in the classroom). At many schools, the student newspaper is associated in some way with the school itself, usually through a faculty advisor who's a member of the journalism school. These tend run into more free speech issues, due to the pressures of college administrations, hyper-sensitive readerships and unpolished staff. At some colleges, however, the paper is totally independent and run by students with no affiliation with the university at all - prominent examples include The Independent Florida Alligator at the University of Florida and The Badger Herald at the University of Wisconsin.
In towns with terrible commercial newspapers with 'wire service regurgitation' or anti-student/university reputations, the student newspaper can be 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,note 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 or conspiracy-oriented. 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 United States doesn't have enough national papers to fit the template):
- President Bob: 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.noteSmarmy 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.