English History

ENGLISH HISTORY: It all started in the 14th century, with the word ‘news’ developed as a special use of the plural form of ‘new’.


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#AceHistoryDesk – News is information about current events. This may be provided through many different media: word of mouth, printing, postal systems, broadcasting, electronic communication, or through the testimony of observers and witnesses to events. News is sometimes called “hard news” to differentiate it from soft media.


Throughout history, people have transported new information through oral means. Having developed in China over centuries, newspapersbecame established in Europe during the early modern period. In the 20th century, radio and television became an important means of transmitting news. Whilst in the 21st, the internet has also begun to play a similar role.

Meaning & Etymology

The English word “news” developed in the 14th century as a special use of the plural form of “new”. In Middle English, the equivalent word was newes, like the French nouvelles and the German Neues. Similar developments are found in the Slavic languages – namely cognates from Serbo-Croatian novost (from nov, “new”), Czech and Slovak noviny (from nový, “new”), the Polish nowiny, the Bulgarian novini and Russian novosti– and likewise in the Celtic languages: the Welsh newyddion (from newydd) and the Cornish nowodhow (from nowydh).

Jessica Garretson Finch is credited with coining the phrase “current events” while teaching at Barnard College in the 1890s.

Newness as its name implies, “news” typically connotes the presentation of new information. The newness of news gives it an uncertain quality which distinguishes it from the more careful investigations of history or other scholarly disciplines.

Whereas historians tend to view events as causally related manifestations of underlying processes, news stories tend to describe events in isolation, and to exclude discussion of the relationships between them. News conspicuously describes the world in the present or immediate past, even when the most important aspects of a news story have occurred long in the past—or are expected to occur in the future. To make the news, an ongoing process must have some “peg”, an event in time which anchors it to the present moment. Relatedly, news often addresses aspects of reality which seem unusual, deviant, or out of the ordinary. Hence the famous dictum that “Dog Bites Man” is not news, but “Man Bites Dog” is.

Another corollary of the newness of news is that, as new technology enables new media to disseminate news more quickly, ‘slower’ forms of communication may move away from ‘news’ towards ‘analysis’.

Commodity that according to some theories, “news” is whatever the news industry sells. Journalism, broadly understood along the same lines, is the act or occupation of collecting and providing news.

From a commercial perspective, news is simply one input, along with paper (or an electronic server) necessary to prepare a final product for distribution. A news agency supplies this resource “wholesale” and publishers enhance it for retail.

Tone most purveyors of news value impartiality, neutrality, and objectivity, despite the inherent difficulty of reporting without political bias.

Perception of these values has changed greatly over time as sensationalized ‘tabloid journalism‘ has risen in popularity. Michael Schudson has argued that before the era of World War I and the concomitant rise of propaganda, journalists were not aware of the concept of bias in reporting, let alone actively correcting for it. News is also sometimes said to portray the truth, but this relationship is elusive and qualified.

Paradoxically, another property commonly attributed to news is sensationalism, the disproportionate focus on, and exaggeration of, emotive stories for public consumption. This news is also not unrelated to gossip, the human practice of sharing information about other humans of mutual interest. A common sensational topic is violence; hence another news dictum, “if it bleeds, it leads”.

Newsworthiness is defined as a subject having sufficient relevance to the public or a special audience to warrant press attention or coverage.

Al Jazeera Englishnewsroom, Doha, 2011

As the name implies, ‘news’ is associated with the presentation of new information.

News values seem to be common across cultures. People seem to be interested in news to the extent which it has a big impact, describes conflicts, happens nearby, involves well-known people, and deviates from the norms of everyday happenings. War is a common news topic, partly because it involves unknown events that could pose personal danger.

Because it is, by nature, new, this gives it a quality of uncertainness, compared to careful investigation carried out within historical or other academic disciplines.

News has to describe the world in the present or immediate past – and if it refers to an event that took place long ago, there must be something that anchors it to present day and makes it immediately relevant.

(Picture: Getty)

The meaning of the word has become increasingly potent as online publications began publishing news articles online.

Back in 1980, the CompuServe dial-up service began working with Associated Press newspapers, and the first online newspaper was The Columbus Dispatch, which was set live on July 1.

The Washington Post, The New York Times and a dozen others followed soon afterwards.

Over the years, the meaning of the word news has been questioned, with Mitchell Orval incorrectly saying that ‘news’ was actually an acronym for Notable Events, Weather and Sports.

Others have said it is an acronym for North, East, West, South – this is also untrue.

History of the News of the World

Run under world-renowned media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, The News of the World was part of the News Corporation group. Running a weekly circulation of 2,987,730 copies on average, the paper was once the highest selling Sunday newspaper in the UK. Generally the paper was considered to have a centre-right political stand, but it supported the Labour Party during Tony Blair’s three General Election wins (1997, 2001, 2005). The newspaper was printed from 1843 to 2011, after which it ceased publication. Our contains original copies of the newspaper that make fascinating keepsake gifts. 

Founded by John Browne Bell, the first edition of the News of The World was published on October 1st 1843. This paper had an opening editorial which described the motivation behind the introduction of the publication as being made to suit all classes. In line with this, the newspaper was sold at a low and affordable price of three pence, aiming to secure circulation within the poor and rich. The first edition also went on to declare that it will ‘seek the patronage of no party’ and that it will support the prosperity of all classes. When the newspaper first began publishing, it was the cheapest newspaper available and targeted the newly literate working class. In particular, it established itself as the newspaper reporting on titillation, shock and criminal events. 

Having a long standing association with the News of the World, the Carr family were part of a syndicate that acquired the publication in 1891. Sir Emsley Carr was appointed editor in 1891 and held this position for over 50 years until 1941 when he passed away. Under the Carr ownership, the News of the World became one of the biggest selling English-language publications in the world by 1950. Gaining further popularity on the 23rd October 1960, it merged with The Empire News – a Sunday newspaper for the British Empire. News of the World also had printing locations abroad, including Cyprus and Florida, USA. 

In 1969 the News of the World was bought by Murdoch after he gained support from the Carr family. On the 15th November 1969, Murdoch acquired The Sun which was bought to become the daily sister paper to the News of the World. Up until present day these two publications have remained sister papers and are both still owned by the News Corporation Group. A magazine accompanied the paper from 1981 onwards and it changed its format in 1984 from broadsheet to tabloid. The magazine contained real-life stories and celebrity interviews, along with other topics such as body and soul, fashion, beauty and lifestyle.


The newspaper concentrated heavily on celebrities’ private lives and various scandals and was part of numerous controversies throughout its existence. In 2006 the paper’s royal editor, Clive Goodman and private investigator, Glenn Mulcaire were accused of accessing the private voicemail of royal aides after stories regarding Prince William were published. The accusation led to a police investigation and the two were jailed as a result. The News of the World editor at the time, Andy Coulson, resigned.

Allegations of phone hacking re-emerged in 2009 when reports of the newspaper settling claims from three victims out of court. The Metropolitan Police opened investigations in 2011 to fully review the cases raised in 2006 as more victims had stepped forward. The major turning point in the case was the revelation that murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s voicemail had been targeted, a scandal the newspaper could not recover from as advertisers boycotted the publication.

After the paper was disgraced by the infamous ‘phone hacking scandal’ of 2011, it ceased operations on July 11th that same year and 200 people lost their jobs. The final edition featured the headline “Thank you and Goodbye” and the newspaper sold 3.8 million copies, which is roughly a million more than usual sales. The paper announced that the majority of the profits from the final edition would go to good causes, along with its advertising space. After the closure of News of the World, Murdoch was responsible for launching The Sun on Sunday, where some of the News of the World journalists became employed. Historic Newspapers house back issues of the News of the World up until this day and these are now truly considered ‘collectibles.’

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