OLD Media Moves

Economist celebrates 170 years, explains why it’s a “newspaper”

September 2, 2013

Posted by Chris Roush

The Economist is celebrating its 170th birthday on Monday, and it writes why it still calls itself a newspaper even though it looks like a magazine.

The Economist writes, “In August 1843 when James Wilson, a Scottish hatmaker, published the prospectus for The Economist, a new periodical he planned to launch, he described it as ‘a weekly paper, to be published every Saturday’. The first issue, which appeared on September 2nd, described itself as a ‘political, commercial, agricultural, and free-trade journal’ on its masthead (we used Oxford commas in those days). To modern eyes the 19th-century black-and-white incarnation of The Economist is clearly a newspaper, and it looked very similar until the middle of the 20th century. The red logo appeared for the first time in 1959, the first colour cover in 1971, and it was only in 2001 that full colour was introduced on all inside pages. By the time the transformation from newspaper to magazine format had been completed, the habit of referring to ourselves as “this newspaper” had stuck.

“The Economist, moreover, still considers itself more of a newspaper than a magazine in spirit. Its aim is to be a comprehensive weekly newspaper for the world. If you are stranded on a desert island and can have only one periodical air-dropped to you to keep up with world news, our hope is that you would choose The Economist. That goal is arguably more in keeping with the approach of a newspaper than a magazine. The latter term derives from the French word for storehouse and implies a more specific publication devoted to a particular topic, rather than coverage of current affairs.

“Just as people still talk of ‘dialling’ phone numbers (even though phones no longer have dials) and CC (carbon copy) e-mails, some expressions outlive changes in technology. If the day ever comes when this newspaper is no longer published in paper form, but instead delivered digitally, it seems likely that it will still be calling itself ‘this newspaper’.

Read more here.

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