The June 16, 2009 front page of
The News & Observer
|Owner(s)||The McClatchy Company|
|Publisher||Orage Quarles III|
|News editor||Linda Williams|
|Sports editor||Gary Schwab|
|Founded||1865 (as The Sentinel)|
|Headquarters||215 South McDowell Street
Raleigh, North Carolina 27601
The News & Observer is the regional daily newspaper of the Research Triangle area of the U.S. state of North Carolina. The N&O, as it is popularly called, is based in Raleigh and also covers Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill. The paper also has substantial readership in most of the state east of Winston-Salem. It is the state's second-largest newspaper, after The Charlotte Observer. The paper has won three Pulitzer Prizes, most recently in 1996 for a computer-assisted investigation of the North Carolina hog industry.
The newspaper became an online service provider and offered one of the first World Wide Web news sites with Nando.net in 1994. In 1995, the paper was bought by McClatchy Co. of Sacramento, California.
The publisher is Orage Quarles, who was named the nation's outstanding publisher by Editor and Publisher magazine in 2002. In 2007, John Drescher was named executive editor, succeeding Melanie Sill.
The News & Observer traces its roots to The Sentinel, which was founded in 1865. That paper was eventually absorbed by The Observer, which in turn merged with The News in 1880 to form The News & Observer. In 1894, Josephus Daniels bought The News & Observer at a distressed property auction with the purpose of using the paper to support the state Democratic Party; 70 prominent North Carolina Democrats donated money for the auction. Daniels became the editor. His first edition was released on August 12, 1894, with a circulation of 1,800 (out of 10,000 in Raleigh) at $7 ($191 today) a year.
Daniels was editor of the paper until his death in 1948, and made many prominent changes. He installed the first linotype machines, changed the typography, and took advertisements off the front page. He wanted to change the name to The North Carolinian, but was convinced otherwise because The News & Observer already had name recognition with advertisers and readers. During this time, though, the paper was dubbed "The Old Reliable" by salesman Wiley Rogers.
Prior to the pivotal election of 1898 "The News and Observer" was instrumental in encouraging white supremacist attitudes. In editorials, the paper advocated the use of violence and intimidation to control black voters. A study by the Wilmington Race Riot Commission states that the Wilmington Race Riot "was not a spontaneous event, but was directed by white businessmen and Democratic leaders." It further states that "Daniels was involved in the Democrats' 1898 campaign from the beginning, working with Furnifold McLendel Simmons and other party leaders to formulate strategy. Daniels wrote later that 'The News and Observer was the printed voice of the campaign.'"
Daniels later said he regretted his tactics, and supported a number of progressive causes, like public education, anti child-labor laws, and banning alcohol.
In 1948, Daniels died and was replaced by his four sons. His son Jonathan edited the paper, and his son Frank was the president and publisher. In the 1950s, The News & Observer consolidated its position, buying The Raleigh Times and moving into a new headquarters at 215 S. McDowell St. in Raleigh, where it remains.
In 1968, the Daniels family hired Claude Sitton, who had been a correspondent for The New York Times and later an editor there. Serving as the editorial director of the paper, he promoted The News & Observer as a government watchdog and moved the news of the paper away from the personal and partisan stances it had taken under Josephus Daniels. However, its editorials were still often aligned with the Democratic Party. Triangle conservatives often call the paper "the Nuisance and Disturber." A year later, the Mini Page children's supplement was created and published. Today, it is one of the nation's most widely used children's newspaper supplements.
In 1971, Sitton became the editor and the paper began buying and publishing smaller local newspapers, starting with The Island Packet in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and The Cary News in Cary, North Carolina.
On March 16, 1980, a welder's torch started a fire and burned through all the newsprint threaded through the press, injuring three and causing millions in damage.
In 1987, the staffs of The News & Observer and The Raleigh Times merged, and on November 30, 1989, the last edition of The Raleigh Times was published. In 1988, The News & Observer endorsed its first Republican candidate for statewide election, showing, perhaps, a distancing from Democratic partisanship.
Throughout the early 1990s, The News & Observer divested itself of various local newspapers in South Carolina and the North Carolina mountains, and by September 1993, Sunday sales of The News & Observer reached 200,000 for every week. However, the newspaper still owns The Cary News, Chapel Hill News, and the Smithfield Herald among other newspapers. In 1994, the paper created Nando.net, becoming an Internet service provider and began publishing the NandO Times online newspaper.
On May 17, 1995, The News & Observer Publishing Company was sold to McClatchy Newspapers for $373 million, ending 101 years of Daniels family ownership. In the mid-1990s, Flexo machines were installed, allowing the paper to print 32 pages in color, at the time the largest color capacity of any newspaper in the United States.
In 1999, The News & Observer was named one of the nation's 100 best newspapers by the Columbia Journalism Review, and one of the 17 best-designed newspapers in the world by the Society for News Design.
In September 2008, the News and Observer offered buyouts to all 320 newsroom employees, approximately 40% of its staff, in an effort to cut expenses. Previously the company had shut down its Durham news bureau and in a separate event laid off 70 employees. Layoffs and buyouts have continued since then. 
Recently articles have called the N&O's professionalism into question, but the publisher continues to defend this lesser journalism to the detriment of this once fine paper.
The newspaper's presses appeared in the 1994 movie The Hudsucker Proxy. The building served as the Terre Haute, Indiana police station in Arthur Newman, Golf Pro, starring Colin Firth, in scenes filmed November 9, 2011.
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