The History of Chicago Newspapers


chicago newspaper stand

If you stroll the Loop during rush hours you will spot people hawking daily newspapers for 75 cents. Two papers reign supreme today, but in the nineteenth century that was not the case — the number of Chicago papers reached 11 dailies and 22 weeklies in 1860.

This staggering number occurred just 27 years after the city’s first paper, the Chicago Weekly Democrat, began publishing in 1833. Of the many choices for morning, evening, and weekly papers, one of the most rebellious, the Chicago Times, consistently reaffirmed its support of the Civil War and used the motto: “to print the news and raise hell.”

However, with the onset of radio and television news in the mid-twentieth century, the number of Chicago newspapers began a slow decline. Eventually there were only two at the top of the market: the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune.

The Chicago Sun-Times started out as the Chicago Sun, a newspaper founded by Marshall Field III (yes, a relative of that Marshall Field) in 1941. Field wanted to compete with the monopolizing Chicago Tribune, and later expanded his newspaper by taking over the Chicago Times, its reporting staff, and printing presses. The newly formed Chicago Sun-Times used a tabloid format and pages full of photos to attract readers.

Since its inception the newspaper has battled its Tribune counterpart, and in 2007 Cheryl L. Reed, the editorial page editor for the Sun-Times, said, “we are returning to our liberal, working-class roots, a position that pits us squarely opposite the Chicago Tribune— that Republican…paper over on moneyed Michigan Avenue.” If those aren’t fightin’ words, I don’t know what are.

That brings us to the other paper powerhouse of the city: the Chicago Tribune. The Tribune Company, founded in 1847, worked out of a publishing plant at the corner of Lake and LaSalle Streets until 1925 when the company moved to the famed Tribune Tower. In its editorial statement of principles, the Chicago Tribune states it “believes in the traditional principles of limited government, maximum individual responsibility, and minimum restriction of personal liberty, opportunity, and enterprise.” Historically, the Tribune made headlines itself in 2008 when it endorsed Barack Obama, its first Democratic presidential candidate ever.

People in Chicago usually prefer one paper over the other—and some consider it an argument-worthy battle—but both newspapers produce quality work and you can’t go wrong reading either.

Jamie Hansen

About Jamie Hansen

I like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain. And I still love reading newspapers. After growing up in the suburbs I took a four-year Chicago hiatus to the University of Iowa where I majored in journalism and English. Now I’m back and ready to help you make the most of the Windy City. As Kanye says, I’m a Chicagoan until Chicago ends… but I wouldn’t mind a vacation home in Florida.

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