is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper
, started in 1791
by WS Bourne with the premise that "the establishment of a Sunday newspaper would obtain him a rapid fortune
". The earliest versions of the paper promised a paper "Unbiased
- Uninfluenced by Party...Whose Principal is Independence
". Three years later Borne was £1,600 in debt and he tried to sell the paper to the government, but was turned down. For the next century it wavered between being a gossip-sheet
, government propaganda
source, and a thorn-in-the-side of the establishment. Over time the paper changed and came to reflect the somewhat more sober reality
of the times and a reputation for being a good source for serious coverage of politics and literature
In 1891, Frederick Beer appointed his wife Rachel as editor of the paper who in addition to editing The Observer she also edited the Sunday Times. During her time as editor, the paper received ones of its greatest exclusives: Count Esterhaz's admission that he has forged the letters that condemned Captain Dreyfus to Devil's Island. In the early twentieth century the paper was briefly owned by Lord Northcliffe. He appointed JL Garvin, a Tory, as editor and he edited the paper almost entirely by telephone from his home in Beaconsfield.
Finally, in 1948 the paper became free from political allegiance when David Astor became the proprietor and editor. He turned the paper in to a non-party publication which was trust-owned and under him the paper established a reputation for being the voice of post-World War II liberal Britain and many famous writers and journalists joined the staff, including George Orwell, Vita Sackville-West, Arthur Koestler, Philip Toynbee, Jon Davy, Kenneth Tynan, and Conor Cruise O'Brien.
From 1977-1993, first Atlantic Richfield and then Lonhro owned The Observer. The birth of the Independent and its Sunday sister, The Independent, put a lot of pressure on the paper and when the Independent went up for sale in 1993, The Guardian Media Group acquired The Observer. Although it and The Guardian now share foreign correspondents, they both have their own editors. Since 1998, Roger Alton has been the editor of The Observer and in January, 1999 the paper added three new sections which covered personal finance ("Cash"), film ("Screen"), and travel ("Escape").
"The Observer is Britain's oldest Sunday newspaper and it has been making mischief, poking its nose where it shouldn't and reporting the best in arts, culture, politics, sport, business and skulduggery for over two hundred years. We aim to keep it that way and maintain its position as Britain's most exciting Sunday newspaper." - Roger Alton