The Birmingham News is the principal newspaper for the Birmingham area and, with an average daily circulation of 103,729 in 2012, the largest newspaper in Alabama. The newspaper is owned by the Newhouse family's Advance Local (formerly Advance Publications).
Original content for the News print editions and al.com website is generated through the Alabama Media Group, headed by Matt Sharp which also produces content for the Huntsville Times and Mobile Press-Register. The newspaper is printed and distributed by Advance Central Services Alabama, headed by publisher Pam Siddall, which prints the Birmingham and Huntsville papers at its Birmingham plant. Since October 2011, Birmingham magazine has also been published by Advance.
The Birmingham News was launched on March 14, 1888 by Rufus Rhodes as The Evening News, a four-page paper with two reporters and $800 of operating capital working out of small, one-story building at 1st Avenue North and 21st Street. At the time, the city of Birmingham was only 17 years old, but was an already booming industrial city and a beacon of the "New South" still recovering from the aftermath of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Newspapers joined with industrial tycoons, academics and real-estate speculators in relentless boosterism of the new city. Rhodes was working as editor of the Daily Herald when he found his campaign for a viaduct spanning the "Railroad Reservation" dividing Birmingham's north and south opposed by his publisher. He determined to strike out on his own and launched the News with the slogan "Great is Birmingham and The News is its Prophet!" The "News Bridge" (21st Street Viaduct) was dedicated on July 4, 1891, and deemed by his paper the "grandest of all municipal achievements of great and glorious Birmingham."
The News circulation grew from 628 in 1888 to over 7,000 in 1891, when it became the largest daily in Alabama and won the contract to publish the General Laws of Alabama. In 1889, the name was changed from The Evening News to The Daily News and then, in 1895, The Birmingham News. 1895 also marked the paper's move down the street to a three-story brick building at 213 21st Street North. The newspaper continued to grow, reaching a circulation of 17,000 in 1909.
Staunchly progressive in its political stance, the News supported a straight-ticket Democrat platform in election seasons and championed progressive causes such as prohibition. The News led the drumbeat for the "Greater Birmingham" movement to annex suburban communities. The successful campaign caused the population of the City of Birmingham to grow from 40,000 in 1900 to 138,685 in 1910, at which time Birmingham was the third largest city in the South. That same year, Rhodes died and was succeeded by his vice-president and general manager, Victor H. Hanson. At the time, the paper's daily circulation was about 18,000.
Hanson, only 33 years old, was already an accomplished newspaperman, having at age 11 founded the City Item in Macon, Georgia which he sold four years later for $2,500. Hanson helped modernize the newspaper's format, tone and operations. In 1912 the circulation of the News' daily afternoon edition was reported at 22,499. Hanson added a Sunday edition, first printed on September 22, 1912, to challenge Sunday Age-Herald. Between 1910 and 1914 Hanson oversaw an increase in subscriptions to 40,000 and that year boldly claimed the title of "The South's Greatest Newspaper."
In 1917 the News moved to a new six-story office building on the corner of 4th Avenue North and 22nd Street and three years later purchased the rival Birmingham Ledger, increasing the size of its staff to 748 and its circulation to 60,000. In 1920 vice-president and editor Frank Glass retired. His 30 percent stake in the business was acquired by Hanson and two out-of-state newspaper publishers.
An update to the News' body type was made in the mid 1930s. The News and Age-Herald switched to Linotype's new "Corona" typeface in 1941.
In 1955, Samuel Newhouse purchased the News and its subsidiaries (WAPI-AM, WAFM-FM, TV station WABT, Huntsville radio station WHBS-AM, The Huntsville Times, and a freight company) for $18.7 million, a record at the time. Newhouse's publishing empire, now known as Advance Publications, still owns the newspaper and its related businesses.
In 1980 the newspaper opened a new $32 million, 97,700 square-foot printing and production building on the half-block north of its offices. In 1996, the News Corporation switched the publication times between the News and the Post-Herald, making the News a morning paper. Both papers published a joint weekend edition, distributed on Saturdays.
On August 10, 2006 the News cut the ribbon on their new headquarters building across 4th Avenue from their 1917 offices plant. The $25 million, 4-story, 110,000-square-foot brick and limestone building, designed by Williams-Blackstock Architects, borrows several details from the older building and is dramatically bisected by a glass atrium. In 2007 the paper's owner received approval from Birmingham's Design Review Committee to proceed with demolition of the older building to make way for a surface parking lot for employees.
On July 25 the News announced an offer of employee buyouts meant to save expenses as revenues dropped and expenses increased. Publisher Victor Hanson III retired in 2009 and was succeeded by Pam Siddall.
In June 2012 the News and its sister publications, The Huntsville Times, The Mobile Press-Register, and al.com, reorganized with two divisions, the Alabama Media Group, responsible for all content creation, and Advance Central Services Alabama, which distributes content online and on paper, as well as coordinating advertising sales, legal notices, subscriptions and other support services. Part of the reorganization was a plan to cut the newspapers back to only publishing three days a week. The News' final daily edition was Sunday, September 30, 2012, after which it began publishing only on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
In 1991, Ron Casey, Harold Jackson and Joey Kennedy received a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for their editorial campaign analyzing inequities in Alabama's tax system and proposing needed reforms.
In 2006 the News editorial staff were finalists for another Pulitzer for Editorial Writing for a series of editorials reversing the paper's longstanding support of the death penalty. That same year the paper won two Awards of Excellence from the Society for News Design for the paper's overall graphic layout.
In 2007, reporter Brett Blackledge won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for his series of articles exposing corruption in Alabama's two-year college system. Columnist John Archibald was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2018.
Like most printed newspapers, the News average daily circulation has dropped steeply in the 21st century.
- 2004 - 157,225
- 2005 - 153,378
- 2006 - 150,174
- 2007 - 145,655
- 2008 - 140,438
- 2009 - 132,417
- 2010 - 113,810
- 2011 - 112,209
- 2012 - 103,729
- Bishop, Clarence Etheridge Jr (195) "A Study of the First Fifty Years of the Birmingham News." M.A. thesis. University of Alabama
- "On to Birmingham." (December 12, 1955). Time 
- Jones, Emily, ed. (1988). The Birmingham News: Our First 100 Years. Birmingham, AL: The Birmingham News Company.
- Fullman, Lynn Grisard (May 1992) "History of The Birmingham News." Old Birmingham magazine
- Jordan, Phillip (April 5, 2007) "All the News that's fit to lose." Birmingham Weekly
- DeButts, Jimmy (August 1, 2008) "Circulation drops at state's newspapers." Birmingham Business Journal
- Beaujon, Andrew (May 24, 2012) "Advance cuts daily publication of its three Alabama papers" Poynter
- Natta, André (June 6, 2012) "Reading into the Alabama Media Group plans. The Terminal
- Kent, Dawn (September 28, 2012) "Many Birmingham News staffers depart as paper ceases daily publication, moves to 3 days a week." The Birmingham News
- Hobbs, Delores Ann (November 7, 2013) "The Birmingham News" Encyclopedia of Alabama online - accessed September 18, 2019