Birmingham News

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Cover of the July 9, 2006 Birmingham News

The Birmingham News was for decades the principal newspaper for the Birmingham area and the largest newspaper in Alabama. It was founded in 1888 by Rufus Rhodes and absorbed several rivals before being acquired in 1955 by Samuel Newhouse. It continued as a major outlet for Newhouse's Advance Publications until its Alabama publications were reorganized in 2012. The newspaper continued to be distributed in print format until it published a final edition on Sunday February 26, 2023, giving way to's digital products.


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."

The News' 1917 building, demolished in 2007

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.

From July 12 to August 14, 1945, publication of the News, along with the Birmingham Post and Age-Herald, was suspended due to a printers' strike.

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.

As of September 23, 2005, when the afternoon Birmingham Post-Herald ceased publication, the News remained as the only daily newspaper serving the city.

The 2006 Birmingham News building

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. Since October 2011, Birmingham magazine has also been published by Advance.

In June 2012 the News and its sister publications, The Huntsville Times, The Mobile Press-Register, and, reorganized with two divisions, the Alabama Media Group, led by Matt Sharp, which was responsible for all content creation, and Advance Central Services Alabama, led by Siddall, which was responsible for print and online distribution, as well as advertising sales, legal notices, subscriptions and other support services.

As part of the reorganization, print newspapers were cut back to publishing three days a week. The News' final daily edition was dated Sunday, September 30, 2012, after which it began publishing only on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. The final print edition of the newspaper was distributed on February 26, 2023.


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.


Front page of the final edition of The Birmingham News

Like most printed newspapers, the News average daily circulation dropped steeply in the 21st century.

1888 - 628
1896 - 7,097
1909 - 17,000
1911 - 27,817
1921 - 60,000
1970 - 182,185
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
2022 - 30,000