The News Letter

"News Letter" redirects here. For the form of publication, see Newsletter.
The Belfast News Letter
Type Daily newspaper
Format Tabloid
Owner(s) Johnston Publishing (NI)
Founder(s) Francis Joy
Editor Alastair Bushe
Founded 1737
Political alignment British unionism
Language English
Headquarters 6-9 Donegall Square South
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Circulation 20,755 [1]

The News Letter is one of Northern Ireland's main daily newspapers, published Monday to Saturday. It is the oldest English language general daily newspaper still in publication, having first been printed in 1737.[2][3]

The newspaper's editorial stance and readership, while originally republican,[4] is now strongly unionist. Its primary competitors are the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish News. The News Letter has changed hands several times since the mid-1990s, and since 2005 is owned by the Johnston Press holding company Johnston Publishing (NI). The full legal title of the newspaper is the Belfast News Letter, although the word Belfast does not appear on the masthead any more.[5]


Francis Joy

Founded in 1737, the Belfast News Letter was printed in Joy's Entry in Belfast. The Joys were a family of Huguenot descent who added much to eighteenth-century Belfast, noted for their compiling materials for its history. Francis Joy, who founded the paper, had come to Belfast early in the century from the County Antrim village of Killead. In Belfast, he married the daughter of the town sovereign, and set up a practice as an attorney. In 1737, he obtained a small printing press which was in settlement of a debt, and used it to publish the town’s first newspaper at the sign of ‘The Peacock’ in Bridge Street. The family later bought a paper mill in Ballymena, and were able to produce enough paper not only for their own publication but for the whole province of Ulster.[6][7]

Originally published three times weekly, it became daily in 1855. The title is now located at two addresses - a news section in Donegall Square South in central Belfast, and a features section in Portadown, County Armagh. Before the partition of Ireland, the News Letter was distributed island-wide.

Historical copies of the Belfast News Letter, dating back to 1828, are available to search and view in digitised form at the British Newspaper Archive. [8]

Other publications

The paper publishes several weekly and infrequent supplements, such as Farming Life and Catwalk. It also prints many titles for other publishers including Trinity Mirror and Guardian Media Group. It also prints the Ulster-Scots Agency publication, The Ulster-Scot.


In the period December 2010-June 2011, it had an average daily circulation of 23,492.[9] It fell to 20,755 for January to June 2013.


  1. 2 Jan 2013 - Jun 2013
  2. Research guide: Irish news & newspapers, Boston College, 13 December 2004, accessed 25 September 2006
  3. Ruth Johnston, Your place and mine: Belfast News Letter, BBC, accessed 25 September 2006
  4. A Deeper Silence: The Hidden Origins of the United Irishmen, A. T. Q. Stewart, The Blackstaff Press, 1998, ISBN 0-85640-642-2 pg. 134-164
  5. British Newspapers Online
  6. The Life and Times of Mary Ann McCracken, 1770-1866: a Belfast Panorama, Mary McNeill, The Blackstaff Press, rpt 1988
  7. A Deeper Silence: The Hidden Origins of the United Irishmen, A. T. Q. Stewart, The Blackstaff Press, 1998, ISBN 0-85640-642-2
  8. Digitised copies of the Belfast News Letter
  9. "ABC figures: How the regional dailies performed". HoldTheFrontPage. UK. 31 August 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2011.
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