Die Neue Zürcher Zeitung, den 12. Januar 1780. Photo/Bild: Wikipedia.

Europe’s best newspaper 240 years

On January 12, 1780, the first copy of the Zürcher Zeitung was published. The newspaper has appeared without interruption ever since. It is one of the oldest newspapers in Europe. And one of the best.

The printing press, pamphlets, books and newspapers flourished in Europe at the time of the uprising of American settlers against the United Kingdom, the Industrial Revolution, the salons and societies, the Enlightenment, the educated citizen (Bildungsbürger) and on the eve of the French Revolution.

The printing press became a counterpart to the established sources of information, such as the (Reformed or Catholic) Church, the monarchs and the aristocratic (city) regents.

Censorship was omnipresent, also in Zurich. The publishing house Orell, Gessner, Füssli & Co, publisher of the newspaper, also experienced this.

The newspaper soon appeared twice a week in an edition of 1,000 copies. It reported on the usual subjects (monarchs, war and peace) but also on revolts, forbidden books, slavery and the lives of other peoples.

In Protestant Zurich, the Catholic Church was also a popular subject of criticism, criticism of the Protestant Church or allies was not tolerated. Several editors were dismissed at the insistence of the city council.

After 1815, the newspaper went through difficult times and circulation dropped to 400. In 1821, a new start was made with a new name: the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

An indpendent liberal medium, informative based on a vision,  facts and research and respectful of other opinions. 

The present-day newspaper does not regard itself as the God on the journalistic Olympus looking down on the ordinary people.

This mentality and paternalism do not function any longer in times of digitization. The readers are not just the recipients of news, but give shape to the press.

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung deserves a congratulation for the 240th anniversary and a compliment for its integrity and consistency.

In 2021, the contents of this journalistic monument will be available online from the first edition in 1780.