The Origin Story Behind Newspaper Carriers Yelling "Extra! Extra!"
Read all about it!
Today, a tweet can circulate breaking news to millions of people in a matter of seconds. But we've been living in a world with a nonstop, endless barrage of news for the past four decades—since CNN kickstarted the 24-hour news cycle in 1980. Before the technological revolution, however, news hounds knew there was something major afoot when they heard newsboys, or newsies, shouting one key phrase: "Extra! Extra! Read all about it!" But why that phrase in particular? And where did it come from?
Well, according to the New York Newspaper Publishers Association, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, newsies shouted the phrase while trying to sell "extras," any editions of a newspaper that deferred from the regular publishing cycle. Newspapers were printed in the morning and the evening, but of course, some major breaking news naturally occurred in between the two editions. If an extraordinary event happened after a publication's morning deadline, many newspapers would print a second edition in order to deliver the news, i.e. an "extra." And to bring attention to the breaking news, newsies would go out of their way to push these secondary editions, shouting, "Extra! Extra!"
However, extras eventually became unnecessary when radio came about in the 1930s, according to Michael Stamm's Sound Business: Newspapers Radio and the Politics of New Media. Newspapers simply couldn't compete with getting breaking news out like a radio broadcast could.
"The radio beats the newspaper extra in speed, accuracy, and public convenience," Joseph Pulitzer, the legendary publisher, said shortly after the 1932 presidential election, as cited by Stamm. And today, while many newspapers will still print extra editions for major events—like inaugurations, natural disasters, or even sports championships—the need for newsies to be yelling about them on street corners has long since passed. And for more news behind the news, check out these 17 Crazy Delivery-Day Stories of Newspaper Carriers.
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