It’s published by Morton Newspapers and has been owned by the UK-wide group of regional and local newspapers Johnston Press since 2005.
Initially a radical Presbyterian newspaper and thus Nationalist (which in the context of eighteenth-century Irish politics meant something rather different from what it does currently), by the mid-nineteenth century it had become strongly Unionist and conservative politically, and remains so today.
At the time of its foundation by Francis Joy and his two sons Henry and Robert it was called The Belfast News-Letter and General Advertiser, becoming simply The Belfast News-Letter in 1769. Legally, it’s still registered as the Belfast News Letter, but the word “Belfast” was dropped from the masthead in 1962.
It claimed a major scoop in 1776 when the ship carrying a copy of the Declaration of Independence to London was forced into harbour in Derry by a storm. The document was carried for transhipment to Belfast, where the News Letter‘s editor took his own copy and printed the complete text on the paper’s front page.
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