Sunderland Echo

Sunderland Echo

Firstly, the Sunderland Echo, came about and was first published on the 22nd December 1873. Then, it had the name of Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette. However, only 1,000 were published from their Press Lane printing office and had a price tag of a halfpenny.

Indeed, the image shows the first Sunderland Echo that come off the printing press.

Sunderland Echo first published 22nd December 1873 - front page

Sunderland’s Other Newspapers

At first, the Echo faced fierce competition from the two established weeklies in Sunderland, The Sunderland Herald and Sunderland Times. Indeed, Samuel Storey tells us about how and why the Sunderland Echo came about. In fact, Storey states in an article, The Sunderland Herald and Sunderland Times were good productions. He went on, “but were inadequate to supply the desires of a large population for more up to date news”.

The Shields Gazette, also a liberal paper, sent 3,000 copies of its afternoon edition to Sunderland. But it did not contain much Sunderland news. Tired of this situation, Samuel Storey and his six partners then decided to start their own newspaper. This was to supply local as well as news in general.

To begin with, the Echo’s launch was by a group of men with the simple name of “The Seven”.  Moreover, they were Liberal activists who felt the town needed its own evening newspaper. In essence, the seven men were Samuel Storey, Principal proprietor of the Echo and other newspapers. Also an MP, Edward Backhouse, a Quaker banker, E.T. Gourley, ship-broker and MP, Charles Mark Palmer. Then there was shipbuilder and MP, Richard Ruddock, reporter and editor of the Newcastle Chronicle. Finally, Thomas Glaholm, a rope maker and Thomas Scott Turnbull a draper.

The Struggle

In essence, of the seven, only Richard Ruddock knew anything about newspaper management. Generally speaking, success of the Echo seemed remote as the infant paper struggled to survive. This is because the initial investment was quickly swallowed up. Then as failure loomed, three of the founders stepped down. So, Gourley, Palmer, Ruddock and principal founder, Samuel Storey, took on their shares.

Sunderland Echo building, Bridge Street, City Centre

Old Sunderland Echo Offices in Bridge Street

In July 1876 the Echo moved to new premises in Bridge Street, Sunderland. Indeed, it would stay here for the next hundred years. It also had two new presses capable of producing 24,000 copies an hour, but it still hardly made a profit.

Two of the remaining founders died, Edward Backhouse in 1879 and Thomas Scott Turnbull in 1880. Then Samuel Storey became the main proprietor and his family held the reins of power for well over a century.

One Newspaper Dominates Sunderland Now

The Sunderland Echo indeed became the town’s sole newspaper from 1914. Obviously, over the years, the Echo offices became bigger and more modern. During the Second World War, Sunderland came under intense bombing. However, the Sunderland Echo Building suffered no damage. But, due to a national paper shortage in the war, the paper had to change from a large broadsheet to a tabloid format.

Sunderland Echo office in Pennywell Industrial Estate

Echo office, Pennywell

In 1965, further rebuilding work took place with the introduction of a new press. Then, in 1976, the Echo moved to Pennywell Industrial Estate after abandoning the Bridge Street headquarters. Indeed here, traditional method of newspaper production, using molten metal to produce type and printing plates, was becoming redundant.
On the whole, photo composition and web off-set printing was replacing the old machinery.

Rapid expansion was occurring until the company was took over by current owners Johnston Press in July 1999. In fact, the Sunderland Echo is the award winning evening newspaper for Sunderland and East Durham. It serves a population of about 400,000. Currently, the Sunderland Echo publishes two editions a day and a Football Echo** on Saturdays which has a current daily circulation** of around 54,299.

Other Competition

Apart from the internet and social media of course, the physical paper has other competition. Indeed, these are namely, The Northern Echo, The Journal, the Hartlepool Mail and the Evening Chronicle. However, according to independent research in 2000, the Sunderland Echo was holding up well. In fact, research tells us this ‘popularity of the Echo in Sunderland and East Durham is greater than that of all other regional newspapers put together’. Obviously, this reflects the unique community that is Wearside!

Sunderland Echo Online

Due to the internet revolution, the Sunderland Echo went online like most other companies. This was indeed a massive success. In fact, in January 2007, 80,000 people paid a visit to its website. However, by January 2008, this figure rose to 216,000.

** Further Updates

This article obviously pre-dates the beginning of the demise of physical newspapers. Moreover, with new forms of communication, such as the internet, most physical newspapers are struggling to survive. Indeed, most are relying on their respective websites to bolster their readership. Also, in September 2012, the announcement came that the printing operations were to move to Sheffield! Moreover, the Sunderland Football Echo also ceased production in 2013.

In view of the struggle brought on by internet competition, circulation of the physical paper continues to decline. In order to demonstrate this, as from December 2016, the circulation of the Echo dropped to around 13,000.

Due to this situation, The Sunderland Echo had to abandon the large Pennywell offices and relocate.

So, together with sister papers, the Hartlepool Mail and the Shields Gazette, they now share the same head office.

Sunderland Echo - city votes to leave the EU - front page news

Front page of the current Sunderland Echo

Indeed, the current address is Alexander House, 1 Mandarin Road, Rainton Bridge Business Park, Houghton-Le-Spring.

The Future

Although the offices are still within the city boundary, the Sunderland Echo is in a fragile position regarding sales. This is because all UK newspaper circulations continue to decline. With this in mind, whether the printing location is sustainable or not is open to debate. Moreover, some people believe one day, all physical newspapers will become a thing of the past. Obviously, they believe that the internet revolution will see to that!

Sunderland Echo 24 Building - Bridge Street City Centre

Indeed, the Echo 24 Building now dominates the skyline. Obviously, this stands on the site of the old Sunderland Echo offices in the city centre.

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