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German Newspapers
in the US and Canada

Improve Your German and Save Money:
Subscribe to a US or Canadian Newspaper in German

The German-language press in the United States has a long if somewhat faded history. It was none other than Benjamin Franklin who published the first German-language newspaper in North America, the Philadelphische Zeitung, in 1732. Although Franklin's German newspaper failed before the year was out, many others in the New World would be more successful.

Neue Presse
The Neue Presse is a German-language weekly
published in southern California.

In 1735 the German-born printer John Peter Zenger (1697-1746) helped establish freedom of the press in America in a libel trial in which Andrew Hamilton argued the case for Zenger's New York Weekly Journal and won—despite the efforts of New York governor William Cosby to send Zenger to jail for "seditious libels" and burn his newspapers. The case established the basic legal principle that the truth is a defense against libel.

Prior to World War I every major American city and many smaller towns with a high concentration of German immigrants had at least one German-language newspaper. Germans who settled in and around Baltimore, Chicago, Cincinnati (whose first mayor was a German), Milwaukee, New York City, St. Louis, and in states such as Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin often had a choice of several German-language newspapers. The many "little Germanies" scattered across the US in the 19th century each had a thriving German culture that helped the new immigrants adjust to life in a new country. A vital ingredient of that culture was the German newspaper. At home or sitting in the beer gardens of Chicago or New York, the German population could read a Zeitung in German to stay informed about local events and news from the homeland.

German TV in North America
Watch German TV in the US and Canada!

Although only a handful survive today, at its zenith the German-language press in the US boasted over 800 daily and weekly periodicals. The New Yorker Staats-Zeitung, still published today, appeared for the first time in 1834. In 1892 the German-American Herman Ridder (1851-1915) bought the "Staats" and began what would become an American media empire known as Knight-Ridder, Inc. In 1868 the Austro-Hungarian Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911) began his distinguished career in journalism as a reporter for the Westliche Post, a German newspaper in St. Louis. He later became the owner of that publication and several others. The Pulitzer Prize, the prestigious journalism award named for him, was first awarded in 1917.

In 1886, the New Yorker Staats-Zeitung had over 60,000 readers, more than the 40,000 circulation of the New York Times. At its peak in 1938, the Staats sold 80,000 copies a day. But most of the Zeitungen in the US were and are much more modest enterprises.

World War II took a heavy toll on German newspapers in the US, including the Staats. It ceased being a daily in 1953. Many other German-language periodicals suffered a far worse fate. They ceased to exist. Out of the many hundreds that once thrived, today there are fewer than 20 German-language newspapers still being published in the US and Canada, all of them weeklies or monthlies. Some have disappeared even since I first wrote this article back in 1999.

Support your local German
newspaper and improve your German!

If you live in North America, there is an obvious advantage in subscribing to a German newspaper published in the US: lower cost! Especially now, with the dollar so weak against the euro, German periodicals from Europe can cost hundreds of dollars a year for delivery in the US! In comparison, the average annual subscription to an American weekly in German only runs between $30.00 and $50.00. Some offer discounts for seniors and special offers for subscribers in the nearby area, making the American editions even more affordable. Most also offer six-month or other shorter term rates. Some will even send you a free sample copy.

A few of the German-American newspapers even have color pictures and try to avoid the musty old German flavor that helped kill off many of their expired cousins. They generally offer a mixture of news and sports from Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, plus local news from the region where they're published. They usually also feature an events calendar and advertisements by German-American and other businesses.

The surviving German papers in the United States can be found in places scattered across the country from New York to Los Angeles and Miami to San Francisco. (Unfortunately, the North American edition of Germany's weekly Die Zeit, printed in Canada, joined the list of extinct papers in 1998.) Very few of the German-language weeklies in the US have online editions, so you'll need to subscribe to the print version—and help support the German press in North America! In Part Two we offer links to those with Web sites—mostly for information and ordering only. We also have some interesting related links, including the online edition of a Texas newspaper that used to be in German, still has its German name, but is now published only in English.

NEXT > Part 2: German-American Newspaper Links

MORE > Guide to German Magazines

MORE > DER SPIEGEL in English - About the English edition of this German news magazine

Also see: German the Official US Language?
Did German lose out to English by just one vote?


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