When talking about the American Revolution, newspapers are often touched upon lightly; Tory (Loyalist) newspapers are overlooked completely, yet for good reason. By the time this country achieved it’s independence, the word “Loyalist” was rarely seen in writing, let alone in speech.
Even before the Revolution, Tory newspapers were far and few between. Many were based in the Massachusetts Bay area, mainly Boston. Some titles included the Boston Weekly Advertiser, the Boston News-Letter, and the Boston Gazette. Due to Boston’s well-known anti-British stance, these papers’ publishers were under fire constantly and changed hands (and names) often. For example, over the Weekly Advertiser’s 18 year lifespan, it had four different titles, eventually ending with The Massachusetts Gazette and the Boston Post-boy and Advertiser.
How much criticism did these publishers face? James Rivington was the founder of the New York Loyal Gazette, a newspaper that debased colonists and the Patriots. Rivington was hung in effigy often, which was a contributing factor to the paper’s closing in 1783. (which was a surprisingly long time after the Revolution) Loyalist publishers were often intimidated in this manner; in some instances, authority figures were often the ones intimidating. Benjamin Towne, publisher of the Evening Post, was threatened by Thomas Paine for printing material against the creation of a Constitution in 1776.
The anti-constitution stance was widespread among other Loyalist publishers like Eleazer Oswald (stopped printing after libeling Chief Justice Thomas Mckean) and Philip Freneau. (stopped printing after he criticized George Washington and the Federalist Party)
Aside from intimidation, Loyalist newspapers were shut down for another reason: lack of support and change of viewpoint. Papers like the Boston Weekly Advertiser initially “loyally sustained the British government.” By the end of it’s lifespan, front page articles often called for Revolution. In the January 2, 1776 issue, the front page contained extremely revolutionary articles referencing the British Parliament as “tyrants.” The Boston Gazette, another Loyalist-founded paper eventually changed its content’s opinion completely with the arrival of correspondents like John Adams and Paul Revere.
Though the Gazette embraced a pro-American standpoint, it was discontinued due to lack of support. With so many other publishers who were printing papers on the side of the colonists, what need would there be for another one? (especially a formerly Loyalist one) The Boston News-Letter was a Loyalist paper that changed hands an absurd number of times. The only reason it was still in print by 1776 was because the British troops stationed in Boston bought it. When the troops left, so did the News-Letter.
Overall, Loyalists never really stood a chance in the printing industry, an industry that at the time, was widely known to help provoke the Revolution. (illegally and somewhat secretly of course) The two reasons for such a failure: publishers were overwhelmingly intimidated and nobody had a need to buy a Loyalist newspaper after 1776.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol.33: American Newspaper Journalists 1690-1782. Edited by: Perry J. Ashley, USC
Check-list of Boston Newspapers, 1704-1780. By: Mary Ayer and Albert Matthews
Readex’s online Archive of Americana: America’s Historical Newspapers