In 2002 there were 67 morning dailies and 26 evening dailies; 60 newspapers had Sunday editions. The following table shows California's leading newspapers, with their 2002 circulations:


Fresno Bee (m,S) 157,820 188,093
Long Beach Press-Telegram (m,S) 95,659 109,203
Los Angeles Times (m,S) 944,303 1,369,066
  Investor's Business Daily (m) 281,173  
  Daily News (m,S) 178,156 200,167
  La Opinion (Spanish, m,S) 127,576 77,907
Oakland Tribune (m,S) 68,962 65,320
Orange County–Santa Ana Register (m,S) 324,056 378,934
Riverside Press-Enterprise (m,S) 168,765 176,968
Sacramento Bee (m,S) 285,863 344,791
San Diego Union Tribune (m,S) 351,762 433,495
San Francisco Chronicle (a,S) 512,042 523,096
  Examiner (e,S) 107,129 552,400
San Jose Mercury-News (m,S) 268,621 301,649

Investor's Business Daily has nationwide circulation. In 2001, The Los Angeles Times was the 4th-largest daily newspaper in the country, based on circulation rates. It ranked 2nd in the nation for Sunday circulation the same year. The San Francisco Chronicle had the 11th-largest daily circulation and the 17th-largest Sunday circulation in 2001. San Francisco has long been the heart of the influential Hearst newspaper chain.

In August 1846, the state's first newspaper, the Californian, , printed (on cigarette paper—the only paper available) the news of the U.S. declaration of war on Mexico. The Californian moved to San Francisco in 1847 to compete with a new weekly, the California Star. When gold was discovered, both papers failed to mention the fact and both soon went out of business as their readers headed for the hills. On the whole, however, the influx of gold seekers was good for the newspaper business. In 1848, the Californian and the Star were resurrected and merged into the Alta Californian, which two years later became the state's first daily newspaper; among subsequent contributors were Mark Twain and Bret Harte. Four years later there were 57 newspapers and periodicals in the state.

The oldest continuously published newspapers in California are the Sacramento Bee (founded in 1857), San Francisco's Examiner (1865) and Chronicle (1868), and the Los Angeles Times (1881). Times owner and editor Harrison Gray Otis quickly made his newspaper preeminent in Los Angeles—a tradition continued by his son-in-law, Henry Chandler, and by the Otis-Chandler family today. Of all California's dailies, the Times is the only one with a depth of international and national coverage to rival the major east coast papers. In 1887, young William Randolph Hearst took over his father's San Francisco Daily Examiner and introduced human interest items and sensational news stories to attract readers. The Examiner became the nucleus of the Hearst national newspaper chain, which later included the News-Call Bulletin and Herald Examiner in Los Angeles. The Bulletin, like many other newspapers in the state, ceased publication in the decades following World War II because of rising costs and increased competition for readers and advertisers.

California has more book publishers—about 225—than any state except New York. Among the many magazines published in the state are Architectural Digest, Bon Appetit, Motor Trend, PC World, Runner's World, and Sierra.