The origins of the United Methodist Reporter can be traced back to 1847, when Methodists began publishing a church paper called the Texas Christian Advocate and Brenham Advertiser in Brenham. Minister Robert B. Wells produced the paper, which combined aspects of a church newspaper and a secular weekly publication. In 1848 it was moved to Houston, where it was edited by Rev. Orceneth Fisher and published as the Texas Christian Advocate. At a Methodist camp meeting at Rutersville in September 1848, the paper was officially made a joint publication of the Texas and East Texas conferences, with the name changed to Texas Wesleyan Banner. Chauncey Richardson, past president of Rutersville College, was appointed editor at the relatively large sum of $800 per year. The first edition, published in Houston under contract to Robert Alexander and Homer S. Thrall by printers James F. Cruger and Francis Moore, Jr., marked the beginning of an annually indexed newspaper that, by the end of Richardson's 2½-year term as editor, was reaching about 1,500 subscribers weekly. However, debts began to mount, causing the appointment of Houston businessman Charles Shearn and others to help with business details. They reported that the budget was unrealistic and suggested that Richardson's salary be cut to $300. His pride injured, Richardson resigned in 1851, and the Banner continued publication for two years under caretaker editor-ministers. It was moved to Galveston in 1854 and renamed Texas Christian Advocate. By that time the nationwide General Conference of the Methodist Church had officially adopted the publication. When Galveston was blockaded during the Civil War, the paper was forced to suspend publication and move its equipment to Houston for safekeeping. It did not resume publication until December 1864.
In 1866 the newspaper returned to Galveston, and Isaac G. John began an eighteen-year tenure as editor. Also in 1866 a young man named Louis Blaylock began working for the printers. Blaylock went on to become a respected Methodist churchman and, in partnership with William A. Shaw, publisher of the paper. Under their leadership the paper's circulation expanded, and its influence against saloons and gambling increased. By 1884 it was the state's most prominent religious publication, with 10,500 subscribers. In March 1887 the paper, with a circulation of 18,000, was moved to Dallas. Blaylock remained the publisher. In 1898 George C. Rankin was named editor. During his seventeen-year editorship he conducted crusades against dancing, gambling, and prostitution and urged Methodists and others to respect the Sabbath and support prohibition laws. After Rankin died in 1915 the succession of editors included W. D. Bradfield, A. J. Weeks, and E. A. Hunter. Blaylock, who provided a stable financial base for the paper and ensured remembrance of his loyalty and integrity, continued as publisher until 1924.
In January 1932 the newspaper merged with an out-of-state Methodist journal and was renamed the Southwestern Advocate. For a time it served Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. In March 1949 it merged with a Chicago-based journal, the Christian Advocate. This publication first included southwestern news in a special supplement entitled "News of the Southwest," later renamed "News of Texas." However, in 1952 the Chicago company dropped its regional news sections. As a result, the All Church Press of Fort Worth assumed printing responsibilities for a resurrected Texas Christian Advocate. In 1960 this paper was renamed Texas Methodist and, with Carl E. Keightley as editor, added numerous local church editions and increased its circulation to 60,000 in six years. In 1965 a Spanish-language edition was begun under the auspices of the Rio Grande Conference. The same year the newspaper established its own printing plant. In 1967 Jon Kinslow, an experienced newspaperman, became the first layman to be named editor. In 1969 Spurgeon M. Dunnam became editor and chief executive. In 1970 the paper began including news of Methodism over the entire nation for out-of-state circulation, and by 1981 its name was changed to United Methodist Reporter. Since 1983 the Reporter has owned and operated Religious News Service, a daily wire service with offices in New York, Dallas, and Washington. The service was originally owned and operated by the National Conference of Christians and Jews and was taken over by the Reporter as an interfaith venture. In 1984 a biweekly United Methodist Review version of the Reporter was begun, and several conferences adopted this somewhat less expensive publication as their paper. By 1985 the Reporter had forty annual conference editions, more than 350 local church editions, and a total circulation of more than half a million; the staff numbered about 200, including a network of forty regional editors and 350 local church editors. The staff publishes an interdenominational version called the National Christian Reporter. It also publishes papers for other communions, such as the Presbyterian, the Christian Courier, the United Church of Christ News, the Texas Catholic, Baptist Progress, the Southern Lutheran, Tennessee Christian, and Episcopal Churchman.