Whitty, Michael James (1795–1873), newspaper editor and proprietor, was born in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, in 1795, the son of a corn merchant and owner of boats operating out of Wexford port. After failing to complete his studies for the priesthood, Whitty moved to London in 1821 to begin a literary career. He became editor of the London and Dublin Magazine (1823–7) and, under various pseudonyms, wrote numerous articles and poems for the journal including a series on Robert Emmet (qv), which greatly influenced the popular historical memory of Emmet and his rebellion. These were reprinted several times before they were revised and published as the book Robert Emmet, the cause of his rebellion by M.J.W. (1871). During the 1820s he contributed to various periodicals and published the successful Tales of Irish life, illustrative of the manners, customs and conditions of the people (1824), which was illustrated by Cruikshank, reprinted in America and translated into French and German.
Having established himself as a writer and editor of some note, Whitty moved to Liverpool in 1829 and was editor (1829–36) of the Liverpool Journal, which he later purchased (1841); he also acted as the Liverpool correspondent and agent of the London Daily News. He fully involved himself in the civic life of Liverpool and became chief constable of the city in 1836, when he organised one of the first police forces in the English provinces, and established a fire brigade. A popular figure in Liverpool, his contribution to his adopted city was marked after his retirement as chief constable (April 1844) when he was presented with £1,000 by Liverpool council in 1848.
As proprietor of the Liverpool Journal, Whitty appeared as witness before the parliamentary commission considering newspaper stamp duties in 1851 and vociferously argued for the abolition of duties on paper and advertisements. Following the removal of these taxes on newspapers in 1855 Whitty launched the Liverpool Daily Post (11 June 1855), the first penny newspaper published in the United Kingdom, and it quickly established itself as a one of the leading provincial newspapers. The Daily Post espoused liberalism and free trade and was widely circulated in Liverpool, Lancashire and Cheshire.
Whitty sold both the Daily Post and the Liverpool Journal in 1869 and died aged seventy-eight at his home in Prince's Park, Liverpool, on 10 June 1873. He was buried beside his wife (whose maiden name was Neill) at Anfield. His son, Edward Michael Whitty (1827–60), also worked as a journalist for several newspapers in Britain and Australia, and was writer of the parliamentary summary for The Times (1846–9).