Camden · Campbelltown · Communications · community identity · history · Interwar · Local History · Macarthur · Newspapers · Picton · Settler colonialism · Sydney's rural-urban fringe · war

The history of the local newspaper in the Macarthur region

Local historian and author Dr Ian Willis has had a proposal accepted for an article in Media History, an international media journal published in the UK.

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Macarthur Signage
The article outlines the history of local newspapers in the Macarthur region  and covers the towns of Campbelltown, Camden and Picton.

Local newspapers were rationalised, corporatised and consolidated from the 1950s as  Sydney’s urban growth moved into the region.

By the late 20th century changes in technology and innovations set in as the local newspapers were re-shaped  by the growth and arrival of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe.

Macarthur_Advert_1958
Macarthur Advertiser 1958

The article will show that is recent times digital disruption has taken a toll, but there are green shoots with new mastheads appearing in some of the new suburbs in the region.

Media History is an international academic journal published in the UK. Its website states that:

Media History is an interdisciplinary journal which welcomes contributions addressing media and society from the fifteenth century to the present. Its perspective is both historical and international. It explores all forms of serial publication in manuscript, print and electronic media and encourages work which crosses the boundaries of politics, culture and communications.

Abstract for journal article in Media History (UK)

Provincial and regional newspapers have been defined by parochialism and localism. They have pandered to local sensibilities and a need to serve their community.  Some have argued that local newspapers are a subset of their cultural environment, a form of structural functionalism. For others regional newspapers play a part in placemaking and community identity. The stories they carry are critical to the memory making. They act as a mirror to the values and attitudes of the local community.

This article will test these propositions and others by an examination of a number of regional newspapers that have been published in the Macarthur region of New South Wales. The discussion will analyse the historical continuity and change in the landscape of the area’s regional press and the actors who were part of it.

Colonial newspapers appeared in the late 19th century in the three market towns within the region at Campbelltown, Camden and Picton. The local press reflected the nature of the settler society and mirrored the British provincial press in these small rural outposts of the British Empire. By the early-20th century the Campbelltown News, the Camden News and the Picton Post, were the face of these thriving communities. During the Interwar period this trio were joined by the Camden Advertiser.

The forces of war and depression influenced the regional press as it did local communities. Nostalgia, the doings of local politicians, and the tension between profit making and journalism have all played a part in this story, while the inverted pyramid arrived mid-century.

Corporatisation, consolidation and rationalisation re-shaped the regional press with the arrival of Sydney’s rural-urban fringe in the 1950s. Competition from radio, new technology and innovations brought more changes and by the 21st century digital disruption was in full swing.

The owners of the Macarthur regional press were local identities and opinion leaders. Their editorial positions reflected their political allegiances. They encouraged patriotic loyalty in wartime and the war at home. Editor owners practiced a type of censorship and their silence around a number of social issues was deafening. Their publications re-enforced the status quo, and existing social divisions, cultural norms, while acting as a form of regional voice.

As technology and local demographics have changed so have the nature of Macarthur regional press. Where once black and white newspaper were sold for pennies there are now colourful free publications, and circulations which are still a guide to the sphere of influence of the local newspaper. While in recent times some of the highest rates urban growth in Australia have encouraged green shoots with the appearance of new mastheads in the form of newsletter newspapers.

Dr Willis recently posted an item on this blog about local newspapers in the Macarthur region. 

In this post Dr Willis wrote:

The local in local newspapers

In the Oran Park Gazette Lisa Finn-Powell maintains that the community newspaper does have a future. She argues that it provides a way for members of the community to support each other by celebrating local events, anniversaries and traditions. Local newspapers make people feel good about their neighbourhood.

This post was also the subject of a post on the Professional Historian’s Association webpage.

The post states:

…this post introduces PHA NSW and ACT member, Ian Willis’ blog, Camden History Notes. Camden is a town southwest of Sydney, situated on land belonging to the Dharawal (Tharawal) people.

Ian’s blog presents stories about the district’s people, its history, heritage and traditions. He draws on the memories and experiences of local families, local identities, community organisations and local institutions.

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