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Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter Extracts by Ian Willis

90.3.3 Camden: Launch of a new regional newspaper

Ian Willis, of Camden, writes (19 November): This week a new masthead appeared in the Camden Local Government Area called the Independent South-West published by King Media Regional based in Bowral, NSW. It was launched at Camden’s annual Light Up Festival. Editor Jane King and other staff handed out copies of the free monthly to families and friends who had come to see Santa, watch the fireworks and see the Christmas lights on the town’s Christmas tree.

The 20-page tabloid is printed in colour on glossy paper and is sure to give the other three free Camden weeklies, the Macarthur Chronicle, the Camden Narellan Advertiser and the District Reporter, a run for their money. King says in Issue 1 that it “is an exciting new title…family owned and managed business”. She says that the paper will serve the local community and employ local people.

The first issue certainly lives up to these promises by reporting the proceedings of the Moss Vale Local Court. Two matters dealt with involved Camden identities. Local court matters are now heard in Moss Vale since the closure of Camden and Picton court houses. The robust reporting of local court proceedings has largely disappeared from the other three Camden weeklies.

A feature page, “Ark” Up, is written by journalist Juliet Arkwright who in another life was a councillor on Wollondilly Shire Council. This edition profiles the Acting President of the Camden Chamber of Commerce Maryann Strickling. The chamber states ‘we look forward to working with a truly independent newspaper’.

The first edition also has copy provided by the local federal member, a photo feature of a fashion launch at Campbelltown, and content shared from the newspaper’s stablemate LatteLife Wingecarribee, which claims to be the “Heartbeat of the Southern Highlands”.

King Media also publishes City Circular which, according to Miranda Ward at Mumbrella, replaced a void left by the closure of News Corps mX in 2015 and is distributed at railway stations. The first newspaper published by King Media group was the masthead LatteLife Sydney which started life in the Eastern Suburbs in 2010. King Media then expanded to publishing the Southern Highlands edition in 2014.

The Independent’s print run of 10,000 will be distributed across localities from Cawdor to Leppington through local retailers, surgeries, real estate officers and other outlets. The print run is modest by comparison to its competitors in the Camden LGA and the publisher’s promises seem ambitious. King Media will support the print edition by managing a Facebook page.

The conservative reporting of local matters by the Independent’s three Camden competitors certainly leaves a niche in the market place if controversies surrounding Camden Council continue as they have done in recent months. King has promised to “hold the Council to task” and take it up to other local papers. If she sticks to her promises the Independent South-West will fit in well with Camden’s fierce parochialism and localism.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 90, December 2016— 11

 

Newspaper Image IndepSW 2016 Iss1
The first edition of The Independent South-West that appeared in Camden (I Willis)

 

89.4.10 Tahmoor’s once-a-century publication

Ian Willis, of Camden, writes: On 1 September 2016 the local independent weekly, the District Reporter, published an eight-page wraparound supplement under the banner heading of the “Tahmoor Times Souvenir Edition”. It was “edition 1, volume 1” of a special edition that was “published every 100 years”. The supplement celebrated the centenary of the naming of Tahmoor NSW and the Back to Tahmoor celebrations. It was sponsored by the District Reporter and the Tahmoor Chamber of Commerce under its president Bob Clayton.

The District Reporter is a free 16-page weekly published by a family owned company, Wombaroo Publishers, of Camden. The newspaper was launched in 1998 and has a distribution of 16,900 primarily across the Camden and Wollondilly Local Government Areas, including Tahmoor. The publication has a popular weekly local history feature on the back page called “Back Then” under the direction of newspaper editor Lee Abrahams. Volunteers read aloud the supplement to some of the residents at the local Carrington Convalescent Home.

The idea of the supplement and its promotion were the brainchild of Bob Clayton who is variously described as a team of one taking on roles from journalist and political editor. Clayton’s editorial stated that he only published the supplement “every one hundred years” with the next edition in 2116. Clayton supplied the content with layout done by the District Reporter’s sales manager Noel Lowry.

The supplement’s feature article “Bridge to Bridge – Tahmoor a History” presented an interesting collection of images with a short story of the history of the town. Past extracts from the Picton Post supported the story. For example, in 1933 local character Barney Abbot spotted a UFO from his farm paddock one night. Then there was an offer in 1934 to take a Ford V8 for a drive with a recent sighting of Elvis Presley in Tahmoor.

Mr Clayton said, “It was all to have a bit of fun and to tell tales from the past. History is a bit dry and you need to make it interesting.”

Other centenary celebrations were outlined in the supplement and are a “Back to Tahmoor Day”, a history publication, a photographic exhibition, the development of a history walk and a time capsule for Tahmoor Public School.

Storytelling occurs in all cultures and the “Tahmoor Times” supplement adds to some of the colourful yarns about the local area. Clayton said he would send a copy of the supplement to the National Library. The supplement provides an insight in to the area’s sense of place and its cultural landscape.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 89, September 2016— 15

 

Camden Show Signage 2018
The Camden Show attracts over 40,000 people to the two day festival in the country town of Camden. (I Willis)

 

67.3.4 CAMDEN: SHOW COVERAGE HIGHLY COMMENDED

Ian Willis from Camden writes (31 March): The Camden press excelled itself in recent weeks with an incredible coverage of the 2012 Camden Show. The show always gets strong support from the local weekly newspapers – Camden-Narellan Advertiser, Macarthur Chronicle (Camden Edition) and the District Reporter – and this year was no different.

The amount of page space devoted to the show is worthy of special examination. Between January and March over 6300 column centimetres were devoted to the show matters, peaking in the weekly editions before the show. The Advertiser had an eight- page wrap-around, the Chronicle had a 12 page wrap-around while The District Reporter had a 24-page special edition, as well as its regular weekly edition. This was supplemented with extensive photo galleries on the newspaper websites and in their print editions after the show. In addition the Macarthur Chronicle offered to print a special front page for showgoers with their image at their show stall. The show committee supported this coverage with posters, pamphlets, programs, and television (first time 2011) and radio advertising.

The Camden Show illustrates one of the key strengths of the local press, which in the case of Camden is becoming increasingly the local suburban press, its localness. The Camden community is in a period of transition located on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe and undergoing a crisis of identity. The role of the local press in the success of this annual festival cannot be understated. The annual show (23-24 March 2012) is the premier cultural festival for the community, runs over two days and in 2012 attracted over 38,000 people. The constant theme in all material related to the show was its role as ‘still a country show’. The event had all the trade mark features of the stereotypical country show from cakes to show bags to cattle and wood chopping. The relationship between the Camden press and the show juggernaut is mutually beneficial and illustrates the strength of Camden’s sense of place, community identity and local parochialism.

The 2012 press coverage of the show illustrates the dynamic vibrancy of the local newspaper. In these days when the metropolitan press are increasingly under pressure the local press goes from strength to strength. Camden’s newspapers add to the resilience of the local community in the face of constant change on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe from urbanisation.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No. 67, May 2012 — 12

 

Missingham, Di: D. 18 February, aged 63; former manager of the Macarthur Chronicle; was appointed manager of the Chronicle in 1985, not long after the newspaper was established; spent nine years at the newspaper “building relationships in the community’ and laying the foundations for the success of the newspaper”; was also a Camden councillor between 1995 and 1999 and deputy mayor in 1998; most recently she was Lifeline Macarthur’s sponsorship manager (Source: Ian Willis, Camden.)

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 57    May 2010                Page 3

 

57.2.2 DISTRICT REPORTER GOES DIGITAL

Ian Willis reports: The District Reporter had its first digital edition on 15 March. The Reporter is an independently owned 16-page free weekly published by Wombaroo Publishers. Established in 1997, it circulates in the Camden and Wollondilly local government areas. One of its most popular features is the “Back Then” history page. The website has an archive of editions from the previous 12 months. It can be viewed at http://www.tdr.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=58&Itemid=1

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 57  May 2010               Page 3

 

61.4.9 LIFE AS THE EDITOR OF A SMALL COMMUNITY PAPER Ian Willis reports from Camden: The editor/proprieter Lee Abrahams of the District Reporter addressed the Camden Historical Society on the life of an editor of a small community newspaper on 9 February at the Camden Museum. The District Reporter is owned by Lee Abrahams and Noel Lowry, of Camden. It is a 16pp free weekly published in Camden NSW each Monday. Abrahams maintains that it has a ―quirky style that concentrates on local and rural news. The most popular sections are the back page feature, ―Back Then, on local history, followed by ―The Diary, which is a summary of local community events. The paper has a print run of 17,000 which is circulated in the Camden and Wollondilly Local Government Areas. It is printed at Marrickville.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 61 February 2011 Page 18

 

Newspaper TDR 2018July6 Cover
The front page of The District Reporter which is a local independent newspaper in the Macarthur region of NSW. (The District Reporter)

 

62.3.1 CAMDEN, NSW (1): FOOTY’S BACK Ian Willis reports from Camden: On 8 March two of Camden‘s weekly newspapers, Fairfax Media‘s Camden-Narellan Advertiser and Cumberland Newspaper Group‘s Macarthur Chronicle, both published eight-page wraparounds featuring the Wests Tigers Rugby League teams. Under the banner headline, ―NRL Glory Calls‖ player Loti Tuquiri was featured in a full-page feature in the Chronicle, complemented by a season draw. The Advertiser went further and had two popular players, Chris Lawrence and Gareth Ellis, in a double page spread, while the inside two pages featured a ―Footy Tipping Guide for the die-hard fans. All for the start of the official footy season!

62.3.2 CAMDEN, NSW (2): THE SHOW Ian Willis reports from Camden: Camden‘s three free weeklies each had a major feature on the 125th 2011 Camden Show. The show is a yearly event and is promoted as the largest regional show in Australia, with expected attendances in excess of 30,000. The District Reporter, an independent, published a 24-page special advertising feature for the event, which is ‘still a country show‘. Items ranged from the opening by the Governor-General, to entertainment, horse events, grand parade, Miss Showgirl, and a guide to community groups performances (schools, community band) and local artists.

The Cumberland Press‘s Macarthur Chronicle had a 12-page wraparound and noted that the show was still going strong‘ after 125 years, and the appearance of the ―G-G was the ―icing on the cake. It was reported that the inaugural show in 1886 was ―met with enthusiasm and approval‖ by those attending. Fairfax‘s Camden-Narellan Advertiser had an 8 page wraparound ‗souvenir edition‘ and featured a double page spread of an attractive young bloke‘ from the show organising committee, Daniel Dickenson. Daniel stated that he was ‘dedicated to making sure the country show continue[d] for many years‘, while the Advertiser assured its readers that the show was ―an age-old event that stop[ped] Camden in its tracks.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 62 May 2011 Page 9

 

Camden Show 2018 promo
The Camden Show is an annual celebration of things rural in the township of Camden for over 100 years. (Camden Show)

 

CAMDEN (NSW): AN EDITOR’S LIFE

63.4.4 Ian Willis reports from Camden: An account of life as the editor/proprietor of the District Reporter, Lee Abrahams, was published in the March journal of the Camden Historical Society, Camden History. The District Reporter is a 16pp free weekly published each Monday in Camden. Lee Abrahams and her husband Noel started the newspaper as a monthly in 1997 in the Austral area. They moved the paper to Camden to fill a vacuum left by the closure of the Camden Crier, a free weekly. The Reporter has a circulation of 17,000 and a footprint of 37,000 homes. It has been online for 12 months with around 200 weekly downloads. The most popular feature is the weekly history page, Back Then‘.  According to Abrahams the masthead colours of blue and green reflect the rural landscape of sky and grass.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 63 July 2011 Page 15

 

56.3.3 CAMPBELLTOWN AND CAMDEN: DIGITAL EDITION

Ian Willis reports: The Macarthur Chronicle announced a complete digital edition of the newspaper in its issue of 23 February. The online edition also provides access to archives of the newspaper containing issues for the last two years, an online index and a host of live hyperlinks.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 56     February 2010     Page 4

 

56.4.1.3 CAMPBELLTOWN, NSW: 25 YEARS

From Camden, Ian Willis writes: The Macarthur Chronicle (Cumberland Courier Newspapers, with Campbelltown and Camden editions) recently had a 16-page wrap-around to celebrate its 25th anniversary.  The feature reproduced a number of the front pages from over the last 25 years. These illustrated the changes to the masthead (nine all up), the introduction of colour photographs on the front page in 1991 and the changing format of the presentation with the greater emphasis on images and less on text. The foundation editor Chris Wharton (now chief Western Australian Newspapers) recalled how Greg Evans and Debbie Newsome of the top rating TV show Perfect Match launched the first edition. The cover story of the 36 page first edition was the arrival of baby Andrew James Packer, a healthy baby delivered at Camden Hospital. The current editor Mandy Perrin, who assumed control in 1993, recalled how she started as a cadet journalist nine months after the Chronicle was launched. Under her leadership the Chronicle has grown and in 2006 split into three editions for Camden, Campbelltown and Wollondilly and had its first online edition. The 25th commemorative edition had 128 pages and according to Bob Osburn (editor-in-chief of Cumberland Courier Newspapers) 123,000 readers. There were many tributes on the anniversary from civic leaders. Michael Knight, former Campbelltown State Labor MP, stated that “local newspapers succeed best when they become part of the fabric of their community… And that’s precisely what the Chronicle has done”.

 

Newspapers Image Pile
Newspapers provide a trove of information about events, personalities, stories, businesses, sport and a host of other matters. (Wikimedia)

 

56.4.1.4 CAMDEN, NSW: 130 YEARS

Ian Willis again: The Camden Advertiser issued on 10 February a 16 page wrap-around celebrating 130 years of newspaper publishing from 1880 to 2010. The supplement had the genealogy of the newspaper and its antecedents. In all, the newspaper family tree identified 20 different mast-heads that were related to the Camden Advertiser. These included local newspapers published in Camden, Campbelltown, Picton and Ingleburn. The birth of the newspaper group took place with the Campbelltown Herald first published on 14 February 1880 by William Webb.

The history of the newspaper group in the feature was divided into a number of sections: 1. The Great Pioneers 1880-1900, 2. The Builders 1900-1920, 3. The Sidman Supremacy 1920-1938, 4. The War Years 1938-1949, 5. Goodbye to the Sidmans, 6. The Heyday of S. Richardson Newspapers, 1952-1982, 7. The Hard Years 1982-1987, 8. From Strength to Strength, 8. Modern, But Traditional. Since 2006.

The publishers of these newspapers were colourful local identities and they all made an indelible mark on their communities. The feature provides an interesting glimpse, if brief, into the role of the local newspaper in a small community, with their parochialism, localism and parish pump politics.

The feature has 17 photographs with a number of reproductions of front pages. There are also interviews with a number of surviving staff who worked for some of the newspapers in the group.

The front cover of the feature is an interesting juxtaposition between then and now, with a reproduction of the 1880 Camden Times, with a local reporter, MIchelle Taverniti reflecting on an 1880 version of herself.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter, No 56  February 2010         Page 5-15

 

29.61 THESIS

Ian Willis, “The Women’s Voluntary Service: A Study of War and Volunteering in Camden,  1939-1945”, PhD thesis, Department of History and Politics, University of Wollongong,  The thesis is a local study of wartime Camden through an examination of a war-specific  voluntary organisation, the Women’s Voluntary Service. The aim of the thesis was to unravel  the social processes and cultural traditions at work in the town’s female philanthropy, and, by  so doing, tease out the main threads of Camden’s wartime experience. The thesis  encompasses the involvement of Camden’s press in these processes.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 29 September 2004 Page 17

 

12.42 Research

WILLIS, Ian (Camden, NSW): Work in progress – PhD, “The Women’s Voluntary Services: a case study of war and voluntarism in Camden, 1939-1945”; principal source dfocuments, Camden News (owner George Sidman) and Camden Advertiser (owner Arthur Gibson).  Address: PO Box 304, Camden, 2570.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 12 May 2001 Page 15

 

Newspapers Local 2018Aug6
A selection of newspaper mastheads from the Macarthur region in 2018. (I Willis)

 

41.33 FOR THE HOLIDAYING AUDIENCE

Ian Willis writes from Camden, NSW: Fairfax Community Newspapers issued a special edition of their Sydney suburban newspapers on 26-27 December 2006 and 2-3 January 2007  called the Holidayer. The issue covered 14 suburban newspapers across the south, south-west  and western parts of Sydney. Titles included: Campbelltown Macarthur Advertiser, Camden  Advertiser, Wollondilly Advertiser, South Western Rural Advertiser, Liverpool City  Champion, Fairfield City Champion, Parramatta Sun, St George & Sutherland Shire Leader, Penrith City Star, Hawkesbury Independent, Blacktown Sun, St Mary’s-Mt Druitt Star, Hills News, Northern News. The Camden edition carried local stories and advertisements from local businesses. There were also stories on holiday activities across western, south-western and southern Sydney under the heading “Get out, go do it”.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 41 February 2007 Page 10

 

1.2 LOCAL NEWSPAPERS – LOCAL IDENTIES CONFERENCE

A very successful Conference was held at Chiltern, North East Victoria, on the  weekend of 1-3 October 1999. About 60 participants enjoyed papers on:

  • The history of the Chiltern Federal Standard (Ross Harvey)
  • Dynasties in the NSW provincial press (Rod Kirkpatrick)
  • The Shepparton News’ recent history (John Tidey)
  • Newspaper preservation (Wendy Smith)
  • Old Journalism at Moreton Bay (Denis Cryle)
  • The Barrier Daily Truth’s women’s column in 1910 (Liz Macnamara)
  • The effect of the introduction of radio on the Dimboola Banner (Leigh Edmonds)
  • Newspaper trade directories (Dennis Bryans)
  • Circulation figures for nineteenth-century Victorian country newspapers (Tom Darragh)
  • Newsprint in nineteenth-century Australia (Carol Mills)
  • Weekly and monthly papers in the nineteenth-century (Peter Dowling)
  • Country Catholics and the Melbourne press (Victoria Emery)
  • Patriotism reflected in WWII Camden News and Camden Advertiser (Ian Willis)
  • Community, identity and the ethnic press (Sonia Mycak)

ANHG No 1  October 1999  p1

 

Newspapers Image
Newspapers are an important means of communication and have been around for centuries in print and most recently digital form. (Wikimedia)

 

10.19 COMMUNITY PAPERS (2): ALLIANCE TOWN CRIER FOR BERRY

Ian Willis, of Camden, has sent us a copy of The Berry Alliance Town Crier, a quarterfold produced by the Berry Small Towns Alliance Inc. which sets out to “provide communication to the people of Berry about community activities and to generate a small income for the Berry Alliance to cover administrative costs”. Editor is Bonnie Cassen. Issued monthly, it has a distribution of 1800. The September issue carried 24 pages.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 10 December 2000 Page 7

 

37.50 CAMDEN ADVERTISER BACK COPIES

Camden Public Library is trying to find a good home for originals of the Camden Advertiser in a broken run from the 1930s to the 1950s. Ian Willis writes: “I convinced the library to put them on microfilm when I was doing my PhD. It was one of my principal sources. Our historical society cannot house them.”

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 37 May 2006 Page 15

 

39.27 CAMDEN ADVERTISER 30 AND 20 YEARS AGO

From Ian Willis, of Camden, NSW: The Camden Advertiser (23 August 2006) had a 16-page wrap-around on the theme “Living in the 70s”. It included a series of three articles that recalled the front pages of the Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, the Camden News, and the Picton Post in 1976. The stories related to local issues surrounding planning and the new Macarthur Growth Centre, parking, a new bridge over the Nepean River, and Camden retaining its “rural charm”. The Camden Advertiser (20 Sept. 2006) carried a 12 page advertising feature liftout on “Living in the 80s”. The feature carries an overview of the newspaper stories of the period, with a concentration on 1986. It features the front-page stories of that year including a “heated war of words” between the mayor of Campbelltown, Guy Thomas and Campbelltown’s Labor MP Michael Knight.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter No 39 October 2006 Page 10

 

51.3.1 SMALL PAPERS

Ian Willis reports from Camden, NSW: Our local newspapers treat the men and women who contributed to the Victorian Fire situation as local “heroes” in the finest tradition of the bushman and Anzac legends. The front page of the Camden Advertiser of 18 February reads “FACES OF GENEROSITY” with the story starting: “As bushfires wreaked destruction on lives in Victoria, Camden sprang into action. Our firefighters flew in to meet the flames, and thousands of dollars of donations have poured in to support relief.” The story ran through to pages 2 and 3 with photographs of RFS volunteers, school children holding fundraising events and other community fundraising events.

Our weekly independent, the District Reporter led on 16 February with a story “COMMUNITY SHOWS IT HAS A BIG HEART”, outlining the efforts of a local Catholic independent high school and its fundraising effort with photographs of the young people at the school. This was supported with a page 5 story about donations collected at a local shopping centre.

The Cumberland Newspaper Groups is represented in our local area by the Camden Edition of the Macarthur Chronicle. On 17 February it led with a story headed “OUR FINEST”. The story outlined the efforts of the Macarthur RFS unit and stated “the Macarthur region’s exhausted firefighters arrived home last week into the arms of loved ones after experiencing hell on earth”. The story outlined the efforts of efforts of our local heroes defending homes, electricity switching stations, and general fire fighting. Colin Spinks, the deputy group officer and member of the Camden West RFS brigade stated: ‘(the fire) would come down and the wind would turn back again. There was no saying where the wind was going to come from”. This was supported with extensive coverage of local fundraising events on pages 4, 5 and 6. David Campbell reported that “the heartbreaking plight of the bushfire victims in Victoria has prompted a generous response from the Macarthur region”.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 51  February  2009      Page 7

 

43.26 MACARTHUR NEWSPAPERS

Ian Willis writes: The Macarthur Chronicle, which is part of the Cumberland Newspaper Group, has launched a new website for its local Macarthur newspapers. These are Macarthur Chronicle (Campbelltown Edition), Macarthur Chronicle (Camden Edition), Macarthur Chronicle (Wollondilly Edition). The three newspapers are on the front page of the website then linked to local stories for each edition. The site is located at http://www.macarthurchronicle.com.au/.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 43  July 2007      Page 8

 

Newspapers WW1 Country Mastheads
Local newspapers were an important part of all country towns across Australia. (Trove/IWillis)

 

39.27 CAMDEN ADVERTISER 30 AND 20 YEARS AGO

From Ian Willis, of Camden, NSW: The Camden Advertiser (23 August 2006) had a 16-page wrap-around on the theme “Living in the 70s”. It included a series of three articles that recalled the front pages of the Campbelltown-Ingleburn News, the Camden News, and the Picton Post in 1976. The stories related to local issues surrounding planning and the new Macarthur Growth Centre, parking, a new bridge over the Nepean River, and Camden retaining its “rural charm”. The Camden Advertiser (20 Sept. 2006) carried a 12 page advertising feature liftout on “Living in the 80s”. The feature carries an overview of the newspaper stories of the period, with a concentration on 1986. It features the front-page stories of that year including a “heated war of words” between the mayor of Campbelltown, Guy Thomas and Campbelltown’s Labor MP Michael Knight.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 39  October 2006       Page 8

 

Willis, Ian, presented a paper at the Australian Historical Association 2006 Biennial Conference at the Australian National University on Genres of History. The paper title was “Looking at Regional Identities on the Homefront” and concerned the role of country newspapers as an important historical source. He used the case study of the Camden News and Camden Advertiser, during World War II. The paper examined the regional identity of conservatism and its representation in the wartime reporting in Camden press as patriotism.

Australian Newspaper History Group Newsletter  No 39  October 2006     Page 8

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A short history of a major provincial daily newspaper

UOW historian Dr Ian Willis contributed a short article on the history of Wollongong’s  Illawarra Mercury to the compendium A Companion to the Australian Media in 2014. The Companion was edited by Professor Bridget Foley and assisted by an eminent Editorial Advisory Board.

Newspaper Illawarra Mercury 1856Jan7

 

 

The history article written by Dr Willis follows:

Illawarra Mercury

One of the Australia’s most important provincial newspapers, the Illawarra Mercury has been defined by parochialism and localism since its foundation in October 1855 by Thomas Garrett (1830–91).

Initially a weekly, the Mercury cost sixpence, and had a print run of 200. Garrett had pooled his resources with W.F. Cahill, who left after three months, to be replaced in 1856 by Thomas’s father, John, a Primitive Methodist. By 1856 the Mercury had become a six-column broadsheet and was distributed to Dapto, Jamberoo, Kiama and Shoalhaven by express coach.

Involvement in community affairs and politics has characterised Mercury proprietors. John Garrett was elected Wollongong’s first mayor in 1859 and the editor, John Curr, was elected Wollongong’s first town clerk. Garret’s son, Thomas, was also a politician.

Thomas took over the paper in 1862, and soon formed a partnership with Archibald Campbell, before selling out to Joseph Hart in 1867. Campbell was the sole owner from 1883 until his death in 1903; he was elected Member for Illawarra in 1891.

In 1888 the Mercury was a tri-weekly of four pages, which featured a weekly serial. By 1901, it was published twice weekly. On Campbell’s death in 1903, his wife, Margaret, assumed control until Shellharbour local Edward Allen purchased the paper in 1905 and improved the news content. He was elected the Member for Illawarra in 1904, continuing a trend.

An Irishman, Standish R. Musgrave, bought the Mercury from Allen in 1911 and ran it until his death in 1943. He assumed the editorship, increased sports coverage and published an edition each Friday. Soon after becoming managing director of the newly formed Illawarra Newspapers Co. Ltd in 1919, Musgrave also purchased the Bulli Times and established the Port Kembla Pilot. By 1932 the Mercury had competition from 2WL, established in 1931. Wilfrid S. Musgrave succeeded his father as managing director and editor. In 1950 he converted the Mercury to a daily, a mark of modernity for a provincial centre, and changed the masthead to the Illawarra Daily Mercury.

The Musgraves were active members of the New South Wales Country Press Association for over 40 years. They mixed with the barons of the country press who sought to restrict competition, and had sympathies with the New England New State Movement and the Old Guard.

However, the Mercury was making substantial losses when it was purchased by R.A.G. Henderson, the managing director of John Fairfax & Sons, in 1959. During the next decade, circulation doubled to over 25,000. In 1968, the Henderson family merged the Mercury with its main opposition, the South Coast Times, and appointed John Richardson executive editor. The following year Fairfax became the major shareholder for a cost of $2.4 million. Under David Lonsdale’s editorship, the newspaper became less parochial and more inclined to take on major community issues.

Peter Newell became editor in 1976, then executive editor in 1978 and finally general manager in 1985. Illawarra Newspapers Holdings Pty Ltd launched a new weekly, the Wollongong-Shellharbour Advertiser, in 1982. The Mercury introduced computer-based story-composition, and in 1986 pioneered the use of colour in daily newspapers in Australia.

Journalists Bill Simpson and Carol Johnstone won Walkley Awards in 1986–87. However, the Mercury was labelled a ‘screaming red-top tabloid’ by James Hooke, Fairfax’s managing director of NSW operations, and in the early 1990s was regularly pilloried by ABC television’s Media Watch.

Innovation continued, with the Mercury producing its first electronically assembled editorial page composed by computer in 1994, and being printed on state-of-the-art printing presses alongside the Sydney Morning Herald and the Australian Financial Review at Chullora from 1999. The Mercury was awarded PANPA Newspaper of the Year in 2006 and Walkley Awards were won by Mercury  journalists in 2003, 2008 and 2010 and photographers in in 2008–09. The Mercury’s circulation in 2013 was 18,229.

References:

  1. Souter, Company of Heralds (1981);

  2. Illawarra Mercury, 15–16 October 2005;

  3. Kirkpatrick, ‘Guts-and-glory, murder and more during the Mercury’s 150 years’, PANPA Bulletin (September 2005).

 

Newspaper Illawarra Mercury 1955Nov16
The front page of the centenary edition supplement of the Illawarra Mercury 16 November 1955.
Anzac · Attachment to place · Camden · Campbelltown · Communications · community identity · First World War · Historical consciousness · Historical Research · history · Local History · Local newspapers · Modernism · Newspapers · Picton · Place making · sense of place · war

A local newspaper view of the world in an international context

Historian Dr Ian Willis is presenting a conference paper on the role local newspapers of the Picton, Camden and Campbelltown area during the First World War. He will show  how these small provincial newspapers acted as an archive for the stories  from the First World War on the homefront. Community wartime activities will be placed in the context of the international setting of the war.

 

The conference is organised by the International Society for First World Studies and is called Recording, Narrating and Archiving the First World War.   The conference is being held in Melbourne at the Deakin Downtown Melbourne CBD University Campus between 9-11 July 2018.

 

Newspapers Image

 

The abstract for Dr Willis’s  paper is:

Small rural communities are an often overlooked part of the wartime landscape of the First World War at home. Local newspapers, or community newspapers, recorded ‘the doings’ of their communities in inordinate detail. Their reportage extended from the local to the provincial and the international by owner/editors who were local identities.

Country newspapers provide an archive record of the First World War that is identifiably different from the large metropolitan daily newspapers of the war period. The local newspaper has a number of differences that are related to their localness and parochialism, their relationship to their readership, their promotion of the community and their approach to the news of the war.

The local newspaper recorded the subtleties of local patriotism and wartime voluntarism and fundraising, the personal in soldier’s letters, the progress of the war and a host of other issues. For the astute researcher country newspapers provide glimpses into wartime issues around gender, class, sectarianism, and other aspects of rural life. All coloured by local sensibilities and personalities. The local newspaper was a mirror to its community and central to the construction of place making and community identity in small towns, villages and hamlets.

These characteristics are not unique to rural Australia and are shared by rural and regional newspapers of other English speaking countries. Recent developments in archival research like Trove provide invaluable access to these resources across Australia. Country newspapers provide a different story of the war at home from an often forgotten sector of society.

 

The local newspapers that will be used as a case study for this conference paper include:

  • The Camden News
  • The Picton Post
  • The Campbelltown Herald

Local and provincial newspapers are an understudied area of the First World War and this conference paper will address this gap in the historical literature.

 

Learn more about local newspapers in the Macarthur region and elsewhere:

 

Local History · Macarthur · Newspapers · war

The local ‘rag’, the future of local newspapers

The future of local newspapers

This post was prompted by an item in the Oran Park Gazette, an A4 newsletter newspaper. Gazette journalist Lisa Finn-Powell asked: What is the future of the community newspaper?

The local ‘rag’ in our suburb is a free tabloid newspaper thrown onto our front driveway each week. Actually there are two of them, the Camden Narellan Advertiser and  the Macarthur Chronicle. Where I live some of these newspapers stay on the neighbour’s driveway for weeks and disintegrate into a mess. Other neighbours just put them in the bin. So not everyone is a fan of the local ‘rag’ in the age of Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook.

Yet others, including those in our household, devour the local newspaper from cover to cover. More than this I clip the local newspapers each week. I compete with others in the household. By the time I get the newspaper there already a holes in it.  There is certainly a future for local newspaper in this household.

 

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.

From the journalists point of view Finn-Powell maintains that their readers are in their face. Local journalists are ‘up close and personal’ with their readers. The local newspaper, according to Gazette editor Belinda Sanders, shares local stories with local people who all have a story to tell.  (Oran Park Gazette, October 2017)

While the purpose of the Gazette’s story was to bolster local advertising editor Belinda Sanders has a point about the importance of local newspapers. Her self-interest is not pie-in-the-sky dreaming. Scholarly literature on newspapers supports her position.

Survival of the local

Media historian Rod Kirkpatrick maintains that community newspapers have survived because of their closeness  to their community,  their reflections of a community’s values, their contribution to its cohesion, their service to the progress and welfare of their local community.

A similar list has been compiled by regional historian Louise Prowse . She maintains that the local newspaper is central to the life of country towns by underpinning social capital, strengthening social relationships, reflecting the town’s values, valuing local history, having close links to the community, and providing a voice for the community.

Local newspapers, especially country newspapers,  tells stories in a different way to the large metropolitan daily newspapers. The country newspaper editor reports in a narrative style and does not obsess about the inverted pyramid. They write feel good articles that are generally not  sensationalist. The local newspaper is less likely to need to put a negative spin on a story. The editor goes for the known and comfortable and readers  might be living around the corner or have personal knowledge of the people and events.

Camden Advertiser journalist Jeff McGill maintains that the local newspaper creates ‘the strong weave in our social fabric’. After working for the large metro daily he decided he did not like writing negative attack style stories all the time, so he went back to his roots and became a journalist in the local paper. There he could write stories with a positive spin for a readership who personally knew him.

 

How different is different?

The essence of country newspapers, community newspapers, or provincial newspapers is the style of reporting practiced by journalists according to Rod Kirkpatrick in his examination of this issue.

Just as there are significant differences between the closed self-contained rural and regional communities  and the large metropolitan areas. There are distinct differences in the practice of journalism between newspapers these two distinct economic, political, cultural, and social landscapes.

Jock Lauterer who wrote Community Journalism: Relentlessly Local says that community newspapers have three things in common:

  1. a readership of less than 50,000,
  2. an exclusive focus on stories with a local connection and
  3. offices accessible to their readers.

 

Community journalism

So what is community journalism? There are handbooks and guides on community journalism. They  provide sections on how to report local council meetings, writing an obituary, wedding or other local celebration. They provide advice about the peculiarities of dealing with local organisations and businesses and other everyday matters. Interestingly Kirkpatrick maintains that city-based journalism would do well to take heed of this style of writing.

Kirkpatrick maintains that journalists on community newspapers need to understand that the daily doings of the community that are of interest to readers. Local celebrations, traditions and events, for example, weddings, funerals, births, fetes, and anniversaries. Few if any of these stories ever make it to the large metro dailies.

The journalist is up-close-and-personal and need to ‘touch the pulse of the local community and fight its battles against’ outsiders. The journalist might find themselves embedded in a small community where they do not have the anonymity of their city-based journalist colleagues.

Civic journalism

Journalist David Kurpius described community journalism as civic journalism. Central to this type of writing is an in-depth understanding of the community that makes up the newspaper readership.

Journalists in this environment write stories with a degree of depth and understanding of the issue that are important to the local community. He maintains that the journalist has to engage the readership and have a conversation with them about the values that are important to the community.

The journalist needs to capture the ‘priorities, concerns and perspectives on different issues’ of the citizenry.

This is certainly what Lee Abrahams the owner/editor of the The District Reporter does on a weekly basis. She feels that her local newspaper ‘is different from other newspapers’. She aims to tell the ‘local people about their local area and their stories are part of that agenda’.

Abrahams has stated that she writes ‘good stories’ and leaves out the police and ambulance rounds as they often have a negative line.

Abrahams likes reporting the small and strong and raising public awareness, by informing and keeping public interest. In particular she attempts to cut through the spin from the state government and give the story a local angle. (Camden History, vol 3, no 1, 2011)

This type of difference that can be identified in the country press is not new and is typical of earlier times. One example was  wartime.

A point of difference, the local press and war

This blogger has written about the country press in wartime and examined its crucial role in patriotic volunteering and fundraising, keeping up morale, supporting the war effort and a host of other issues.

I particularly looked at the role of the owner/editors of two local newspaper in a small country town during the Second World War and how these local identities used their influential role on their reportage in their newspapers.

I recently put up a conference proposal for a paper on how country newspapers reported during the First World War.  The abstract for the proposal went in part as follows:

 Country newspapers provide an archive record of the First World War that is identifiably different from the large metropolitan daily newspapers of the war period. The local newspaper has a number of differences that are related to their localness and parochialism, their relationship to their readership, their promotion of the community and their approach to the news of the war. The local newspaper recorded the subtleties of local patriotism and wartime voluntarism and fundraising, the personal in soldier’s letters, the progress of the war and a host of other issues.   

 

Digital disruption – just the latest challenge

Will local newspapers survive in the age of digital disruption?

Rachel Matthews says in her article on the provincial media in Routledge Companion to British Media History  writes that the demise of local newspaper has been predicted on numerous occasions. Matthews goes to outline six historical phases to the development of provincial newspapers over the last 300 years and are:

  1. the local newspaper as opportunistic creation;
  2. the characterization of the local newspaper as the fourth estate;
  3. the impact of New Journalism;
  4. the growth of chain control,
  5. the move to computerised production and the advent of free newspapers;
  6. the provincial press in the digital age.

She concludes that these challenges provide ‘far reaching implications’ for the British provincial press.

Local newspapers in the Macarthur region

I have written about the history of some of the mid-20th century newspapers in the Macarthur region on an earlier occasion. These country newspapers were some of the first to use the regional name of Macarthur for the Campbelltown, Camden and Picton areas.

The Macarthur region is located on Sydney’s south-western rural-urban fringe and is one of the  fastest growing regions in Australia.

The local newspapers in the Macarthur region have changed in recent years as online sites suck up their advertising revenue. Where once our local edition of the Camden Narellan Advertiser might have run to 110 pages an issue they have shrunk to 60-70 pages.

Yet where there was once just one local edition of a newspaper there is now three in this ever growing area on Sydney’s rural-urban fringe.

The Advertiser is now published in three separate editions as the Campbelltown, Camden Narellan and Wollondilly Advertiser. A similar thing has happened to the Macarthur Chronicle, a part of the News Ltd stable.

As the regional population has grown so new opportunities have opened up for local suburban newspapers to fill the gap in the market place. The Oran Park Gazette, and its stable mates across Western Sydney, have filled some of these gaps that have appeared in the new suburbs.

Another which has appeared in 2016 was the Independent South-West,  part of the King Media Regional group.

It is interesting to compare the  Camden Narellan Advertiser with the Illawarra edition from the same newspaper stable The Advertiser Lake Times. The Illawarra edition barely makes 50 pages. It has to compete with a provincial daily The Illawarra Mercury. Yet it continues to thrive.

 

Change at the local during wartime

Media historian Rod Kirkpatrick points out that war has had lasting changes on the nature of the provincial press.  He maintains that wars ‘have traditionally been a trigger for the emergence of newspaper or for significant change in their industry’. During the peace politics dominates, but during the conflict the war dominates the stories.

In country newspapers the war is on the front pages. While the First World War put cost pressures on the Australian press the voracious appetite at home for news of the war and sales of metro dailies soared during the conflict.

Newspapers shrunk and reportage of stories became terse and condensed. This contrasted with the convoluted narrative reporting style of the pre-war years.

The future in a digital age

So is there  a future for the local paper in the digital age? I think so.

There is a craving for the authentic and personal to people can connect with their neighbourhood, even in the suburbs.

The internet is impersonal, the local newspaper is not. The local newspaper still has many challenges to meet especially around monetising advertising in the age of Google and Facebook.

With creativity and persistence the local newspaper will meet these challenges and be a part of the media landscape into the future.  The local newspaper has changed in some communities to that it is an A4 newsletter newspaper.

 

Profile of the Oran Park Gazette

The Oran Park Gazette, a free monthly A4 newsletter newspaper which boasts on its banner heading that it is ‘your community news’. It is published on the first week of each month and distributed to the new suburbs of Oran Park, Harrington Park, Gregory Hills and Harrington Grove. It started publication in November 2015 with a circulation of 3,500 and is part of a stable of five mastheads  in the Flynnko Group.

 

Profile of The District Reporter

The District Reporter is a free weekly tabloid of 16pp with a circulation of 17,000 across a footprint of 37,000 homes published by Wombaroo Publications in Camden. The newspaper started in 1997 in the Austral area by Lee Abrahams (editor) and Noel Lowry (sales). The masthead is blue and green to reflect the rural landscape of the sky and grass. They filled a gap left by the demise of the Camden Crier. The Reporter circulates in the Camden and Wollondilly Local Government Areas. (Camden History, vol 3, no 1)

 

Profile of The Menangle News

The Menangle News is a free monthly newsletter newspaper of 4-6 pp. It is published in the Menangle village by husband and wife team Sue and Brian Peacock. It has a circulation of 218 and distributed throughout the village. It started life in 1980 as a duplicated news-sheet run off on a Gestetner copy machine. It only carries stories from the village which as a population of around 1200. It is truly local. (Camden History, vol 4, no 3)

 

Profile of the Independent South-West

This is a free tabloid that has been published twice since its launch in November 2016 in Camden. The Independent South-West is published by King Media Regional in Bowral, and is part of a stable of four mastheads. The 20pp tabloid is printed in colour on glossy paper. Editor Jane King states in Issue 1 that the paper will serve the local community and employ local people. The initial print run of 10,000 was distributed throughout the Camden LGA.

Read more

Free newspaper on the rise as traditional media declines in regional areas. ABC News 21 January 2016