New England's History

Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 6 - Media feels the weight of change


Read all about it: New Northern Daily Leader Building, 1925. The Leader became the Norths second great daily. As late as 1959, the Leader was still outselling the Sydney Morning Herald in Armidale.

To this point we have followed the growth of the newspaper press in Northern NSW, the broader New England. Over the next few columns we will follow the story across the twentieth century.

It’s a story of competition, but also cooperation. It’s a story of commercial challenge, of success. But it’s also a story of radical change and, in the end, decline and lost influence.  

At federation in 1901, even small towns had at least one newspaper, many had two or even three, By 1950, consolidation had reduced the number of papers, but they remained locally or regionally owned.

As radio came during the 1930s, the new stations were again locally or regionally owned. As TV came to the North from 1962 with the establishment of Newcastle’s NBN, local or regional ownership continued. 

This was a very different world. 

In 1959 in Armidale, for example, the Armidale Express was the main source of local news, but many Armidale people also bought the Northern Daily Leader as the premier daily in inland New England providing news from across the North. The Sydney Morning Herald had increased its market share, but was still being outsold by the Leader. 

Commercial radio coverage including news was dominated by the Tamworth based Broadcast Amalgamated controlled New England radio network (2TM, 2AD, 2VM, 2NZ and 2RE). 

Newspapers, radio and then TV had a strong local and regional focus that extended beyond news coverage into the direct promotion of community activities that might benefit economic, social, cultural and community development while also serving commercial interests. 

The media had become an integral part of community infrastructure, broadly defined. 

By 2000, local or regional ownership had shrunk to a few independents. Ownership of the newspaper press across Northern NSW was split between two competing media groups, Rural Press and APN, with the Newcastle Herald owned by Fairfax. .  

These ownership changes coincided with the rise of the use of the term masthead as substitute for newspaper and had a profound impact on newspaper performance. 

The split between APN and Rural Press ownership of the Northern Rivers papers, together with a more localized paper focus, slowed and then effectively stopped the flow of information between coast and inland and indeed to a degree within the inland. 

Newspaper concentration together with tensions between APN and Rural Press also greatly impeded the work of the Country Press Association, the industry’s main cooperative body. 

In 1902, these developments lay far ahead. In my next column, I will at what we might think of as the golden age of the New England press. 
Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 


Wednesday, June 17, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 5 - The role of newspapers in town development and rivalries

Oh! advance, advance New England
To thy place of hope and pride, 
Resist the scorn of Sydney’s sneers,
As rocks resist the tide…

Discord and discontent prevail,
Neglect has sown the seed,
Your wants o’erlooked, demands ignored,
By Sydney’s hungry greed
Glen Innes Examiner

The many newspapers established across Northern NSW over the second half of the nineteenth century were a disparate lot. 

The relative cheapness of printing technology a weekly newspaper could be started for somewhere between £300 and £600, encouraged multiple newspapers in even small centres. 

In political terms, the papers broadly supported either the liberal or conservative political causes. Many, such as the Armidale Telegraph, were established or sponsored by political figures seeking to advance their interests or to advance particular causes, including the establishment of a new colony in Northern New South Wales. 

Then, as now, those in power were prone to channel Government advertising to the papers that supported them. 

Remains: Dorrigo railway. Fights between towns and their newspapers prevented the construction of east-west railways. When construction of a line between Guyra and Dorrigo finally began, it was halted by the Depression. 

Despite the many differences between papers, a common theme in their introductory statements was, in the words of newspaper historian Rod Kirkpatrick, the material and social advancement of town and district and the enlargement of the district’s political power. 

This made them intensely parochial, supporting their town against others in the fight for better facilities and transport, something that bedeviled attempts to gain things such as east west rail links. The Clarence fought the Richmond to the point that neither could win. 

As the drift to the city became clearer, the papers began to articulate common themes, the idea of an oppressed country, and oppressing city, themes that would lay the basis for the emergence of the Country Party and a powerful new state movement. 

One of the least recognized things in this process is the role played by town mercantile and professional interests, key advertisers in the local press.  

The growth of towns and villages across the North had seen the accumulation of wealth among groups such as storekeepers that was then reinvested in building and in town and village real estate with the hope of future profit. The results of this process survive today in our built landscape. 
As it became clear that the hopes of town development could not be realized, the town elites began to look for new development options, feeding into the changing views being expressed by the papers. 
Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 4 - the drift to the city begins

MOVING TO THE CITY: The growth of Sydney's population towards the end of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century put pressure on newspapers in regional areas.This is the fourth in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England 

Between 1861 and 1901 the population of regional NSW grew from 261,573 to 878,475. During that same period, the number of provincial newspapers grew from 21 to 193. 

By 1900, 127 towns had at least one newspaper, 58 had two or more. 

On the New England Tablelands, no less than fourteen newspapers were established between 1856 and 1878, four in Inverell, three each in Armidale, Tenterfield and Glen Innes plus one in Uralla.  

Many of the new papers had relatively short life spans. 

The peripatetic Frank Newton first established the Grafton Herald (1864-65) before coming to Armidale to establish the Armidale Telegraph (1865-1872) and then the Inverell Dispatch and Central New England Advertiser (1873-78).  

Newton’s moves reflected local politics as well as commercial pressures. Both the Armidale and Inverell papers were established to represent squatter interests at a time when their landholdings were under threat. 

While many papers had relatively short life spans, there were also titles that we know today, including the Armidale Express (1856), Tenterfield Star (1871), Glen Innes Examiner (1874), Inverell Times (1875) and the Uralla & Walcha Times (1876). 

There is a problem here for historians who rely on local newspapers. As newspaper historian Rod Kirkpatrick remarked, history is written by the winners. 

Few copies of these early newspapers have survived. In the case of the Armidale Telegraph, for example, the only extant copies are pages of one issue found under the floor boards of an Armidale house under renovation. For most, we know about them primarily from reports in other newspapers.

This means that our views are formed by papers such as the Glen Innes Examiner where copies do survive. As we have seen with Frank Newton, the papers represented particular interests. We cannot assume that the views expressed in any one paper are in fact representative. 

Regardless of the individual biases of particular papers, they were all intensely parochial, concerned to boost the towns on which their business depended and to attract the services demanded by a growing but still sparsely spread population. 

This parochialism supported and fed into rivalry between towns, a rivalry that was played on by politicians and impeded cooperative action. Now this parochialism was to be tempered by harsh economic realities, forcing the papers to cooperate. 

Central to this was the growing dominance of Sydney. While the NSW regional population still outnumbered that of Sydney by almost two to one, Sydney’s share of the NSW population had increased from 26.24% in 1871 to 35.42% in 1901, a trend that was continuing.

Note to readers: This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 3 -the rise of newspapers as New England towns flourished

 
Historic press. This Albion Press was first used to print Henry Parkes the Empire. It was then purchased by Walter Craigie and William Hipgrave in 1856 to print their new newspaper, The Armidale Express. Donated to the Museum of Applied Arts and Science by the Armidale Newspaper Company in 1929.

This is the third in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England 

The second half of the Nineteenth Century was a period of town formation across Northern NSW, the broader New England. With time, the slab buildings of early European settlement were replaced by more substantial structures that still form the core of our built landscape.

The squatters, merchants and still small professional and trade classes all faced communications problems.

The squatters and their agents needed to place legal advertisements about absconding servants, debts and stolen stock.

The merchants and professionals wanted to advertise their wares in town and into the countryside beyond. They also wanted to promote their towns and villages. All groups had a need for printing such as invoices, flyers, letterhead and catalogues.

Merchants and townspeople combined to sponsor the formation of newspapers. In Armidale, for example, a public meeting was convened on 1 December 1855 to consider the best way to establish a local paper for the New England district. A fund raising committee was formed and finally raised £89 12s and 6d.

The results of the meeting were advertised in the Maitland Mercury, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Empire. Two Mercury staff members decided to accept the challenge.

Early in 1856, William Hipgrave and Walter Craigie loaded their newly acquired printing press and other kit onto a bullock dray and set out from Maitland for Armidale. It took them twenty seven days. They called their paper the Armidale Express, with the first edition appearing on 5 April 1856.

The genesis of Tamworth’s first paper, the Tamworth Examiner and General Advertiser for the Northern Districts of New South Wales, later just the Tamworth Examiner, was somewhat similar.

Action began when printer John Ambrose Gallagher wrote from Yass to a number of Tamworth business houses canvassing support for the establishment of a local newspaper. The response was positive, with business owners pledging their support and that of the townsfolk, even offering a small subsidy to help Gallagher.

Gallagher declined the subsidy but moved to Tamworth, with the first edition of the paper appearing on 13 April 1859.

The formation of the Tamworth Examiner illustrates another thread in the history of the New England media, the close relationship between newspaper formation and political interests.

In responding to Gallagher, local business interests warned him that the squatters would oppose the paper unless it supported their position. By contrast, many townspeople supported the paper because it might weaken squatter power and further Tamworth’s growth.
Note to readers:This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 2 - Early paper rush in New England: have printing press will travel!


EARLY GROWTH: High Street, West Maitland. For a number of decades, Maitland was the Norths largest urban centre.This is the second in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England 

The history of the newspaper press in Northern NSW is entangled with our history.

When the Maitland Mercury, the North’s first great paper and journal of record, was founded in 1843 Maitland was the North’s largest town, a position it would hold for many years. North of the Hunter, the pastoral rush was well underway, but the European population was thinly spread.

Between 1841 and 1859 ten newspapers were established, most failing quickly. Seven of the ten were in the lower Hunter where the European population was concentrated.

Of the remaining three, two would go on to become major Northern newspapers, the Armidale Express (1856) and the Clarence & Richmond Examiner (1859). 

From 1860, there was a rush of newspaper formations across country New South Wales with 47 papers launched between 1860 and 1864. Of these, 35 died in infancy.

This newspaper rush coincided with the early gold rushes. These created new population centers with their own papers such as The Miner (Lambing Flat).

The process of newspaper formation was a little different in Northern NSW. Here the early gold fields were smaller and more ephemeral, too small at that point to support papers. However, they did added population to existing townships as a consequence of new business generated by gold.

This new business came in part from servicing nearby gold fields, in part from increased business from pastoralists and farmers supplying the miners. On the New England, the squatters were sending stock as far south as the Victorian fields, helping lay the basis for later fortunes.

The papers that were created Northern NSW in the decade from 1860 were located not on the gold fields, but in the emerging port towns (the Macleay Herald and Manning Times) and in existing town centers inland or on the lower Hunter.

One feature of the 1860s was the early emergence of competing newspapers in many towns. There were two new starts in Grafton, two in the lower Hunter, adding to existing papers.

This would become a major feature by the end of the nineteenth century. By then, even small centers had two newspapers.

This competition reflected ease of entry: have printing press will travel! It also reflected the commercial and political dynamics holding in particular areas.

I will look at this in my next column.
This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

History of the New England newspaper press 1 - 1841: Thomas Strode and the Hunter River Gazette



Thomas Strode, 1872. Strode was New England's first pressman. This is the first in a series on the history of the media and especially the newspaper press in New England 

Historian Rod Kirkpatrick chose Country Conscience as the title for his history of the NSW provincial press 1841-1995.

At a time when so many country newspapers have suspended publication, it seems appropriate to tell a little of the rich story of the newspaper press across Northern NSW. Rod’s book title is well chosen.

The first newspaper in Northern NSW, the Hunter River Gazette, came off a little timber hand-operated press in Maitland on 11 December 1841.

With a population of 2,768, Maitland with its nearby river port at Morpeth was the North’s largest town, servicing the rapidly expanding pastoral occupation across the North.

Thomas Strode, the Gazette’s proprietor, had been mechanical superintendent on the Sydney Herald and then co-founder of the Port Phillip Gazette with George Arden.

The Gazette failed, ceasing publication in June 1842. This failure was not due so much to local factors, but to problems with the Port Phillip Gazette that forced Strode to return to Melbourne.

Despite the Gazette’s short life, it illustrates many of the features of our early newspapers.

It began because local merchants and others saw a newspaper as necessary to communicate with customers and advocate local interests. Strode himself was a printer not a journalist, a necessary requirement when skills were scarce; the proprietor had to physically produce the paper. 

Strode also faced multiple challenges in selling advertisements, gaining subscriptions and then producing and distributing the paper. Finally, he saw his role in grand terms, in admonishing the unworthy against temptation, in protecting the underdog and in educating the population.

Mind you, despite these lofty ambitions, Strode was not immune to the temptation to use his columns to pursue personal vendettas, to assert his views!

Maitland was still growing as the Gazette closed. This left a market gap that needed to be filled.

There was a first abortive attempt that failed, but then on 7 January 1843 came the launch of the Maitland Mercury, the North’s first great paper and journal of record.

I say great paper and journal of record advisedly. The Maitland Mercury was the only newspaper in a vast if thinly populated area. It saw its reporting role not just in local terms, but in terms of the broader area it serviced.

It was also very profitable.
This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Consolidated posts on the history and changing role of the media in Australia's New England

Frank Walter Vincent Senior on the left, his wife Armidale girl Sarah Jane nee Rampling nursing the child. They met while Frank and brother Henry were helping Frank Newton establish the Armidale Telegraph. Brother Henry met his wife at the same time, another Armidale girl, Sarah Shiels. On 15 April 1876, the two brothers established the Uralla & Walcha Times (later just Uralla Times), with Frank as editor. He and then son Barnes were editors for all but six years of its life, from foundation until the paper's sale to the Armidale Newspaper Company Ltd at the close of 1946.

I have begun a new series for my Armidale Express column on the history of the newspaper press in the broader New England. It seemed a good idea to do so given that we are at a change point where the very survival of the local and regional media seems uncertain. Publication is a little uncertain, but I will in any event publish them here.

To assist me, I have begun the process of consolidating my writing on the New England media. A list of the first 31 posts follows. I will add to the list as I continue the search process.

The posts cover different themes  cover different themes from history through changing roles and the pressures of commercial survival. Necessarily the posts are a little fragmentary, written over a number of years. I have tried to group them in rough thematic order. Later when I have completed the list, I will consolidate.   






Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The early Aboriginal peopling of Australia's New England


Neanderthal cousins: Artists reconstruction of a Denisovan girl based on the combination of skeletal and DNA evidence.

In April, I began a sort series of Armidale Express columns on the history of the Aboriginal peopling of New England. Drawn from the introductory course I was running on the history of New England, the columns told in short form the story of the journey to and arrival on the mega-continent now known as Sahul, the spread across Sahul and arrival in New England followed by the challenge of the Last Glacial Maximum.

Aboriginal settlement of Sahul: by 40,000 years ago, the ancestors of Australia's Aboriginal peoples had occupied the entire continent known as Sahul.
In a later series I will carry the story forward through the Holocene and the golden age that came to an end with the arrival of the Europeans in 1788.

I have now posted all the columns to this blog. This post allows you to follow the whole series through from the first post. 




Wednesday, May 06, 2020

The Aboriginal peopling of New England. Reoccupation following the ending of the Last Glacial Maximum



Stuart’s Point today, the site of the oldest known Aboriginal occupation in New England following the end of the Last Glacial Maximum This is the sixth and final in a series on the Aboriginal peopling of New England drawn from the introductory course I have been running on New England's history. I will continue the story of the Holocene period in a later series.   

In my last column I discussed the likely impact of the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), a cold dry windy period running from around 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, on New England’s Aboriginal peoples.

Faced with persistent drought and temperatures up to 8C below present, New England’s Aboriginal peoples were forced to retreat to refuge areas where food as well as protection from the elements was still available. Whole groups may have been wiped out.

Around 15,000 years ago, the LGM began to ease. From around 12,000 years ago, the period now described as the Holocene began. Average temperatures rose, rainfall increased. Deserts retreated westwards, while plants, animals and humans began to reoccupy the landscape.

This process took time, while its effects varied from place to place.

Down on our coastal strip, sea levels rose by 130 metres rushing inland past the coastline we know today. If you were standing where Kempsey is now, you would be on the coast. Shelters, camping grounds, ceremonial sites and food resources were submerged by the rising waters.

Slowly, the silt laden rivers swollen by higher Tablelands’ rainfall pushed back, joined by sea currents depositing sand, creating the current coastal dunes and backing estuaries.

This process took time. The coast as we know it today finally emerged about 6,000 years ago.

Even before this date, new habitats emerged favourable to human occupation.

In 1975 excavations at Stuarts Point, a very large oyster and cockle midden on the inner barrier north of the present estuary of the Macleay, revealed an occupation date of 9320 ± 160 BP (Before Present). Prior to that result, the earliest coastal date had been 6444 ± 74 BP for the basal levels of the Seelands dig in the Clarence about 12 kilometres northwest of Grafton.

On the Western Slopes and Plains, the earliest certain occupation date we have is much later than the coast, with an uncalibrated age of 5450 ± 100 years BP at Graman near Inverell.

On the Tableland, the earliest certain occupation date that we presently have is an uncalibrated age of 4300 years ago from Bendemeer. However, analysis done by Wendy Beck suggests that the resource base would have allowed targeted visits from at least the start of the Holocene, with permanent settlement possible from perhaps 6,000 years.

It is frustrating that we cannot sketch out the story in more detail. What we can say with a degree of certainty is that New England’s Aboriginal peoples were entering a golden age that would last to European invasion.

I will tell you this story in a later series of columns.
This post was prepared as a column for the on-line edition of the Armidale Express. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Aboriginal peopling of New England. How the New England landscape went through dramatic changes



The Byron landslip scar. This is the fifth in a series on the Aboriginal peopling of New England drawn from the introductory course I have been running on New England's history.

Aboriginal oral tradition records memories of great floods as the sea rushed in. These are usually attributed to large scale sea level rises as the icy conditions of the Last Glacial Maximum (21,000 to 15,000 years ago) eased and sea levels rose.

I suspect that’s broadly true, but they may also included memories of submarine landslide induced tsunamis, many of which occurred over the last 25,000 years along the Southern Queensland and Northern NSW coasts.

These tsunamis came about because of land collapses along the steeply sloping continental shelf. These collapses sent great blocks of rock and sediment plunging down the steeply sloping shelf out to sea over distances up too 100km and depths of 3,000m. You can imagine the effects on sea levels.

While spectacular, these changes were only a small part of the challenges faced by Australia’s Aboriginal peoples.

In my last column, I discussed what the Aboriginal occupation of New England might have looked like perhaps 40,000 years ago.

The Aborigines had arrived on the ancient content called Sahul at a time when the climate was colder but damper.

From perhaps 25,000 years ago, the environment deteriorated significantly.

Globally, the ice spread. As it did, the climate became colder and drier, deserts spread and trees retreated. This climatic regime peaked during the Last Glacial Maximum 21,000 to 15,000 years ago.

Sahul became very dry, both intensely hot and intensely cold. Sea levels fell by 60+ metres to perhaps 130 metres below current levels. Sea temperatures fell to 2-4 degrees C below those of today.

The effects across New England were dramatic. In the west, there were cold arid conditions. The deserts expanded eastwards. Stream flow was reduced. Trees and animals retreated.. In the east, the falling sea levels revealed a rugged inhospitable shore. While the coastal areas remained relatively well watered, food resources would have been reduced.

On the New England Tablelands, average temperatures fell by perhaps 8 degrees C. The Tablelands marked the start of a region of cold steppe and scattered sub-alpine woodland sweeping down through the southern Snowy Mountains into Tasmania, making it an inhospitable region for human habitation.

Faced with these changing conditions, the Aborigines would have been forced to retreat to refuge areas where food was still available. Some groups would have perished.

Better conditions lay ahead, but challenges had to be surmounted first.
This post appeared as a column in the on-line edition of the Armidale Express on 23 April 2020. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019, here 2020