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

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

History Revisited - how Tamworth's paper became a leader

CHANGING TIMES: Jim Belshaw's column this week focuses the history of the Tamworth newspaper the Northern Daily Leader
I hope that you had a happy Christmas. May 2016 bring peace and happiness.

My last column summarized the life and career of Ernest Christian Sommerlad. This column continues the story of the Northern pressmen, they were nearly all men, who had such an influence on New England life over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Albert Edward Joseph was born at Gympie in Queensland on 9 November 1873. the third son of Henry and Rebecca Joseph. Following the death of both his parents, the twelve year old Albert was sent to Tamworth to live with his Uncle Solomon, the publisher of the bi-weekly Tamworth News.

While attending the  Tamworth Grammar School, Joseph decided to become a surveyor and joined the Survey Branch of the Land’s Department.. Committed to Tamworth and the North, he managed to stay working at the Tamworth Local Land Board Office for twenty years by the simple expedient of refusing every promotion!

Upon his Uncle’s death, control of the Tamworth News had passed to G A Codrington. Joseph may have been was working as a surveyor, but he retained his interest in newspapers. In 1908, he put together a deal that allowed him to buy the rival Tamworth Observer with effect from 1 January 1909.

Within two years, Joseph floated the Tamworth Newspaper Coy Ltd. This purchased both the News and Observer, with Joseph becoming Managing Director of the new company. In 1920, the Tamworth Daily Observer was renamed the Northern Daily Leader.

Writing later, Albert Joseph said: "There is substance in the; claim that the paper that can be delivered at the breakfast table will dominate the thought's of those amongst whom it circulates. At least it will tend to develop a distinctive community of opinions and ideals. and thus to become a focus of political and social thought in the life of the region.”

With these words as guidance, Victor Thompson as editor, Joseph as business leader, the Observer/Northern Daily Leader aggressively extended its reach following the railway lines. Within a few years, the paper became the dominant daily over a territory extending from Tenterfield on the border to Moree in the west, Murrrurundi in the south. As late as 1960, the Leader was outselling the Sydney Morning Herald in Armidale.

The tone of the paper was unapologetically Northern, campaigning on causes from self government to the university movement. It was also prepared to spend on things that could not be immediately justified in circulation terms, including literary pages. This made the paper a driving force, a focus for Northern activism and a clearing house for the ideas and enthusiasms of the North. .

Beyond the paper, Joseph played a key role in the formation of the Associated Northern Dailies, in the Country Press Association and in a variety of community activities. He was a foundation member of the Advisory Council created to guide the newly created New England University College.

By the time of his death in 1947, Joseph was seen as a key Northern figure whose life was marked not just by his professional career nor by his community activities, but by his kindness and personal contribution to so many.

“Of Joseph it can truly be said”, Profesor A E Bland later said, “that a man s virtue is measured, not by his extraordinary efforts, but by his everyday conduct.”
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 13 January 2016. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited 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.

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