Thursday, September 16, 2004

ANHG words

The Australian Newspaper History Group's September newsletter (number 29) came out today. It's always jammed with helpful info and pointers to overwhelming numbers of potential sources. The group's back issues are archived on the net and available free here. The online archive is only up to #27 right now, so if anyone wants the latest, send me an email and I'll forward it. It includes details for ordering a new bibliography, Australian Newspaper History: A Bibliography (111pp) and The ANHG Index (107pp): covering the first 25 issues of the newsletter.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Size matters

From the Media section of The Australian, September 9, 2004:

Compact about the size of it
Andrew Fraser
THE future of newspapers – whether they will shrink or disappear altogether – was the hot topic at the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers Association annual conference on the Gold Coast this week.
Eric Beecher, former editor-in-chief of the Herald and Weekly Times, singled out the internet as a serious threat to capital city broadsheets that depend on classified advertising sales.
"They are the ones, in my view, that are clearly vulnerable to the better mouse trap that has come along, which is internet classified advertising," he said. "The most vulnerable newspapers are the ones that commit the greatest resources to journalism. It's going to have a devastating effect on the kind of journalism those newspapers can support in the future."
However, PANPA president Ken Steinke described newspapers as the most vibrant sector of the media industry. "In this fiercely competitive environment, newspapers continue to stand out from the crowd, reinventing themselves and finding new ways to be of service to our customers and readers."
Robert Thomson, editor of The Times in London, concentrated on the future size of newspapers, telling of the success of The Times's compact edition.
He said the main reason for the introduction of the compact was not to "dumb down" the newspaper or produce a lesser product but to produce a size convenient for the commuter market, which is more important in London than Australia.
As Thomson, an Australian whose professional life began as a copy boy on the Melbourne Herald, explained, they wanted a newspaper that people could read easily on the train but that still contained quality journalism.
"Tabloid has a lot of connotations and we wanted to get rid of those connotations but keep the size," he said, explaining why the word compact was chosen.
"It was also very important to have a marketing campaign that reinforced the idea that The Times [is] still a very serious and quality newspaper."
Thomson said that since the compact version of The Times was launched in December last year, circulation had increased 10 per cent. He said there had been little loss of existing readers – although he showed the PANPA audience a letter that accused him of "being remembered as the man who destroyed The Times" – while the new format had drawn in new readers.
"Once they've had the experience of The Times, then hopefully they would recognise the quality of the paper."
But Thomson also said it was important for management to "take the journalists along" – after all, most had spent their professional lives as broadsheet journalists and now the format was changing.
But he said the main people who needed to learn new skills were not so much reporters – the newspaper's content has not changed dramatically – but sub-editors and designers.
He also conceded that while the newspaper has made strides in its weekday circulation, it still has to "get Saturdays right".
Lifestyle changes were in turn changing the weekend market – again, the British market is very different from that of Australia – and this presents a dilemma for newspapers. While readers expect a bulky newspaper with up to 12 sections, they rarely have time to read it.
"It's very difficult to take away something from readers that they're used to having," Thomson said.
"Unread sections of the paper are a reminder of things not done, and what should be a pleasure becomes a switch-off and something to feel guilty about."
At the same time, the British were becoming more active at the weekend, and didn't necessarily "want to spend Saturday afternoon with us on the couch".
"Another issue is that more and more people are not on the couch," he said. "The fluctuations in weather patterns and our circulation demonstrate that. A sunny warm Saturday is a disaster for us. Thankfully, a sunny warm Saturday in England is something of a rarity."
Newsource manager and former editor of The Australian Alan Farrelly also predicted that newspapers will become smaller. He suggested all Australian broadsheets had probably looked seriously at producing tabloid issues.
"And I don't think there's a tabloid newspaper in the country which hasn't got a couple of dummies of an A4-size paper somewhere in a bottom drawer," he said.
Additional reporting: AAP

Monday, September 06, 2004

In print

Barry Johnson was one of the first to join the pre-press department of The Australian. In this article for News Limited's inhouse journal, he looks back at 40 years of change, making some interesting observations about technology, unions and more. Industrial disputes are an area I'm taking a close look at because, as Johnson notes, union activity has played a major role in the development of Australian newspapers (and not only in the past 40 years).
I'm only going to leave this pdf on the net for a couple of weeks because it takes up too much of my storage space. After that, if anyone wants to read it, they'll have to email me and ask for a copy.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Back and forth

For those interested in reading newspapers, rather than looking at how pretty they are :-) I've posted a Word document by Alan Farrelly. Farrelly looked at every story in the first edition of The Australian (1964) and wrote a "what happened next" par about each from the vantage point of 2004.
An article which includes interesting pre-press details to come when I hook up my scanner...

Friday, September 03, 2004

Back online

Our net connection has been down for a few days while we switched over to dsl. It's been about nine months since I last set up a dsl modem so my computer was in mortal danger a number of times while I attempted to remember how to do it. Anyway, victory at last.
Today, I got a copy of the CD produced by The Australian for its 40th anniversary and some interesting articles in the News Limited inhouse newsletter. Some time in the next 24 hours I'll post some stuff from both.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

A doppelganger of sorts

I tried to open my blog in Netscape today instead of IE and typed the address in the wrong way around. Found something that could be worth a visit from time to time...

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Finding my way back...

It's hard to get motivated again when you've had to take a break. Work has been so busy that I've been coming home very tired and just haven't bothered with the research. As well, my mail is all stuffed up because of the recent move and books and other things I've been waiting for are goodness knows where.
But I do want to get back to it. So my plan is to spend this weekend tinkering with my timeline, which I think will do the trick. All kinds of interesting things come up when I'm working on it so it should fire me up again.
Meanwhile, just to prove I have been working hard, I've posted a new page on
my portfolio at News Page Designer.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Slowly, slowly

My little "vacation" from research will be over in a few days . . . promise. I'm reading the Barnhurst/Nerone book mentioned in my previous post; it's not quite what I'd expected, but excellent nevertheless.
Barnhurst's "Seeing the Newspaper" is also supposed to be arriving soon but, as it had supposedly been shipped before I moved house, who knows when or if I'll get it.
I'm thinking of adding links here to online stores carrying the books I'm reading for this project; will sign up for affiliate programs where they're available, but won't be offended if no one uses them to buy anything.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Boxed in

Well, the moving's done; I can get back to work as soon as I work out which box my stuff's in... got an email today telling me a book I ordered months ago is finally on its way - The Form of News, A History by Kevin G. Barnhurst and John Nerone, New York: The Guilford Press, April 2001. This is the US version of what I'm trying to do and I'm interested in their methodology. Barnhurst told me via email a while back that it only took them 15 years...

Saturday, July 17, 2004

A brief flong with history

I'm too busy packing to do this properly right now, so here's the potted version of the teaser I posted a while back:
Why were there so few photos in the early editions of The Australian and why were they rarely used downpage? Designer Guy Morrison knew the pages would look better with downpage photos. So where were they? In Sydney, says Morrison.
The Canberra-based paper did not set up a photo library before it launched. It had photographers, of course, but if editors wanted to illustrate wire stories, book reviews and other non-daily news stuff, they had to send a photocopy of a story to Sydney, where the Daily Mirror librarians would find a photograph and put it on a plane to Canberra. Unless they had plenty of notice, stories would just have to run without photos.
Why did Morrison think designing a new paper easier than working?
"[Murdoch] told me about his ambition to start a national newspaper and when I’d given him some ideas he took me away from my job at the Sunday Mirror and gave me a little bit of time to go around and think about what we were going to need and how it should look.
"It wasn’t a very big thing to do really at that time; I was working in Sydney; he gave me an office upstairs… I had the pleasure of not having to work very hard for a few weeks and just think about it and look at the great papers of England...
"My own contribution was not really so marvellously new and thought-out and so on. There wasn’t a great deal I could do. One thing I had very strongly in mind was the London Sunday Times, which was a very, very handsome newspaper at that time. What I suggested to him [Murdoch] was something like that to model ourselves on, at least as far as appearance goes."
Did Murdoch have clear ideas about what he wanted?
"No, he didn’t. He was very hard to get actually. I found he was so busy at that time we didn’t really have much time to chat things over and in the end I had to get this material in by a certain time in order to meet the founding time in Canberra. Eventually I grabbed him for about 10 minutes before he was off on a flight to England and I showed him the types that I wanted. I can’t remember whether I’d actually laid out pages; I don’t think I had, I think I’d just drawn them and shown him the London papers and explained what his choice was."
Morrison says he spent about three months working on the design, but admitted to "stretching it out as much as I could" because the Sunday Mirror editor was howling to get his assistant editor back and Morrison didn't really want to go. He held out in his office until it was time to go to Canberra, and became the first production editor of The Australian: "They gave me this fancy title and I wasn't sure what it meant, so I just took over responsibility for laying out the features pages."
What is a flong? It's a paper mache mould of the page (also called a matrice). According to the Hobart Mercury's print museum: "A flong prepared from flat type could be curved to permit moulding of the cylindrical type needed for a rotary press. Flongs were used until recent times when the introduction of offset presses and computer technology revolutionised the printing process."
The flongs for The Australian were flown to Sydney and Melbourne for printing, and Murdoch often drove them to the airport himself because, as one colleague who worked at the paper from the start says, "he had the fastest car in town". When fog closed Canberra airport, Murdoch drove the flongs to Sydney.
And why were the subs fans of Mao Tse Tung? Back to Morrison's story about the non-existent photo archive...
"We had started with one picture … it was a picture of Mao Tse Tung and there was a joke going around that everyone wanted to get a story on Mao Tse Tung so that we could use our photo.”
More when I've packed and moved...

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Scanning the paper

I haven't had time yet to go hunting for one of Larry Lamb's "picture-free zone" front pages from 1982, but did find this weathered copy of an inside page which is still a good example of the layout style during his reign as editor...

November 1982

I also got an advance copy of the July 15, 1964, liftout which will be published Thursday and have scanned a couple of pages:

This one is Solly Chandler's "Peter Brennan page" (see my "Overfeeding the fiche" blog, June 19, for some info about this page):

And this is the leader page from the first edition:

Over the next couple of days, I'll add a few pages to this and when I find some more web space, I'll post a link to larger pdf versions.

Monday, July 12, 2004

As gentle as a Lamb... not

Someone reminded me this morning about Sir Larry Lamb, the British editor who introduced the Page 3 girl to the London Sun. In 1982-83, Lamb was editor of The Australian. His influence on the paper's design and content was swift and hard:

"Some critics occasionally said, justly or otherwise, unkind things about The Australian that Lamb inherited as editor-in-chief in 1982. Some, for example, claimed the paper could sometimes resemble 'a tabloid broadsheet'. Critics meant that though -- in terms of its page size, overall persona and appearance -- it was a 'serious' newspaper, it could tend towards the racy and populist in writing style and layout. It was a criticism Lamb would silence with an abrupt, brutal finality. Within days of his appointment the size of headlines and photographs had shrunk drastically. Overnight, the paper became tight, neat, restrained, packed with additional wordage. The transformation was total. Lamb -- and, presumably, the proprietor, Rupert Murdoch -- wanted a distinctively upmarket newspaper, reminiscent of Britain's The Times or The Daily Telegraph, and Lamb made it clear nothing and nobody would be allowed to subvert that goal. Writers who'd habitually taken advantage of a little 'journalistic licence' came to realise a vastly different era was upon them. It was an era some didn't immediately embrace with rampant enthusiasm. The radio announcer and a former newspaper editor, Derryn Hinch, went on the wireless in Melbourne to mock and savage Lamb's paper and to ask what the dickens was going on."

The author is Errol Simper, in his "A Certain Scribe" column in The Australian's Media section, June 1, 2000. Further on in his column, Simper notes:
"The scribe well recalls, too, an early Lamb news conference at which the then pictorial editor, Barry Norman, was called upon to present offerings for the front page. There were, perhaps, 10 prints lying there for Lamb's appraisal: gesticulating politicians, opening ceremonies, closing ceremonies, perspiring sportspeople, auditioning chorus lines, and so on. Some might have regarded it as a reasonably impressive short list. But Lamb frowned, then announced there'd be no photograph on the front page next day. Photographs, he said, had to carry genuine news resonance. If they didn't, the paper would get along all the better not running any. An indignant Norman vacated the conference. The only occasion the scribe can remember Lamb breaking his own layout rules in those early, abrasive days was when the former Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev, died. Lamb hadn't had much time for Brezhnev. 'Death of a Tyrant', roared the front page."

The Great Photograph Massacre is still one of Lamb's claims to fame in newsroom history... I will try to fish out the pages tomorrow and post them here.

I love The Oz... and not just because I work there

The Australian turns 40 on Thursday and its commemmorative stuff is going to be a huge help to me. From July 10, for a couple of weeks each day's paper includes a full-size reproduction of a front page from the past 40 years and on Thursday, July 15, the paper will include a full reproduction of the first, 32-page edition from 1964 (so I can cancel that part of my library order and save money!). Beginning Saturday (July 17), there'll be a 13-part glossy magazine series outlining major stories during the paper's history, but also including more pages from the past (I've seen it already; it's been thoroughly researched and gorgeously designed by a group of my colleagues). So, while I concentrate on getting us housed (see previous post), the paper is doing some of my work for me...
Everyone in Australia should buy the paper, of course, and help pay my wages, but I'll post copies of the goodies here for others as I get them.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Jumping Jack flash

Research on newspapers has taken a temporary back seat to research on real estate. Everything is on hold while we find a new house where Oscar, left, and Gracie are welcome. We have to leave our house because the real estate agent is scared of dogs. She tried to get in (illegally) one day when we weren't home and Gracie barked at her (good girl!). Oscar did a tiny bit of damage to an existing hole in the ancient carpet when he was teething about five months ago, so she's using that as one of her excuses to kick us out. The official reason is that we had only one dog listed on the lease. Anyway, it could mean a week or even two of no work on the history, but I think I've found a house so I hope there will not be too much interruption. It's a huge job and I can't afford to lose momentum... Will post the Guy stuff by the end of the week.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

An interesting Guy...

This week I've had a great chat with Guy Morrison, who designed The Australian in 1964. Because the 40th anniversary is imminent (July 15) and I'm pitching a story for the anniversary edition, I'm not going to give away details just yet. Instead, in true newspaper style, I'll post a teaser...
Why were there so few photographs in the early editions, and why were they always placed above the fold?
Why was creating the look for a national newspaper from scratch easier than "working"?
Why did the publisher personally take the flongs to the airport? What is a flong anyway?
And why were the layout sub-editors such big fans of Mao Tse Tung?
All this and more... in another post.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Before we went crazy with layouts...

This is the broadsheet version of the Daily Telegraph, August 1, 1927. The look is very clean compared with post-World War II newspapers; there is a very clear headline style and even though heads bump everywhere, I had no trouble navigating:

Note: these are all bad photocopies; I'll replace them with better, readable versions when I get the CD copies from the library.

On August 27, 1927, the Daily Telegraph went tabloid and became the Daily Telegraph News Pictorial. Its front-page style showed inexperience in pictorial layout compared with the Illustrated Sydney News of 40 years earlier, but its inside pages are still quite clean.

Now look at some Aussie papers from the 1960s (not readable; scanned from a book, but click to view a larger version):

Here is what Harold Evans had to say about Aussie newspapers in the 1960s:

"The Australian preference for narrow columns and lots of them to a text-size page is seen at its extreme in the Brisbane evening which has eleven 9-pica columns separated by minimum white. This gives the Courier Mail's text a character count of around twcnty to a column. The Sydney Morning HeraId, the Melbourne Herald, and The Age, Melbourne, are ten columns to a page, but the new national The Australian has moved to eight and is all the more legible for that and The Age goes wider when it can. The excessively narrow columns, set in 8pt or 9pt, mean more eye-transfers per column for the reader. In turn they produce longer runs of grey text, which means more frequent paragraphing, or more cross-heads (in the Courier Mail the frequent large cross-heads have inadequate white). Mechanically, narrow columns are slower to set, and mean more hyphens and letterspacing.
The editorial argument for the narrowgauge setting is that it produces more news positions. This is certainly a good argument for a popular tabloid which, if it is to create a sense of busyness on its small sheet, is forced to narrow measure. But it is a doubtful argument for a broadsheet, and demands extreme care in the distribution of display type if the reader is to be able to see the messages for the mess.
The Courier Mail mixes Bodoni Black, Cooper Black, Franklin Gothic Bold, Cheltenham, and Placard, and though an attempt is made to keep heads away from each other the effect is still of being beaten by a blunt instrument. Two points are worth noting: the freedom the Courier Mail gains at the top of the page by a small title (the blackletter survives in many Australian papers), and the vigorous use of two wellplaced pictures.
The Australian, of which this is not a typical example, is notable for its attractive title, well spaced with the symbol at the left, and typographically for the Century and Century Bold Extended. (The lines in the second deck of the lead could, however, be pulled closer together.) Note also the striking cross-reference panel columns 2 3."
(Editing and Design: A five-volume manual of English, Typography and Layout; Book Five: Newspaper Design, Heinemann, 1973, p125)

I must say I disagree with his comment about the "two well-placed pictures" in the Courier Mail...

Some things in editorial production never change...

This cartoon appeared in the Illustrated Sydney News in December 1896. The caption reads "Please, Sir, the Boss says you're to draw somethink funny, and I'm to wait while you does it".

This is the flag (not from the first edition; the early ones were too mildewed). Click to view a larger version.

The loading docks on the right now house trendy nightclubs and the terrace houses behind them are filled with young singles...

I found the edition with the first half-tone photos, but the microfiche's cr*ppy photocopier wasn't up to reproducing anything worth posting here. I also had a look at some 1927 Daily Telegraphs (am still waiting for my CD from the library) and will put up some pages later tonight. I must say that after being immersed in ugly post-World War II papers for the past month, I found both of these early papers a visual treat. The Illustrated Sydney News was a very nicely laid-out publication with a lot of gorgeous engravings and the 1927 Daily Tele was clean, modular and used nice typography. Of course this was largely due to technological restrictions; when we got new toys after WWII, we went nuts...
More to come.

Bird pipped

I've just found a reference that says the Dead Bird was not the first Australian newspaper to publish a half-tone photo. In his paper, The Culture of Newspapers:
The Slow Birth of the Modern Newspaper in Australia, 1890-1940
, Peter Dowling credits the Illustrated Sydney News with the "first", in August 1988. I'm off to the State Library in about an hour to go back into battle with the microfiche, so I'll try to find it...
A quote I enjoyed from Dowling's paper:

As for the daily broadsheets, even though the half-tone process meant that it was possible for them to be illustrated, it was not until World War I that they first began to publish occasional photographs. The main reason for their reluctance to take advantage of the new technology was that it was considered beneath the dignity of a broadsheet to include pictures.

I came across Dowling's interesting but, alas, unillustrated paper on a Google search I did after a visit to, a site that chronicles redesigns at contemporary newspapers. Newsdesigner posted a par about the downsizing of European papers and I was interested in learning the dimensions of the "Berliner" (315 x 470 mm ... thanks for that, newsdesigner).

Saturday, July 03, 2004


I've had this bookmarked for some time, and it occurred to me today that I should post the link...
Papers from the Australian Media Traditions Conference 2001
Some that I found particularly interesting:

Sybil Nolan's Half a century of obscurity - The Age 1908-1964

"Journalists’ accounts of The Age in these years generally suggest that the paper was second-rate, outdated in both its outlook and appearance. Walker (1982, p.293) described a newspaper which had fallen asleep in the embrace of the Liberal Party; ‘querulous’, ‘doddery’ and ‘turgid’ are some of the epithets applied by other journalists. It is inevitably criticised not only for its increasing conservatism, but for its failure to keep pace with innovations in layout and editorial technique so dramatically demonstrated in papers like the Sun News-Pictorial and the Melbourne Herald. A survey of the newspaper archives shows these criticisms are readily supportable."

Rod Kirkpatrick's War and lasting change: The battle for survival on the provincial newspaper front
"The Second World War had a big impact on the future of newspapers in Australia, accelerating the amalgamation of titles and the concentration of ownership. In addition, newsprint rationing, better newspaper design and the demand for war news combined to complete the transition of the front-page from advertising to news. What was the full impact on newspapers of this second world conflict? This case study sets out to explore the changes wrought in the Australian provincial daily press through a comparative study of the impact of World War II on three regional daily newspapers from different states. The author finds that the main effects on newspapers caused by World War II resulted from the rationing of newsprint. The newsprint restrictions led to reduced paging, with significantly less space for advertising and so reduced revenues. Another result was that the main news of the day shifted on to the front page and gained an unshakeable hold there.) Newswriting became more concise, and, more hurried, with accuracy suffering. Despite the thinner editions, the demand for war news led to significant increases in circulation. The economic pressures led to the closure of 64 provincial newspapers in five States during the first four years of the war."

Paul Kelly's keynote address in which he touches briefly on the design culture:
"I think that when one looks back at the industry we’ve gone through two enormous revolutions in technology in the last 30 years, and I went through one as Editor in Chief. And the interesting thing about that for me was that what the accountants told us would be the impact of technology had absolutely nothing to do with the impact of technology. The impact is riddled with all sorts of unintended consequences and consequences which cannot be predicted, and of course, that’s the story of technological change.
I think that one of the interesting results of this is a tremendous emphasis these days on design, design is king, how things look. We’re very interested in looks as a society and certainly in newspapers and we’re into all sorts of tricks; Photo enhancements , what you can do with colour, and of course, the web site."

And the panel discussion which followed..., which contains a number of points relevant to design but one by Catharine Lumby interested me in particular:
"I don’t know if you’ve seen the redesigned Sydney Morning Herald recently, but you know there’s this fabulous split they’ve made between Spectrum which now looks like The Times Literary supplement, so it looks like something you’re going to get tested on it over breakfast, it’s in really posh type. And they only deal with high culture and they they’ve taken all this supposedly low culture stuff and shoved it into the metropolitan section and it’s full of break-up boxes and bright graphics and colour sections. And yet, you know, there are some really intelligent things that one might say about television or film or popular culture."

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Showing its Age

"The Age, Melbourne’s oldest newspaper, turns 150 on October 17 this year. Since 1854 it has played a pivotal role in the life of Victoria, mirroring its transformation from gold rush boom state, to birthplace of Federation, through two world wars, a depression and the modern era, to the vibrant place it is today..."

Read all about it here. The online material includes a good chronology of Age-related events; front pages, articles and photographs are included throughout the timeline. Definitely worth a visit if you're interested in Australian newspaper history.

I'm beginning to get comfortable with looking at our newspapers from the 1940s to the 1990s. For a few weeks there, I found the layouts pretty scary. Now, I can look at a page and know which decade it's from. I'm also beginning to appreciate how easy those of us in the age of modular layout have it... Look at the front page of The Australian in 1964, for example. Imagine taking a blank layout sheet, plus that list of stories and pictures, and being required to dog-leg them all over the place because a busy layout was considered a dynamic, content-rich one. It's like a complex jigsaw puzzle and, in this case, the layout sub-editor probably had little time to produce it; The Australian had to be rushed off to the airport in Canberra early each night so it could be on news-stands around the country by morning. I'll be talking to the designer on Monday morning, so I'm hoping to get lots of details on the hows and whys of newspaper layout - and starting a national paper from scratch - in 1964.

Friday, June 25, 2004

The stench of gamy carrion: why the Dead Bird didn't fly with colonial authorities

In its debut edition (July 20, 1889), the Dead Bird didn't just publish what some believe was the first half-tone photo in an Aussie newspaper, it published the first nude photo - a back view of West Indies-born boxing champion Peter Jackson.

According to the Australian Newspaper History Group (page 16):
"The next week, the Dead Bird published a cartoon captioned 'Little Miss Inquisitive', which showed a young woman, coded by her stays and her unbound hair as a prostitute, holding a copy of Jackson’s picture up to a mirror in a vain effort (one understands) to see the man from the front. She is portrayed as not merely lascivious but very dumb.
The half-tone nude (captioned for some reason 'The Daddy of Them All') was reprinted in the Dead Bird of 16 September 1890 (when Peter was back in Australia for a triumphal visit), but without any letterpress. At the end of 1890 the Dead Bird was condemned for obscenity and died in January 1891. It returned the next week with issue No. 80 (24 January), though more circumspect and now named Bird o’ Freedom. In 1896 it rose again as the Arrow."

There are conflicting explanations on the newspaper's title. ANHG says "dead bird" was a colloquialism meaning "a sure thing, a certainty."
But in The Newspaper Press in New South Wales, 1803-1920, Robin Walker writes:
"In typically facetious vein [the editorial] explained that its name had been brought to mind when a stuffed snipe
fell heavily from a shelf onto the manager's cranium as he was racking his brains for a title; it is more likely, however, that the stench of gamy carrion was put out in order to attract the sniff of the prurient. Sport and sexual innuendo were the staple themes of the Dead Bird."

I'm still waiting for a copy, but it has been described as typical of the penny press of the day - a very busy layout, liberally decorated with illustrations. I wanna see the masthead!

Thursday, June 24, 2004


Copy-Editing Corner offers lessons from the live pages of US newspapers. And the blogger shows such good taste... we chose the same template.
I'm going to add a links list to the sidebar tonight. If any newspaper-related bloggers want to be included, I'm happy to oblige.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Memory lapses yield twice the information... twice

I have a lot of material on "why modular layout is a wonderful thing", but have been searching high and low for practical info on why irregular layout (nested doglegs and so on) was a popular look in newspapers around the world after WWII.
A colleague offered to bring me a book he said might have some of the info I've been looking for. So tonight he brought it in. I took one look at the cover, reached into the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet and, from under a pile of old stuff I've worked on over the years, I pulled out the same book. Someone gave it to me about four years ago; it looked "old-fashioned" and, with hardly a glance at it, I decided it was an outdated British layout manual not relevant to my daily work, so I put it away and forgot about it. Was I wrong. It's actually a very good account of newspaper design around the world from the early 1800s to the beginning of the 1970s.
The book is Harold Evans' Editing and Design, A five-volume manual of English, Typography and Layout. Book Five: Newspaper Design, William Heinemann, 1973.
I've only had a brief dip into it so far, but it appears to cover everything I've been looking for on irregular layout and a whole lot more that will be extremely useful. A bonus is that it's full of examples from papers around the world. The overall tone of the analysis in the book seems a bit preachy, but the knowledge and detail is there. Obviously he couldn't cover the news design history of the whole world in depth in one book, but he did hone in very closely on some papers and on some elements of popular design.

An (off-that-topic, but fun) quote that is still relevant today (except for the gender discrimination):

A layout which changes each day is not necessarily a layout which changes in the right way. Change will add variety and surprise, but it must not do it at the expense of a continuity of news values or the identity of the newspaper. Some layout men get paranoid about this. They fear that someone out there (up there?) is watching them so that if ever the elements of a page arrange themselves in roughly the same way twice in a lifetime they will be struck down for forcing a pattern on a page when the text and artwork do not require it.

Another coincidence today: I discovered two copies of The Age: 125 Years of Age on my bookshelves at home. I bought both copies from the same secondhand bookstore several months apart.
Maybe I should try to speed up the research a bit while I've still got some working brain cells...

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

It fell afowl of the law...

Plodding away on the timeline while I await the arrival of new books. My two favourite newspaper titles so far are:

1. The Dead Bird (Sydney, late 1800s), which fell afoul (afowl?) of obscenity legislation in 1889 but lived to tell more tales. A researcher speculates (on page 14 of the linked newsletter) that The Dead Bird might have been the first Australian newspaper to publish a half-tone illustration on July 20, 1889.

2. The Bunyip (September 5, 1863 - )

"In the annals of the Australian Press it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a more intriguing or picturesque event than the birth of this newspaper. It would also be difficult to find a quainter or more picturesque editorial staff than the Honourable Fraternity of Humbugs who penned and published the first issue of "The Bunyip," which was almost as quaint as its authors.
The Bunyip - or Gawler Humbug Society's Chronicle, Flam! Bam! ! Sham! ! ! No. 1-Price 6d. This was the sum total of the wording of the first masthead - a masthead which has remained essentially the same for over 120 years, acquiring through the years the prestige of a known reliable organ-a community institution - to add to the irreplaceable tradition endowed by the Humbug Society." (source: Bunyip Press)

Unfortunately, The Bunyip's website does not include pix of the paper. I'll have to add it to my library list. For non-Aussies: what is a bunyip?

Monday, June 21, 2004

Inside the covers

No research on Sunday. Too tired and sick; spent the day on the sofa wrapped in my warmest blanket.
Interesting books I read this week:
Souter, Gavin: A Company of Heralds, MUP, 1981
Munster, George: Rupert Murdoch, A Paper Prince, Viking, 1985
Carroll, V.J: The Man Who Couldn't Wait, Warwick Fairfax's folly and the bankers who backed him, William Heinemann Australia, 1990
Zwar, Desmond: In Search of Keith Murdoch, Macmillan, 1980
Hutton, Geoffrey and Tanner, Les (eds): The Age: 125 Years of Age, Nelson, 1979
Relevant essays from: Journalism: Print, Politics and Popular Culture, Ann Curthoys and Julianne Schultz (eds), UQP, 1999

If anyone comes across The Care and Feeding of Microfiche, I'd appreciate details...

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Overfeeding the fiche

Had my first encounter with that wily beast known as the microfiche.
It won.
I went to the State Library of NSW today with a list of newspapers I wanted to copy. My mission began well; I found the microfiche reels I needed right away.
A very helpful, friendly man showed me where to get a copy card, then set up my first reel for me, got me the best lens for the job and showed me how the machine worked. I assumed he was a library assistant... until a real library assistant came by to see if we needed help. So it turned out that he was just a very helpful, friendly man. Thank you, whoever you were.
I realised right away that even at maximum zoom-out I couldn't quite fit a whole broadsheet page in the print area and was going to have to do each page in halves and stitch them together in Photoshop.
I printed the first page without any trouble. Then I hit the print button to do page two, part one and that's when the wheels started falling off. Paper jam. Library assistant came over and fixed it. Then my copy card jammed. Library assistant came over and fixed it. She let me use her card to print page two. My copy card jammed again. The library assistant was nowhere in sight so I moved to another machine. The printer didn't work at all. I moved to another machine. I couldn't adjust the focus, so I got seasick squinting at the screen. Eventually I found what I wanted and hit print. Black page emerged. Adjusted lightness. White page emerged. Adjusted again. Black page emerged. And so on. I felt Microfiche Rage coming on, but managed to suppress it.
$15 later, I decided I'd overfed the fiche; I went home with only two pages copied (out of 100). I logged on to the library website and placed an online order for the librarians to copy the pages to a CD for me.

These are my two $15 pages:

The Australian
July 15, 1964. Page one.
I've been asked to post readable versions. Get an A3 pdf here. The pdfs are 2Mb files, so might take a minute or so to load.

The Australian
July 15, 1964. Page 2. Get an A3 pdf here.

If I'd known the fiche were going be so elusive, I'd have gone for page three first, rather than one. Page three was what Murdoch referred to as "the tinsel". Solly Chandler, who'd come Down Under from Britain, created a page mysteriously called "The Peter Brennan Page". According to George Munster in Rupert Murdoch: A Paper Prince:
"The third page startled expectant readers... It proclaimed itself 'a column that goes round the world's lighter side'. [Chandler] reproduced five assorted photographs, reported that the Queensland police had 'viewed' a performance of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolfe and wondered if the play would be banned in that state. 'For Those Who Trust The Stars'... appeared below Chandler's sputnik. When The Australian opened its pages to letters the following week, its astrology column was the subject of the largest number of complaints." Anyway, will have it soon on CD...
I've asked the library to get me:
1. The entire first edition of The Australian (24pp) plus the first letters page.
2. Front pages and random inside pages from the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Sun-Herald from July 15, 1964, for comparison with The Australian.
3. Ken Inglis' article, Enter the Australian from the July 25, 1964 edition of Nation. Inglis did an in-depth analysis of The Australian.
4. The Australian's 30th anniversary supplement and a Focus section page from the same edition (the journalists were on strike on July 15, 1994; management cancelled their anniversary party and held over the supplement until the following week).
5. The section fronts and five random inside pages from The Age February 1 and 4, 2002, editions + the Leunig cartoon page from the Feb 5, 2002, edition (The Age's last major overhaul was Feb 4, 2002; Leunig did a send-up of newspaper redesigns the next day).
6. Twenty random pages from the Daily Telegraph in 1927 (according to Paper World, "the Tele changed to a tabloid pictorial format with a fantastic art-deco layout indicative of the period"... until WWII, the Tele publishers couldn't seem to make up their minds about size; they switched from broadsheet to tabloid and back again a number of times)
7. The two Sydney Morning Herald pages in the White Space blog below.
8. The full copy of the first Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser.
9. The Australian and Daily Telegraph's election coverage from the December 12, 1975, editions (this was the post-Whitlam dismissal election; there were huge protests in the streets outside the News Limited building on the preceding weekend. The printers were on strike and some of the protesters tried to stop the papers' distribution).
10. Copies of front and random inside pages from 1944 composite editions of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mirror and The Sun. These were produced during a printers' strike; the journalists were locked out at this time and execs and other staff from the four papers joined forces to put the composite paper together. Page one carried all four mastheads. There was another composite paper in 1967. Details to come...

In the genes...

I'd be up the creek without a paddle if I didn't at least give them a mention here...
My parents are also interested in history and design. But while my interest involves the pulping of trees, theirs floats them. They build replicas of historic Cajun canoes using techniques invented by the Vikings. Their Rushton-inspired Ugo is believed to be the only one of its kind in Australia. It has been the star of a special display at the Ipswich Library and recently won the professional section of a DIY competition there.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Even their mother couldn't tell them apart...

So here's the full front page of the first edition of The Australian, published on July 15, 1964.


After my trip to the dungeon, I poked my head into the office of the company archivist to ask if he had any details about redesigns over the years.
He insisted The Australian has never been redesigned. "It still looks exactly like it did at the beginning..."
Here's a recent front page, just to prove his point:


So, you see, it hasn't changed a bit in 40 years.
Tomorrow, I'm going to the State Library to pull the entire first edition out of the archives. I had a look at it when I was in the dungeon today, but the book was so old I didn't want to damage it by heaving it onto a photocopier. Will post up copies with some commentary tomorrow...
I'm also going try to set up readable pop-up copies of all of the papers I post here.

Stop the presses!

Rupert Murdoch had to utter the famous line on the first night of printing when he launched Australia's new national daily, The Australian, on July 15, 1964... and it was all due to a single incorrect number on the front page masthead. On July 14, the staff were watching the first edition roll off the presses when Eric Walsh, an employee of another Murdoch paper - the Daily Mirror - wandered in to tell Murdoch about the birth of his new baby and to see how Murdoch's own "new baby" looked. Walsh picked up a copy of The Australian and immediately spotted the error on page 1 - it was dated July 14, 1964, instead of July 15, 1964. Murdoch stopped the presses and avoided damaging the paper's debut with an embarrassing mistake.
I'll have to wander down to the Holt Street dungeon for a full copy of the first front page; in the meantime, here's the top of it, ripped off from the book which was the source for this story (Rupert Murdoch: A Paper Prince. By George Munster. Viking. 1985).

Part of The Australian's first front page, July 15, 1964

The Australian drew some criticism for its early content, but its design scared the bejesus out of the competition. It was considered the most open, modern design of any paper in the country. The designer was Guy Morrison, who still lives in Sydney and who I'm hoping to interview soon about how he created his new look, which is credited with bringing about some of the most significant changes in Australia-wide newspaper design.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Visiting the shrink

On the Testy Copy Editors board this week, someone asks: "Can anyone speculate as to why a paper would go from broadsheet to tab? I don't know the economics involved, but from a PR standpoint ("bigger is better") it seems backwards to me."
It's a current trend around the world, but one that also has history...
Many Australian papers went tabloid in the early 1900s to be competitive with popular entertainment, such as cinema. And during World War II, there were more basic, practical reasons. Newsprint was rationed and the shift to the smaller size seemed logical. Ezra Norton, whose Daily Mirror had controversially launched after rationing began, pushed for a uniform size for all Australian newspapers; he enlisted support from the Department of Trade and Customs, but Fairfax's Rupert Henderson objected directly to the Prime Minister: "A reduction of all newspapers to a flat level of so many pages per week would necessarily eliminate [differences in the style and function of the papers], and bring all papers to a dead level of type and function -- one which would necessarily be the more popular, more rigidly compressed, and the more heavily displayed type of newspaper. This, we submit, would not only be against the public interest, but would be unfair to those papers which over a period of many years have succeeded in building up their appeal, character and service to the public, along certain lines."
A newsprint pool was formed and the issue of size left to the individual papers. Many, including Sydney's Daily Telegraph, went tabloid; the Tele never returned to its broadsheet format. But the SMH and other papers chose to retain their broadsheet formats while reducing the number of pages and restricting circulation.
Source: Souter, Gavin, A Company of Heralds, MUP, 1981

The Sydney Morning Herald put news on its front page for the first time on April 15, 1944. It was the second-last Australian metropolitan newspaper to do so (the last was The West Australian). The last newspaper in the country to shift the ads inside and put news on the front was the Bombala Times, NSW, on February 14, 1985.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Who says white space isn't journalistic?

The Australian press hit back at war-time censorship in April 1944. It was perhaps the most creative and journalistic use of white space our papers have ever employed:
Open defiance started at Sydney's Daily Telegraph, which began leaving spaces throughout stories to indicate that material had been removed by the censor. The battle escalated on April 16, 1944, when the Sunday Telegraph left the first two columns of its front page blank except for headshots of Rupert Henderson, the Fairfax general manager whose statement on censorship had been fully censored, and Arthur Calwell, Minister for Information, whose department issued censorship orders. The headshots were accompanied by a box (centred in the white space), which read: "A Free Press-? The great American Democrat Thomas Jefferson said: 'Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe'." Police were sent to the Telegraph printing dock to seize (at gunpoint) all copies that had not yet been distributed. Calwell's office then tried to ban the use of white space. But it was too late to stop the war against censorship. Other newspapers took up the cause with a vengeance the next day, devoting much of their front and inside space to the issue. That day, police impounded editions of the Sun and Daily Mirror in Sydney, the Herald in Melbourne and the News in Adelaide. The papers asked the High Court for an injunction against the Chief Censor on the grounds that he had no authority to kill the publication of lawful material, such as the Henderson statement. The court agreed and the government backed down.
Sources: A Company of Heralds, Gavin Souter, MUP, 1981, pp237-251; A Newspaper History of Australia, Nic van Oudtshoorn, Rigby, 1982, pp110-113.

The Daily Telegraph, April 17, 1944, published the censored cover of The Sunday Telegraph, together with several pages of scathing articles about the Chief Censor's "scandalous abuse of power".

Some pix from The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (1803-1842)

The front page of the first edition of The Sydney Gazette (March 5, 1803). The paper measured nine x 13 inches

The original Gazette masthead woodcut

This woodcut replaced the oval in the Gazette's masthead on June 20, 1804

The final masthead for The Sydney Gazette (1842). I confess to preferring the former one - it's cuter.

These days we can tell which story is the lead from the heading size, but early papers used other clues. This woodcut appeared over the Gazette's lead article in each edition from September 16, 1824

More time on the timeline...

Okay, so it was a bit ambitious to suggest I'd have the timeline up already. I'm only done formatting 400 entries out of about 1600, and those 1600 are still very incomplete. But when I get 800 done I'll put up what I've got and update it regularly. What I'm mostly missing is info about provincial and regional newspapers which have come and gone...
Interesting books I read last week:
Brodsky, Isadore: The Sydney Press Gang, Bloxham & Chambers, 1974
Van Oudtshoorn, Nic: A Newspaper History of Australia, Rigby, 1982
Erdos, Renee: The Sydney Gazette 1803-1842, Longmans, 1961
Souter, Gavin: Heralds and Angels: The House of Fairfax 1841-1990, MUP, 1991

Am halfway through Souter's A Company of Heralds... his first book on the Fairfax papers and the people who worked on them.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004


I hope to post my timeline of Australian newspapers here by the end of the week. There are still a lot of gaps to fill; corrections and additions will be most welcome.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Death sentence commuted to life in Aussie newsroom

I'm still looking for info on the type of fount used (or the fount of type) and the ink-making process, but here's a brief tale about Australia's first paper:

Australia’s first newspaper, a magazine-sized weekly, was produced by a convict, George (Happy) Howe, under "the authority of" the colonial governor who had editorial control. Howe had been sentenced to death for robbing a store; his sentence was commuted to exile "for the term of his natural life" in the colonies and he was sent to New South Wales aboard the Royal Admiral in 1800. After securing a job as the government printer, Howe went to work producing the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, which first appeared on Saturday, March 5, 1803. It was a one-man operation. Howe researched and wrote the copy, drew the layouts, set the type, sourced paper and printed it using ink he had to make himself (and all at his own expense), then made the deliveries to his 300 subscribers, from whom he had the added task of collecting payment. The four-page Gazette was laid out in three columns using an understocked fount. The A on the masthead was created using an inverted V and the W using two overlapped Vs; throughout the paper, ƒ represents s. The page rules were done by hand and not what we'd exactly call "straight". Paper stock depended on whatever he could get hold of - the first editions were on different coloured sheets; some were undersized sheets that Howe pasted together before printing. His first edition contains his own advertisement seeking cheap, even slightly damaged or mildewed, paper.

The editor of Western Australia’s first newspaper (still seeking the name), which ran for a whopping three weeks in 1829, took the easy way out, handwriting the paper and publishing it by securing it to a tree.

Today I got a bit sidetracked...

Saturday, June 05, 2004

I have a TON of info; only a few more hundred tons to go

I am merging several media timelines. When I'm done, I'm going to identify major periods of change in news design in Oz. I also intend to highlight people and events through anecdotes throughout the book. Keith Murdoch is definitely one. World War II rationing is another because it had a major impact on the look of the news during and after the war. I also want to obtain first edition and contemporary pages from all Australian current (mainstream) papers and do a then and now analysis of them.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Newspaper design

I am researching the history of newspaper design in Australia. If anyone out there ever comes across anything which might be of use to me (not necessarily about Australian news design), I hope you'll contact me. I will update this blog whenever I have new information.

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