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Panpa Bulletin : June 2006
June 2006 PANPA BULLETIN | 45 Canberra had given a lukewarm reception to the evening Canberra News, which Fairfax (publisher of the morning Canberra Times) launched on November 12, 1969. The News closed on July 19, 1974 and the Canberra Times engaged in various cost-cutting exercises, such as sacking sporting stringers. Newcastle lost its evening news- paper, the Newcastle Sun, on July 4, 1980. It had been published since 1918 (or 1916 if you acknowledge that it was merely a continuation of the Northern Times). Other inklings of drastic shakeout in evening publication in the capital cities came from the regions. Innisfail's Evening Advocate ceased daily issue on September 28, 1973, and became a tri-weekly. It had appeared daily since 1940. Dubbo's Daily Liberal changed from afternoon to morn- ing publication on September 24, 1984, and the Goulburn Evening Post changed on October 12, 1987, dropping the Evening part of its title. In the capitals, the 'death in the afternoon' notices began appear- ing the year after the new cross- media ownership laws were en- acted, a year after Murdoch had taken over the Herald and Weekly Times Ltd and set in train the so- called 'great media shake-up'. The first domino to topple was Brisbane's Telegraph, established in 1872 and closed on February 5, 1988. Ten days later, the morning Daily Sun, established by Rupert Murdoch in 1982 in head-to-head rivalrywith the Courier-Mail, shift- ed to the vacant afternoon slot. In Sydney, on March 14, 1988, the Fairfax group, which had been 'privatised' by young Warwick Fairfax, closed the afternoon Sun, established in 1910 (but with an earlier life from 1887 as the Aus- tralian Star), leaving the field clear for the Daily Mirror. Rupert 'Rags' Henderson, managing director of the Fairfax group, had sold the Mirror to Murdoch in 1960 (with- out the approval of Sir Warwick Fairfax), thinking it would break him. The Sun was closed the day after the Times on Sunday (the former National Times) had said goodbye. Back in the regions, the Mait- land Mercury changed from af- ternoon to morning publication on June 5, 1989, and Shepparton's News changed on August 6, 1990. The Goulburn Post, a daily since 1927, became a tri-weekly in No- vember 1996 and continues thus. Its circulation rose from 3970, as a daily, in 1995 to 4607, as a tri- weekly, in 2005. Next afternoon domino to fall in the capitals was Perth's Daily News, established in 1882 and closed on September 11, 1990. It had had several ownership chang- es since 1987. Sydney and Melbourne ceased to have afternoon dailies when Murdoch amalgamated his two Sydney dailies as the Daily Tel- egraph-Mirror and his two Mel- bourne dailies as the Herald-Sun from October 8, 1990. They were announced as '24-hour newspa- pers' with editions at various times of the morning and afternoon, but the focus was on delivering the news before breakfast. The afternoon editions were gradually discarded, as was the hyphen in the Melbourne title (it became the Herald Sun) and the Mirror in the Sydney title (it be- came simply the Daily Telegraph from January 1996). Before 1991 was out, the death notice appeared for the Brisbane Sun, the paper that had jumped from the morning to the after- noon slot when the Telegraph closed nearly four years earlier. The Sun closed on December 10, 1991 (only five days before Conrad Black's Tourang consortium won control of the Fairfax newspaper empire). The last-remaining paid-circu- lation afternoon daily in Australia was Adelaide's News, which had been the foundation stone for Rupert Murdoch's worldwide me- dia empire. The News, established in 1923, closed on March 27, 1992. Since February 5, 2001, there has been a free afternoon com- muter daily in Melbourne, News Ltd's mX (Fairfax's short-lived Mel- bourne Express, launched on the same date, appeared in the morn- ing). News launched the Sydney mX on July 4, 2005. The target market is aged 18-34. (New Zealand, with different so- cial, geographic and climatic fac- tors, still has 17 paid-circulation evening dailies.) With the benefit of hindsight, it can be seen that the NT News acted wisely when it shifted to morning publication, for the second time, on Monday, July 29, 1991. The pa- per promised that copies would be in Tennant Creek by about 9.30am, Alice Springs by noon and Nhulun- buy by 1.30pm. Clearly, one of the advantages of the change would be that readers in wide parts of the Territory would be able to buy the paper on the day that it was issued, rather than a day later in some instances for the afternoon paper. The cover price rose from 50c to 60c when the publication change was made. Managing editor Don Kennedy said until the change, the NT News was "probably the only afternoon newspaper in Australia still in- creasing its circulation". The cir- culation has risen from 14,375 in 1980 to 16,993 in 1985 and 19,729 in 1990. So why change? "With the ex- perience of afternoon newspapers elsewhere, the Northern Territory News would have been vulner- able if a morning competitor was launched," Kennedy wrote. "And in a market where desktop publish- ing has meant the start-up of pe- ripheral publications in Darwin, the possibility was coming closer. "The News would either have had to go morning in response or fight on as an afternoon -- and his- tory shows the latter would have had little chance of long-term suc- cess. Either way, the paper would have been on the back foot. Anoth- er factor was that, in the past four years, the Northern Territory News had gone from being a true after- noon paper, publishing one edition at 2pm, to the usual hybrid, pub- lishing a first edition at 10.30am, then a second in the afternoon." Circulation figures showed that the earlier the morning edition reached the streets, the more pa- pers were sold. A survey of NT News readers in 1990 showed an over- whelming preference for a morn- ing newspaper. And so the change was made. The circulation today hovers around 24,000. rod Kirkpatrick is Program Director, Journalism, at the university of Queensland. * I wish to acknowledge the assistance of Ian Morris, of the national library of australia, Victor Isaacs, of Canberra, and Gavin ellis, of new Zealand, in various aspects of the research that led to this article. Northern Territory News . . .Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin on December 24, 1974. On Christmas morning the NT News was like a pub with no beer. It was a newspaper with a huge story, but no way of telling it. On December 26, six News journalists got together and, using a small printing machine in police headquarters, produced a two-page news-sheet, listing the dead and injured and detailing evacuation