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Panpa Bulletin : August September 2007
52 PANPA Bulletin August-September 2007 The Melbourne City Council recently mounted an exhibition and put out a booklet honouring the 15,000 newsboys who used to sell The Age, The Argus and The Herald on the city streets of Melbourne, at tram stops, under the clocks at Flinders Street station, and outside pubs, theatres and shops. 'Read all about it' was their cry. And this is what we did, putting our twopence into their hot, little hand in exchange for the paper. One of the heroines of that era was Edith Onions who established the City Newsboys Society to "safeguard boys and discour- age them from vicious habits and associ- ates", "to encourage the good in boys and guide them to higher ideals", "to teach boys trades and obtain for them skilled employ- ment" and to "provide a refuge and a place of comfort and inspiration" for the often homeless urchins who earned their crusts from the lowly commission on the sale of the papers and the occasional tip. Miss Onions wrote that "every youngster born into Australia is a potential source of wealth and happiness. If he fails to fulfil his pos- sibilities, we, his parents, his guardians, his government, are as much to blame as he". Countless politicians and football- ers, suburban mayors and union leaders, doctors, lawyers and business men started out as pint-sized entrepreneurs on the city streets. Newsboys were not always looked on with favour. Letters to the town clerk of Melbourne and the newspapers often stig- matised the boys, complaining about the noise they made, their impediment of traf- fic, their appearance "parading the streets in filthy clothes, standing in the middle of the pavements hindering ones progress and emitting loud cries". In a graphic series of photographs, Mark Striczic captured the life of newsboys in the 1950s (now held be the State Library of Victoria). During the 1850s, Melbourne Punch published cartoons depicting both the lighter and the darker side of a typical newsboy's life (now in the Baillieu library of the University of Melbourne). In 1956, The Age ran a leader extolling their newsboy vendors who have now been replaced by the adult sales persons of the Big Paper, a former editor of which is the present editor- in-chief of that newspaper! Two views on the suburbans Mark Day in The Australian has been disparaging of community newspapers: "... the great majority are local throwaways, with limited horizons, normally packed with ads for local businesses and precious little news". That Day's jaundiced view is inaccurate was emphasised in an article in the June 2005 PANPA Bulletin which recorded the findings of a national study of 6500 people in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney by market research- ers Colmar Brunton. This found that 76 per cent of people got their sense of community from their local paper and that 69 per cent of Australians think their community news- paper is the most relevant media for them. The chief executive of Colmar Brunton said he was surprised "at the fervour with which people look at their local newspaper ... that is kept on average for 4.5 days for reference". What should we remember? On Anzac Day 2005, reflecting that "marching veterans are outnumbered by onlookers ... dawn services attract thou- sands ... every year young Australians make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli", Tom Hyland asked "Have we forgotten what to remem- ber?" His question was evoked by the ap- palling suggestion that singer John Farnham should perform at Gallipoli on April 25 and the equally extraordinary promise of the director of Australian War Graves that the service at Gallipoli would be "a multi- media spectacular with a video presenta- tion, poems, classical music and a sound and light show". Hyland was also critical of the dawn service at Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance (of which I was a Trustee for 44 years and Chairman for 17 years), writing that it is a "quasi-religious ritual in a secular faith [whatever that means] ... a sentimen- talised commemoration". I disagree with that comment. Jaspan vindicated It must irk freelance journalist Gideon Haig (who has frequently written for the pa- per), that just before the night The Age was crowned (at the Crown Casino!), by PANPA as the Pacific region's major newspaper of the year, he told ABC radio listeners that under Andrew Jaspan the paper had been "lobotomised". Gideon criticised the op-ed pages as "uninteresting, middle-class lib- eral opinion" and made other disparaging comments, all of which were counteracted by the PANPA judges who said The Age "excelled in content, design, production and campaign journalism", words that made me proud to have been a messenger boy on The Age in the 1930s!. Peter Isaacson is a former publisher and is a life member of PANPA firstname.lastname@example.org Where have all the newsboys gone? publishing matters Historic newsboys, worthy suburbans, Rememberance issues and award winner, with Peter Isaacson. Countless politicians and footballers, suburban mayors and union leaders, doctors, lawyers and businessmen started out as pint-sized entrepreneurs on the city streets.