DAILY NEWS (PERTH)
The Perth Daily News opened with a wordy flourish on 26 July 1882 and continued as an afternoon daily for the next 107 years.
It was the first daily newspaper in Western Australia, but its provenance could be traced back to local newspapers from the 1840s, including the Inquirer and Commercial News. The first editor of the Daily News, Horace Stirling, was one of three brothers who controlled the publishing company Stirling Bros. In typical Victorian-era journalese, he announced that his paper would ‘satisfy the need of the public mind for the earliest information of the latest occurrences’. This could mean sending off pigeons carrying news of the latest gold strike. Almost to the end, Daily News journalists tried to follow their inaugural editor’s dictum.
The Kalgoorlie gold strike happened in 1893. To provide the ‘earliest information’ for an increasing number of readers, a survey-or-turned-journalist, Arthur Lovekin (1859– 1931), was sent to London to purchase a rotary press and a number of linotype machines. Both were firsts for the colony. He had also, in 1912, provoked the first Australian newspaper strike among his journalists concerning wages relativity. Lovekin lost with good grace and put on a celebratory dinner for his staff. He became editor on his return from London in 1894 and sole owner in 1916. He was a ‘private conservative’ but his newspaper promoted progressive topics. Lovekin sold his company to the Adelaide News in 1926.
In 1935, West Australian Newspapers Limited (WAN) took over the financial but not editorial control of the Daily News. The following year, the paper entered a golden age when James Macartney (1911–77) became editor. He boosted the paper’s daily readership with a lively format, unusual angles and frequent changes to pages between editions. The latest sporting results appeared in a rapidly changing ‘Stop Press’.
By the time of World War II, circulation had doubled and Macartney had shifted the paper’s focus from overseas battles to survival at home. The ‘Home Front’ feature was headed by freethinker Gavin Casey. Two members of the proscribed Communist Party, Bill Irwin and Joan Thomas (later Williams), helped.
Macartney was not averse to taking risks. By 1942, he was flying RAAF Catalinas on marathon patrols but still found time to visit the newspaper office and tinker with layouts and stories. Macartney resumed his editorship in 1945. He signed up Bernie Kirwan Ward as the back-page ‘Peepshow’ columnist, and Paul Rigby, an unknown illustrator, as cartoonist. It was a masterful pairing that resulted in a circulation increase to 135,000 by the 1970s. Police roundsman Jack Coulter broke most stories, while Bonnie Giles, under the pseudonym ‘Mary Ferber’, added ‘hard news’ to the women’s pages.
Meanwhile the red caps of the newspaper boys and the posters tied to light poles were part of the Perth street scene. Macartney served as managing editor (1951–60) and then managing director (1960–69) of WAN. From 1960 to 1986, the Saturday edition became the Weekend News, initially to counter the decision of the Perth Sunday Times, by now under Rupert Murdoch, to publish a Saturday evening edition.
Heavily promoted evening television news sessions meant that afternoon newspapers throughout Australia in the 1980s lost circulation, and many folded. This was also company takeover time. WAN, which now wholly owned the Daily News, was taken over by Alan Bond’s Bell Group. Bell was forced to sell the Daily News to meet federal anti-monopoly laws. A small local company bought it in 1986. Debts mounted as readership continued to fall. Sir Albert ‘Larry’ Lamb, the British ‘tabloid doctor’, was called in, but his old prescription of page three girls and sensationalist stories did nothing to improve sales—particularly among women. The final edition came out on 11 September 1990. An attempt by WAN in the Federal Court to have anti-monopoly provisions eased so that it could resume ownership also failed that day. The Daily News left a debt of $15 million, mostly to WAN for production costs.
REF: J. Coulter, By Deadline to Headline (1997).