DUBBO LIBERAL AND MACQUARIE ADVOCATE
Three newspapers had been launched at Dubbo, about 400 kilometres west of Sydney, and one was still being published, when William Backhouse Dixon began publishing the Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate as a bi-weekly on 8 October 1887; Dixon had published newspapers at Brewarrina and Bourke. The Liberal competed with the Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent, established on 20 January 1866.
Dixon sold the Liberal to William Smart in 1890, and started another paper in Brewarrina in 1891. The Dubbo Liberal changed hands a number of times in the 1890s before William White bought it. He sold it to Abraham Irvine and two partners in April 1905. Irvine, who eventually became the sole proprietor, devoted his skills to building a robust newspaper. In 1930, he entered into a partnership with son Ken and daughter Mirna, and the following year they made the Liberal a tri-weekly. Irvine Senior died in 1946, leaving his children in charge. On 2 April 1949, they sold the paper to Leo Vincent Armati’s Macquarie Publications Pty Ltd. Armati (1882–1962) had been the editor of the Newcastle Sun (1923–34) and the Sydney Sun (1937–42). He also served as the New York- based overseas managing editor of Associated Newspapers Ltd (1942–48).
Armati had bought the Dubbo newspaper at age 67 because he needed a solid income to support his third wife, Patricia, and their two children. He published the Liberal four times a week from 20 September 1949. International news was as likely to lead the front page as stories from Dubbo, Wellington or Nyngan. The Liberal had strong competition from the Dubbo Dispatch, owned by brothers George and Stan Maliphant. Armati expanded by launching newspapers in other western New South Wales towns: Warren (1951), Nyngan (1955) and Cobar (1959). He made the Liberal a daily on 9 September 1957.
On 24 March 1962, Leo Armati died, leaving his third son, John Leo, aged 21, to run the Liberal and the Macquarie Publications group with the oversight of his mother. John changed the Liberal’s title to the Daily Liberal on 17 June 1964, and bought the Dispatch in 1966, closing it in December 1971. On 23 February 1978, the Daily Liberal became the first daily in Australia to use an electronic system for editorial input.
Armati stayed at the forefront of newspaper technology and expanded into high-quality magazine printing. Assisted by a financial interest that John Fairfax & Sons took in Macquarie, Armati greatly expanded the number of newspapers the Macquarie group owned in the 1980s. He bought back the Fairfax interest in 1990, when he sold his printing division to Hannanprint. The Liberal changed to morning issue on 24 September 1984. Armati sold the Liberal and the entire Macquarie Publications group in December 1995 to Rural Press Limited.
REFs: John Armati, ‘Paper and Ink’ (unpublished manuscript); R. Kirkpatrick, Country Conscience (2000) and interviews with John Armati (April 2000, September 2010).