NEWSPAPER FORMATS AND DESIGN
Sydney was under authoritarian rule when the first Australian newspaper was published there in 1803. Only 15 per cent of Sydney’s population of 7000 were free citizens and the Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser was published ‘by authority’. It carried government standing orders and commercial advertising, with some news, all subject to the governor’s veto. The pages were printed on an old screw press, the hand-set type was worn, and the paper was scarce and varied in size. To produce a legible newspaper was an achievement; design was an afterthought. Technological challenges often limited the Gazette to two pages, as it did effectively from 1806 until 1812.
Most colonial newspapers began with four pages—even the Sydney Herald (est. 1831, later the Sydney Morning Herald), the Melbourne Argus (1846) and the Hobart Mercury (1854)— with the front and back pages generally devoted to advertisements and public notices. Some advertisements were booked for three months, so their type could be left standing. It was simpler to print pages 1 and 4 first, and the inside news pages later. The single-column headings were often labels, such as ‘Local and General’, ‘Country News’ or ‘English News’, above a series of items, often divided only by white space. In January 1901, Sydney’s Herald was still using only single-column headings when it reported Federation and the death of Queen Victoria.
The long, narrow news columns generally began with an editorial, or ‘leading article’. Newspapers were generally differentiated by their views rather than news. Many Australian newspapers made only minimal changes to format and design during the 19th century, generally through changing typefaces or sizes. In the decade or so before World War I, the Herald increased its range of heading types and allowed more white space above and below its headings. The Herald stuck largely to single-column headings until World War I, although when the Boer War ended in June 1902 it ran a four-column headline with seven decks. Even when the Herald began regular use of double-column headlines and introductory paragraphs, most stories still appeared with single-column headings. As many as 30 stories appeared on the one page. Other dailies clung to single-column headlines into the 20th century too, although the West Australian accorded a double-column heading to a J. Brunton Stephens poem published on 2 January 1901 to mark Federation.
Newspapers gradually grew in page size as press capacity allowed it. The Herald was generally four pages until the 1850s, although its pages were enlarged, as in 1832, 1834, 1842 and 1854, and its publication frequency increased: it went bi-weekly (1832), tri-weekly (1838), then daily (1841). At times—like most serious papers—it published extra sheets to cope with a sudden influx of news, often with the arrival of the European mails. In the 1860s and 1870s, it was generally eight pages, and 10–12 in the 1880s. It grew gradually in the first half of the 20th century to carry anywhere from 12 to 36 pages a day in 1951, although during World War II the average number fell from 22 in 1939 to 10 in 1943. The Saturday issue of the Herald grew progressively: 92 pages in 1964, 104 in 1967, 112 in 1968, 128 in 1972 and 144 in 1973. In 2000, the Herald was publishing the equivalent of about 330 broadsheet pages of content each Saturday.
The first daily to regularly devote page one to editorial matter was the Sydney Echo (1875–93), which carried the editorial, plus short comments and light paragraphs. The first daily to devote its front page to general news regularly was the Melbourne Herald (1840–1990), from 17 October 1889. Some dailies made page one their main news page from the start. Examples are the Sydney Sun (1910–88), the Melbourne Sun News-Pictorial (1922– ) and the Adelaide News (1923–92). Progressively during the first half of the 20th century, all capital-city dailies converted page one from newspaper formats and design advertising to news. The last, in 1944, was the Sydney Morning Herald, which had been filling the first column of page one with one-sentence summaries of the major news since January 1903.
In early newspapers, illustration was usually confined to the small ‘trade’ blocks used in advertisements, such as the shipping company’s tiny three-masted barque. Illustrated journals began appearing in the 1850s, including the Illustrated Australian Magazine (Melbourne, 1850–52). The Illustrated Sydney News (1853–55) featured portraits and colonial scenes, not news events. Revived in 1864 as a monthly, it presented carefully executed engravings and lithographs of colonial scenes, or sometimes a news event such as bushranger Frank Gardiner’s trial. The Herald began publishing daily weather maps on 5 February 1877. What is believed to have been the earliest half-tone photographic image published in Australia appeared in the Melbourne weekly, Table Talk, on 6 January 1888—a stock photo of a visiting American phrenologist, Jessie Allen Fowler. Half-tone photographs appeared in weeklies such as the Sydney Mail, Illustrated Sydney News, the Bulletin and the Sydney Dead Bird in 1888–89. In the final two or three decades of the 19th century, the weekly newspapers published by dailies included excellent illustrated sections featuring both line drawings and, by 1900, photographs. The Bulletin (1880–2008) and Smith’s Weekly (1919–50) were known as much for their skilled artists and cartoonists as their journalists and writers.
Most of the dailies began to make occasional use of half-tone pictures in the early 1900s. On 21 May 1901, the Brisbane Courier inserted colour portraits of the Duke and Duchess of York during their visit to Australia. In 1906, the Daily Telegraph ventured into half-tone for small portraits. The Melbourne Argus and Age first used half-tone images on 22 April 1908, of the Sunshine train crash that killed 43 people. The Argus on 5 November 1952 was the first daily to use colour printed with the run-of-the-news pages when it published a colour photo of Dalray’s Melbourne Cup win. The Sydney Sunday News (1919–30) claimed to have printed the first three-colour advertisement in a daily or Sunday newspaper on 25 November 1923.
Until the beginning of World War II, most Australian newspapers appeared as broadsheets. From the 1940s, the trend was to tabloid, with papers such as the Argus, the Sydney Sunday Telegraph and the Hobart Mercury changing during the war years. Sydney’s Sun, Perth’s West Australian, Brisbane’s Telegraph, Adelaide’s News and several regional dailies joined the converts before 1950. There was another spate of changes in the late 1990s. The Sydney Morning Herald and Age both changed on weekdays in March 2013 and on weekends in March 2014, leaving the Australian and the Canberra Times as the only broadsheet capital-city dailies.
The advent in 1964 of the national daily, the Australian, looking ‘so clean and professional’ in the view of those at the Canberra Times, prompted others to rethink their design. Sydney Morning Herald editor J.D. Pringle hired Guy Morrison, who had helped design the Australian, to improve layout and typography. Morrison cleared the Herald’s news pages of their old-fashioned types, limited headlines to Century Bold or Century Expanded, and employed wider columns and better layout on the leader page.
In the 1980s, the major broadsheet newspapers introduced weekend magazines. Needing to find room for more advertising in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herald, John Fairfax & Sons introduced Good Weekend in October 1984. Also appearing in the Age, it was the first attempt by an Australian newspaper at the kind of high-gloss colour magazine pioneered in London during the 1960s. The Weekend Australian followed suit in September 1988 with what is now the Weekend Australian Magazine. The other major dailies have also introduced Saturday magazines. All major dailies have inserted tabloid lifestyle lift-outs since the 1980s.
Colour television, introduced in 1975, had a big impact on newspaper design. Newspapers came under pressure to provide colour advertisements and ultimately colour photography, and they soon transformed their pages from the old vertical emphasis to a horizontal emphasis through the use of modular layout. This was facilitated by computers, which soon became revolutionary tools in the newspaper design kit. Improved technology enabled designs to become increasingly sophisticated, especially with the evolution of software such as QuarkXPress and the Adobe Creative Suite. Once newsrooms became comfortable with this style of working, graphic designers soon replaced layout sub-editors.
The internet has impacted hugely on newspaper design, creating a 24-hour news cycle and an audience that devours information from computers, tablets and smartphones. Newspapers, no longer first or even second with the news, now provide information graphics and long-form articles to combat the deficiencies of other media. Social media have allowed people to circulate information informally at speeds that leave a daily newspaper in their wake. To stay in the race, newspapers have developed a library of page templates so articles and pictures can be fed quickly on to their websites. The page templates may apply from paper to paper within a group, such as News Limited, Fairfax Media or APN News and Media. For instance, APN dailies have common national and international news and business pages.
REFs: G. Souter, Company of Heralds (1981); R.B. Walker, The Newspaper Press in New South Wales, 1803–1920 (1976).