WALKER, STEPHEN DANIEL MALLIKOFF
Stephen Walker knew newspapers from the bottom up—he was a run boy, printer’s devil, compositor, overseer, editor, manager and owner. Without any advantage of birth, Walker wrote what long-time editor George Groom described as ‘one of the most brilliant chapters in Queensland Newspaperdom’.
Walker began with the Bundaberg Mail (est. 1876), where he rose to become overseer. In 1893, he helped start the labour newspaper, the Bundaberg Guardian. There he developed his 484 walkley awards journalistic skills under a great labour editor, Henry Boote. The Guardian survived only 18 months and Walker soon rejoined the Bundaberg Mail, this time in the literary department; soon he became the editor. In October 1907, the Mail became a daily because an opposition paper, the Daily News, was about to be launched. In March 1908, Walker joined the Daily News as editor and eventually became the owner.
During his 17 years with the News, he became an expert on the sugar industry and fought for the ordinary Australian. Walker’s advocacy of sugar-cane causes won such wide support that his advice on major issues in the industry was sought by Prime Minister Andrew Fisher, Premier T.J. Ryan, and other community leaders. Walker was regarded as the author of important Queensland cane-prices legislation. He made the Daily News a ‘people’s paper—one that never looked with any favour upon vested interests’. It reflected ‘the ideals and character of a great democrat and a greater Australian’. In Groom’s view, the News was bought mainly because it was ‘Steve Walker’s paper’. Within three months of his death in 1925, the News was acquired by and amalgamated with the Mail. That paper survives as the Bundaberg NewsMail.
REFs: R. Kirkpatrick, Sworn to No Master (1984) and interview with W.H.G. Groom, 1981.