Sidney Edwin Hocking (1859–1935), a blacksmith’s son born at Nairne, South Australia, laid the foundations in 1894 of a 76-year newspaper ownership dynasty on the eastern goldfields of Western Australia. Educated at Prince Alfred College, Adelaide, Hocking joined the South Australian Advertiser as a general reporter in 1874 and later worked as a mining reporter, first for the Advertiser, and later for Sydney, Melbourne and Perth papers at Teetulpa, Baker’s Creek, Hillgrove, Broken Hill and Coolgardie. He first ventured into newspaper ownership when he formed a company with James MacCallum Smith (1868–1939) to launch the Western Australian Goldfields Courier as a weekly at Coolgardie on 8 September 1894. It was only the second goldfields newspaper, surviving until 1898. Just 24 days after starting the weekly, Hocking and Smith started the daily Golden Age, which continued until 1896.
At Kalgoorlie, 40 kilometres away, where Decimus and Stanley Mott were displeased with the progress of the goldfields, Hocking inspected Hannan’s field and was so impressed he offered the Motts £250 for the Western Argus (1894–1936). They accepted eagerly. Within weeks, the Great Boulder mine began achieving returns that made the district famous as the Golden Mile.
In a little hessian humpy, with a small hand press, Hocking and Smith launched a daily newspaper, the Kalgoorlie Miner, on 14 September 1895; within five years, the business was housed in a three-storey building. Hocking and his brother, Percy Stuart (1862–1900), who had joined the partnership, ran the company’s Kalgoorlie office and Smith managed the Coolgardie papers. The Hockings bought Smith’s interest in the Kalgoorlie paper for £500 in March 1896, and renamed the company Hocking and Co. Smith retained the two Coolgardie papers.
In November 1895, the Hockings appointed John Waters Kirwan (1869–1949) editor and later made him a partner. He edited the Miner for 30 years, was elected to both the Western Australian and federal parliaments, and was knighted in 1930. The Western Argus was loaded with news, district correspondence, short stories and pictures. Percy Hocking, manager of the Miner, died on 8 March 1900. Sid Hocking became the managing director. When he died in January 1935, his three sons took charge: Jack Kyle in the editorial department and as overall manager, Percy Stuart in the mechanical department and Ernest Nicholas (Ning) in the business department.
The Hocking family’s control of the Miner ended in April 1970 when West Australian Newspapers Ltd, a subsidiary of Melbourne’s Herald and Weekly Times, acquired the company. Jack Kyle Hocking managed the Miner until December 1974. The paper has been the only Western Australian provincial daily since 1931.
Martin Charles Hocking (1858–1927), a brother of the Miner’s founder, was a literary writer for the Adelaide Advertiser from the late 1870s, and was sports editor for about 30 years. He also wrote a column for the Sydney Referee and Sunday Times, and contributed to Western Australian newspapers.
REFs: N. King, The Voice of the Goldfields (1995); R. Kirkpatrick, ‘Hocking Family Struck a Rich Newspaper Lode at Kalgoorlie’, PANPA Bulletin (April 2005).