Table Talk was a Melbourne weekly newspaper founded by prominent Jewish journalist Maurice Brodzky (1847–1919). Subtitled ‘A Journal for Men and Women’, it was a product of the boom culture of ‘Marvellous Melbourne’, chronicling the activities of the city’s social elite.
The first issue of 26 June 1885 was an immediate sensation. Under Brodzky’s editorship, political and financial news combined with short fiction, serials, poetry, sketches and a detailed social gazette to make the relatively expensive paper (sixpence) extremely popular. Close attention to fashion and society gossip—particularly political and financial scandals during the 1890s depression—helped Table Talk maintain its circulation, while advertising revenues meant it was financially viable.
Though imitative of similar European and British papers, Table Talk was noted for its daring approach, and attracted attention from international visitors to the 1888 Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition. Its cosmopolitan nature provided Melburnians with an important point of connection with the wider world, and served to mitigate the ‘tyranny of distance’. Particular attention was paid to the comings and goings of international celebrities, visiting American and European theatre companies and the success of Australian artists abroad.
Profusely illustrated with woodcuts and cartoons (including work by Will Dyson), Table Talk also pioneered printed photography on 6 January 1888, then sporadically until perfection of the technology in 1896–99. Images and advertisements of the latest fashions populated Table Talk’s pages, as did portraits of society notables, prominent artists and actors.
When Brodzky went bankrupt in April 1903, Table Talk was purchased by Edgerton & Moore publishers for £15 and, following a month’s hiatus, reappeared on 29 May, reduced in price to threepence. The paper was eventually acquired by the Herald (managed by Sir Keith Murdoch), which toned down its content.
Table Talk gave considerable attention to sporting and leisure activities. It particularly catered for women, whose participation in sport was encouraged by successive ‘ladies’ correspondents’.
The journal maintained its popularity into the 1920s, when the emerging jazz culture received particular attention. Perhaps because of this ability to adapt, Table Talk outlived many of its competitors—such as Melbourne Punch, which it absorbed in 1925.
In the wake of the Great Depression and falling advertising revenue, publication ceased on 14 September 1939.
REFs: M. Cannon, The Land Boomers (1995); P. Parés, ‘First Take: Photo Images in Early Australian Print Media’, Australian Studies in Journalism, 10/11 (2001–02).