The Sun was a Sydney afternoon newspaper, published from 1910 to 1988.
On 1 December 1887, the Australian Star commenced in opposition to the Evening News. The only Sydney newspaper to support protectionism, the Star launched a Sunday edition, the Sunday Sun, from 5 April 1903. The Star became tabloid size from March 1909 but reverted to broadsheet from January 1910.
Struggling for sales and revenue, the Star, together with the Sunday Sun, was taken over by (Sir) Hugh Denison. With a talented staff headed by Montague Grover, the Sun replaced the Star from 1 July 1910. With its Sunday edition, the Sun claimed to be ‘The only daily paper in Australasia’. The motto of ‘Above all for Australia’ lasted until 1 March 1967. From 1912, it was the first Australian paper to buy cable news from the London Times.
Although the Sun was not, as is often claimed, the first newspaper in Australia to regularly place news on the front page, it had a striking layout. It gave considerable space to news of crime and ‘human interest’, and the 16-page Saturday issue was packed with entertainment. Circulation grew rapidly: from 15,000 in 1910 to 207,000 in 1928. An attempt at expansion to Melbourne in 1922 ended with sale of the Sun News-Pictorial and the Evening Sun to the Herald and Weekly Times in 1925; the Evening Sun was closed.
In March 1931, Sydney’s Evening News (now under the same ownership) also closed, making the Sun as Sydney’s sole afternoon paper, and something of a cash cow. Denison’s Associated Newspapers Ltd made strenuous efforts to ensure this continued, such as paying the Packer family company not to publish a competitor in 1932. On Denison’s death in 1940, Sir John Butters became chairman.
Editorially, the Sun almost always supported conservative political views. On 17 November 1947, it became a tabloid. In August 1953, John Fairfax & Sons acquired a substantial interest in Associated Newspapers. Two months later, the Sunday Sun and Fairfax’s struggling Sunday Herald were merged to form the Sun-Herald. In 1956, Fairfax obtained full ownership of Associated Newspapers.
In May 1941, the Sun had lost its Sydney afternoon monopoly with Ezra Norton’s launch of the Daily Mirror. From then until 1988, there was strong competition. Both titles were notorious for screaming headlines and sensationalism to attract readers. The two papers would often change stories between editions to outdo each other. The Sun shifted downmarket, but never as much as the Mirror.
John Fairfax & Sons acquired the Mirror in 1958, but did not incorporate it into the Sun. In 1960, the company sold the Mirror to Rupert Murdoch. Until the mid-1970s, circulation was about even, but then the Mirror drew ahead.
By the 1980s, the Sun was losing money. However, Fairfax was reluctant to close it, as this would concede victory to the Mirror. In 1984, the Sun was selling 347,000 daily compared to the Mirror’s 361,000. On 14 March 1988, in the aftermath of Warwick Fairfax Junior’s failed attempt to privatise the company, the Sun was closed. According to the John Fairfax Group, it was losing $20 million annually.
REFs: G. Souter, Company of Heralds (1981); R.B. Walker, The Newspaper Press in New South Wales 1803–1902 (1976).