The Northern Star and Richmond and Tweed Rivers Advocate was launched in Lismore, New South Wales on 13 May 1876 by William Kelleway, a former editor of the Clarence and Richmond Examiner in nearby Grafton.
The Northern Star advocated for the advancement of Lismore’s residents, arguing that ‘we shall at the same time be forwarding our own’. But in two years Kelleway took no more than £5 in job printing, and survived largely because of his agricultural work. In 1877 he advocated the formation of a country press association, and the following year a direct competitor emerged: the Lismore Chronicle.
The Northern Star switched from weekly to bi-weekly publication in 1882. The paper’s premises burned down in 1883, and the newspaper relocated to the corner of Market and Molesworth Streets. In 1885, Kelleway finally made a profit from the Northern Star.
In 1889, Kelleway and his son, Cyril, sold the plant and goodwill of the Northern Star to Thomas George Hewitt, another former editor of the Examiner. (The two papers supplied each other with local news from their respective towns.) The Northern Star went tri-weekly in 1901, and became a daily in 1907.
In 1921, Northern Star Limited was formed to acquire the newspaper from the estate of Hewitt, who had died in 1915. The new corporate structure allowed the establishment of a significant chain of newspapers, with the company acquiring part or full control of the Kyogle Examiner, the Richmond River Express (Casino), the Daily News (Murwillumbah) and the Daily Examiner (Grafton).
The Northern Star missed publication for the first time when the plant was flooded on 11–13 June 1948. Following another flood in February 1954, a new site was developed at Goonellabah. Douglas Clifford (Cliff) Murray, editor from 1949 to 1977, placed ‘total emphasis’ on district and area news.
The various newspapers, together with radio and television interests held at that time, were brought together under the umbrella of Northern Star Holdings Limited in 1964. Provincial Newspapers (Qld) Ltd bought the company for $80 million on 22 October 1987.
The Northern Star has won two Walkley Awards, including for Best Story in a Provincial Newspaper in 1982 by Peter Ellem, a first-year cadet writing about the sinking of Japanese submarines off the NSW north coast during World War II. In 2013, the paper recorded a circulation of 9723 on weekdays and 16,438 on Saturdays.
REFs: R. Kirkpatrick, Country Conscience (2000); J.E. McNaught (comp.), Lismore City (2011).
BRIDGET GRIFFEN-FOLEY and JANET E. MCNAUGHT