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  • 175 years of The West Australian

    January 5 2008 12:38pm (UTC+8)  -  Article by Kevin

    Today marks the 175th anniversary of The West Australian newspaper. The first edition of The Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal was published on Saturday January 5 1833, when Captain James Stirling was still governor of the Swan River colony.

    The West Australian of 2008 has a direct, unbroken line to the journal, which postmaster Charles Macfaull started as a four-page weekly.

    The West Australian is Australia's second-oldest continually produced metropolitan daily newspaper. Only the Sydney Morning Herald, first published as the Sydney Herald in 1831, is older.

    The three columns on the front page of the first Perth Gazette and Western Australian Journal were dedicated to advertisements. News did not replace advertisements on the front page until 1949.

    The paper's name changed four times, becoming The West Australian in 1879 with an initial cover price of threepence. It has been a daily newspaper, published six days a week, since 1885.

    Arthur Shenton became proprietor in 1847, and he renamed it The Perth Gazette and Independent Journal of Politics and News to emphasise its independence. It became Perth Gazette and W.A. Times in 1864 when he bought and folded in rival The West Australian Times.

    A syndicate of prominent settlers bought the paper in 1874, three years after Mr Shenton's death from apoplexy, reportedly caused in part by his imprisonment for contempt of court. It changed the masthead to The Western Australian Times.

    The title was shortened to The West Australian in 1879 after Mr Harper bought it for 1100 pounds and took the editor, Sir Thomas Cockburn-Campbell, and lawyer John Winthrop Hackett as partners. Mr Hackett became business manager and The West soon moved to tri-weekly publication and, in January 1885, to a daily.

    Mr Hackett (later Sir Winthrop) became editor in 1887 and took full ownership after Mr Harper died in 1912. Sir Winthrop died in 1916 and the sale of his assets a decade later left substantial legacies to the University of WA and the Anglican Church - and ownership of The West moved to the public company West Australian Newspapers Ltd.

    New company headquarters at 125 St Georges Terrace were completed in 1933. In 1947, a newsprint crisis prompted a switch from broadsheet to smaller tabloid format for the paper.

    The Melbourne-based Herald and Weekly Times bought WAN in 1969 and sold it to a subsidiary of Robert Holmes a Court's Bell Group in 1987. In 1988, Bond Corp gained control of Bell and moved the paper's offices to 219 St Georges Terrace. The presses moved to Osborne Park.

    After the Bond-Bell collapse, receiver managers of the Bell subsidiary accepted a 1991 offer of $261.4 million from the newly formed West Australian Newspapers Holdings Ltd (WAHN) to buy the printing and publishing assets, headed by The West Australian. WANH was then floated at $1 a share in a heavily oversubscribed offering, which raised $185 million. Its shares listed on the stock exchange in January 1992 and closed yesterday at $12.20, valuing the company at more than $2.5 billion.

    WANH and The West moved to a purpose-built $35 million headquarters beside its press facility in 1998. A new $210 million press and production complex was completed last year.

    Almost one million people will read today's edition of The West Australian, which the newspaper says is the biggest market penetration of any newspaper in Australia.

    The West Australian

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