History of The Examiner

By Julian Burgess
Updated October 31 2012 - 2:53pm, first published June 10 2009 - 2:34am
The Examiner's founder and first editor James Aikenhead.
The Examiner's founder and first editor James Aikenhead.

The Examiner is Australia's third-oldest surviving daily newspaper after the Sydney Morning Herald (1831) and the Geelong Advertiser (1840).As The Launceston Examiner, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser it was first published on Saturday afternoon, March 12, 1842, on a hand press smuggled into Van Diemens Land disguised as brewery machinery.The Examiner was initially located in Brisbane St, Launceston, and had a staff of 12. It now employs more than 150 people. The first three editions of The Examiner were free after which it sold for sixpence, a reasonable sum for the day. Fifty years later it sold for a penny an edition.Like most newspapers of the time it had advertisements on the front page. The Examiner became a bi-weekly later in 1842 with the introduction of a Wednesday afternoon edition and by 1853 it was being published three times a week (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday).The Examiner's founder was local businessman James Aikenhead, who was later joined by Jonathan Stammers Waddell, but Congregationalist minister John West was said to have been the 'principal mover' in its establishment.James Aikenhead was born in Montrose, Scotland, and emigrated to Van Diemens Land in 1834. He worked for a Launceston merchant before helping to establish the Cornwall Fire and Marine Insurance Co. in 1841. He was active in civic affairs as a founder of the Launceston Savings Bank and member of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce. Aikenhead was the editor of The Examiner for 27 years and his son William Aikenhead held the position for the next 10 years.Jonathan Waddell was a printer who arrived in Van Diemens Land in 1833 with members of the Button family who had operated grain milling and tanning businesses in Suffock.Patricia Ratcliff in her book The Usefulness of John West relates the Button family's financial misfortunes in England and the fact that they changed their names to emigrate.Jonathan Waddell and William Button initially established a brewery at Longford on their arrival in northern Van Diemens Land and later owned the Port Dalrymple Brewery in Paterson St near current day Park St.William Button was known as William Williams for the first five or six years of his residency in Launceston. He revealed his true identity, and that of his brother Thomas Button (known as Thomas Lloyd), to his social and business acquaintances in 1839 in a letter explaining their reasons.The deception and subsequent revelations didn't seem to inhibit their business success or social activities. Both were elected to Launceston's first municipal council with William Button serving as Launceston's first mayor from 1853 until 1856.The Reverend John West was 29 when he accepted a post with the Colonial Missionary Society in London to serve in Van Diemens Land. He arrived in Launceston in 1839 where his congregation included the Aikenhead, Button and Waddell families.In the early 1840s greater Launceston had a population of about 10,000 and two main newspapers, the Launceston Advertiser (founded by John Pascoe Fawkner in 1829 and then in the hands of Henry Dowling) and the Cornwall Chronicle (founded by William Mann and William Goodwin but later owned solely by Goodwin).Several other newspapers appeared in Launceston in this period including The Trifler, The Reporter, The Launceston Times, The Guardian, The Teetotal Advocate and the VDL Temperance Herald. The Reverend West wrote the leading article in the first edition of The Examiner attacking convict transportation and its detrimental effect on building a respectable, sound and prosperous society.This began the newspaper's leading role in the anti-transportation campaign which helped unite the Australian colonies and sowed the seeds of the Federation of the Australian states in 1901.John West continued writing the leading article and contributing to The Examiner until 1854 when he resigned as pastor of the St John's Square Chapel to accept the position of editor of the Sydney Morning Herald.In 1848 The Examiner's growth saw its offices move from Brisbane St to larger premises on the east side of Charles St, between Paterson and Brisbane streets.It acquired the Launceston Advertiser in 1847 and a steam-driven press was installed in 1855 which saw it become a broadsheet (similar in size to today's Australian newspaper). In 1857 The Examiner moved to purpose built offices in Paterson St where it operates to this day. Jonathan Waddell's interest in The Examiner passed to his nephew Henry Button in 1858. Button had joined The Examiner staff as an apprentice printer in 1845 about the time his uncle bought an interest in the business.One of his jobs was to write out the delivery labels for the subscribers to each edition of the paper. In 1860 the publishing time was changed from 2pm to 6am and in 1877 The Examiner was published daily. In 1880 it absorbed rival daily paper the Cornwall Chronicle. The Weekly Examiner, which later became The Tasmanian, was published from 1872 until 1895.Additions were made to the Paterson St office in 1888 and the commissioning of the Duck Reach hydro power station on December 10, 1895, saw electricity come to Launceston’s streets, home and businesses, and The Examiner.On March 12, 1896, the paper’s 54th birthday, it became the first printery in the colony of Tasmania to be lit by electricity and have type produced by Linotype machines that replaced hand setting and revolutionised newspaper production.Henry Button retired in 1898 and by the time Alexander Young had retired in 1916 ownership passed solely to William Rolph and his sons. Sir Gordon Rolph and then his son-in-law Edmund Rouse subsequently ran the company.The Examiner's current three storey Edwardian-style building in Paterson Street was built in 1911. The Weekly Courier, a magazine which featured photographs of local and overseas people, news and scenery, was produced from 1901 and 1936. Special publications were regularly produced including annual supplements and pictorial booklets. Commercial printing was an important part of the business.On Monday, September 3, 1939, The Examiner had news on its front page for the first time to announce the declaration of war in Europe. In 1948 The Examiner became a tabloid sized newspaper. Seven day publication began in 1925 with the appearance of The Saturday Evening Express which was published until 1984 when it was replaced by The Sunday Examiner.The company established the radio station 7EX in 1938 and the television station TNT9 in 1962 and in 1969 it became Examiner Northern Television Ltd (ENT). ENT diversified into other businesses and became one of Tasmania’s biggest companies.Edmund Rouse was jailed for three years in 1989 for trying to bribe Labor politician Jim Cox and in August 1990 The Examiner was sold to NSW-based Rural Press Ltd (60 per cent) and Burnie's Harris and Co Ltd, publishers of the Advocate (40 per cent).Rural Press became sole owner of The Examiner in 2004 when it bought Harris and Co Ltd and following the merger of that company with Fairfax Media became part of Fairfax.In 1997 The Examiner Print Centre, a dedicated printing facility was build and commissioned at Rocherlea and in 2000 The Examiner acquired Independent Publishers Tasmania and specialist newspapers Tasmanian Farmer, Tasmanian Senior, In Business Tasmania and Enterprise magazine.Other regular publications produced by The Examiner include Tasmanian Travelways, Explore Magazine, Tamar Times, East Coast News, Northern Midlands News, Meander Valley News and the Launceston Times.From 1996 The Examiner has been active in the establishment of websites and in that year launched Travelways Online, the web version of its bi-monthly travel magazine Tasmanian Travelways.In 1997 it launched www.examiner.com.au along with www.propertyguide.com.au (now   www.domain.com.au) and www.localinfo.net.au followed in 1998 by motoring website www.autoguide.com.au (now www.drive.com.au).In 2000 a new version the www.examiner.com.au went live featuring pay-per-view access to the entire editorial content of the hardcopy. This was a national first and won the 2004 PANPA website award for newspapers with daily circulations of up to 50,000.The latest version of www.examiner.com.au was launched in May 2010 along with an e-edition. The Examiner also delivers news to mobile phones and tablets.The Examiner’s editors have been: James Aikenhead          1842-1869William Aikenhead        1869-1878William Horne  1878-1892Frederick Prichard        1893-1920Stanley Dryden 1920-1933Guy Natusch                1934-1938Rupert John Williams    1938-1966Goodwin Ewence         1966-1976Michael Courtney         1976-1993Rod Scott                     1993-2004Dean Southwell            2004-2008Fiona Reynolds 2008-2010Martin GilmourCurrent

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