The Bulletin (Australian periodical)

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The Bulletin
The Bulletin Feb2007.jpg
Front cover of the 13 February 2007 edition
Editor-in-ChiefJohn Lehmann
CategoriesNews magazine
Year founded1880
Final issueJanuary 2008
Company Australian Consolidated Press
Based inSydney
ISSN 1440-7485

The Bulletin was an Australian magazine first published in Sydney on 31 January 1880. The publication's focus was politics and business, with some literary content, and editions were often accompanied by cartoons and other illustrations. The views promoted by the magazine varied across different editors and owners, with the publication consequently considered either on the left or right of the political spectrum at various stages in its history. The Bulletin was highly influential in Australian culture and politics until after the First World War, and was then noted for its nationalist, pro-labour, and pro-republican writing.


It was revived as a modern news magazine in the 1960s, and after merging with the Australian edition of Newsweek in 1984 [1] was retitled The Bulletin with Newsweek. It was Australia's longest running magazine publication until the final issue was published in January 2008. [2]

Early history

Lithographer at work creating the masthead for The Bulletin in 1880 Lithographer at work, 1880.jpg
Lithographer at work creating the masthead for The Bulletin in 1880

The Bulletin was founded by J. F. Archibald and John Haynes, with the first issue being published in 1880. [3] The original content of The Bulletin consisted of a mix of political comment, sensationalised news, and Australian literature. [4] For a short period in 1880, their first artist William Macleod was also a partner. [5] [6]

In the early years, The Bulletin played a significant role in the encouragement and circulation of nationalist sentiments that remained influential far into the next century. Its writers and cartoonists regularly attacked the British, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Jews, and Aborigines. [7] In 1886, editor James Edmond changed The Bulletin's nationalist banner from "Australia for Australians" to "Australia for the White Man". [4] An editorial, published in The Bulletin the following year, laid out its reasons for choosing such banners: [8]

By the term Australian we mean not those who have been merely born in Australia. All white men who come to these shores—with a clean record—and who leave behind them the memory of the class distinctions and the religious differences of the old world ... all men who leave the tyrant-ridden lands of Europe for freedom of speech and right of personal liberty are Australians before they set foot on the ship which brings them hither. Those who ... leave their fatherland because they cannot swallow the worm-eaten lie of the divine right of kings to murder peasants, are Australian by instinct—Australian and Republican are synonymous.


As The Bulletin evolved, it became known as a platform for young and aspiring writers to showcase their short stories and poems to large audiences. By 1890, it was the focal point of an emerging literary nationalism known as the "Bulletin School", and a number of its contributors, often called bush poets, have become giants of Australian literature. Notable writers associated with The Bulletin at this time include:

A number of notable artists provided illustrations and cartoons for the publication. These include,

According to The Times of London, "It was The Bulletin that educated Australia up to Federation". [10]

In his 1923 novel Kangaroo , English author D. H. Lawrence wrote of a character who reads The Bulletin and appreciates its straightforwardness and the "kick" in its writing: "It beat no solemn drums. It had no deadly earnestness. It was just stoical and spitefully humorous." [11] In The Australian Language (1946), Sidney Baker wrote: "Perhaps never again will so much of the true nature of a country be caught up in the pages of a single journal". The Bulletin continued to support the creation of a distinctive Australian literature into the 20th century, most notably under the editorship of Samuel Prior (1915–1933), who created the first novel competition. [4]

The publication was folio size and initially consisted of eight pages, increasing to 12 pages in July 1880, and had reached 48 pages by 1899. The first issue sold for four pence, later reduced to three pence, and then, in 1883, was increased to six pence. [12]

A Woman's Letter

The Bulletin was seen to be lacking a "gossip column" such as that conducted by "Mrs Gullett" in The Daily Telegraph . [13] W. H. Traill, part-owner of the Bulletin, was aware of the literary talents of his sister-in-law Pattie Lewis, who had been, as "Mab", writing children's stories for the Sydney Mail . He offered the 17-year-old a column to be called A Woman's Letter, which involved reporting on the comings and goings of notable Sydney socialites. In time the column became quite popular, and reportedly the first item looked for in the magazine by both men and women. When Lewis married, it was she who recommended her successor, Ina Wildman, the audacious "Sappho Smith". Seven women wrote the "Woman's Letter" for The Bulletin: [14]

Later era

The literary character of The Bulletin continued until 1961, when it was bought by Australian Consolidated Press (ACP), merged with the Observer (another ACP publication), and shifted to a news magazine format. [4] Donald Horne was appointed as chief editor and quickly removed "Australia for the White Man" from the banner. The magazine was costing ACP more than it made, but they accepted that price "for the prestige of publishing Australia's oldest magazine". [7] Kerry Packer, in particular, had a personal liking for the magazine and was determined to keep it alive. [18]

In 1974, as a result of its publication of a leaked Australian Security Intelligence Organisation paper discussing Deputy Prime Minister Jim Cairns, the Whitlam Government called the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security. [19]

In the 1980s and 1990s, The Bulletin's "ageing subscribers were not being replaced and its newsstand visibility had dwindled". [18] Trevor Kennedy convinced publisher Richard Walsh to return to the magazine. Walsh promoted Lyndall Crisp to be its first female editor, but James Packer then advocated that former 60 Minutes executive producer Gerald Stone be made editor-in-chief. Later, in December 2002, Kerry Packer anointed Garry Linnell as editor-in-chief.

Kerry Packer died in 2005, and in 2007 James Packer sold controlling interest in the Packer media assets (PBL Media) to the private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific. [18] On 24 January 2008, ACP Magazines announced that it was shutting The Bulletin. Circulation had declined from its 1990s' levels of over 100,000 down to 57,000, [7] which has been attributed in part to readers preferring the internet as their source for news and current affairs. [20]


The Bulletin had many editors over its time in print, and these are listed below:

S. H. Prior

Samuel Henry Prior (10 January 1869 – 6 June 1933) was an Australian journalist and editor, best known for his editorship and ownership of The Bulletin. [22] Born in Brighton, South Australia, Prior was educated at Glenelg Grammar School and the Bendigo School of Mines and Industries. He started his career as a teacher, before becoming a mining reporter at the Bendigo Independent. In 1887, he was assigned to Broken Hill, New South Wales, to report on the silver mine. [31] [22] He was briefly editor at the Broken Hill Times and then at its successor, Broken Hill Argus. In 1889, Prior joined the Barrier Miner as editor, remaining in the role for 14 years, [31] during which time he displayed nationalism and championed trade unionism and the Federation of Australia. [22]

After sending some of his work to J. F. Archibald at the Sydney Bulletin, he was appointed finance editor in 1903. [22] In this role, he increased importance of the "Wild Cat" column, a financial and investment news and insights column focused on mining companies, which eventually (by 1923) grew into Wild Cat Monthly. Prior was promoted to associate editor in 1912. In 1914, Archibald sold his shares in The Bulletin to Prior, making Prior the majority shareholder. In 1915, he became the senior editor, in which position he built The Bulletin's reputation for literature and for financial journalism. [22] In 1927, he was sold the remaining shares in The Bulletin and thus became not only its editor but its sole owner and manager. In 1928, he inaugurated the first Bulletin Novel Competition, offering aspiring writers prize money and the publishing of their work in The Bulletin.

Prior remained editor until 1933, when he died from heart disease. In 1935, his son established the S. H. Prior Memorial Prize for a work of Australian literature. Prior's family retained control of the magazine until it was bought by Consolidated Press Ltd in 1960. [22]

Garry Linnell

Garry Linnell joined The Bulletin in 2001 and became editor-in-chief in 2002, when the magazine was already dropping in circulation and running at a loss. On one occasion, Kerry Packer called Linnell to his office, and, when Linnell asked what Packer wanted for The Bulletin, Packer said: "Son, just make 'em talk about it." [32] When former Prime Minister Paul Keating sent Linnell a letter criticising the magazine and calling it "rivettingly mediocre", Linnell published the letter in the magazine, promoted that "Paul Keating Writes for Us", and awarded Keating with "Letter of the Week", with the prize for that being a year's subscription to the magazine. [33] In 2005, Linnell offered a $1.25-million reward to anyone who found an extinct Tasmanian tiger. [18]

Columnists and bloggers

Regular columnists and bloggers on the magazine's website included:

See also

Related Research Articles

J. F. Archibald Australian journalist and publisher

Jules François Archibald, known as J. F. Archibald, baptised John Feltham Archibald,, Australian journalist and publisher, was co-owner and editor of The Bulletin during the days of its greatest influence in Australian politics and literary life. He was also the founder and namesake of the annual Archibald Prize art award.

<i>The Australian Womens Weekly</i> Australian magazine

The Australian Women's Weekly, sometimes known as simply The Weekly, is an Australian monthly women's magazine published by Mercury Capital in Sydney. For many years it was the number one magazine in Australia before being outsold by the Australian edition of Better Homes and Gardens in 2014. As of February 2019, The Weekly has overtaken Better Homes and Gardens again, coming out on top as Australia's most read magazine. The magazine invested in the 2020 film I Am Woman about Helen Reddy, feminist icon and activist. Editor-in-chief Nicole Byers told Film Ink "Helen’s story of adversity and triumph is nothing short of inspirational. The Weekly has been telling stories of iconic Australian women for more than 80 years and we're delighted to be supporting the film production".

Ernestine Hill Australian journalist, travel writer and novelist

Ernestine Hill was an Australian journalist, travel writer and novelist.

<i>TV Week</i> Australian magazine

TV Week is a weekly Australian magazine that provides television program listings information and highlights, as well as television-related news.

Donald Horne Australian journalist and academic

Donald Richmond Horne was an Australian journalist, writer, social critic, and academic who became one of Australia's best known public intellectuals, from the 1960s until his death.

Robert Clyde Packer, usually known as Clyde Packer, was the son of Australian newspaper magnate Frank Packer and the elder brother of media baron Kerry Packer. From 23 April 1964 to 22 April 1976 he was a Member of the New South Wales Legislative Council for the Liberal Party. Packer was originally intended to be his father's heir before a falling-out in 1972 resulted in Kerry inheriting the family business in 1974 upon Frank's death.

William Henry Traill Australian journalist and politician

William Henry Traill was an Australian journalist and politician, commonly referred to as W. H. Traill. He was an early editor and for a period the principal proprietor of The Bulletin in Sydney.

Alfred Stephens Australian writer and literary critic

Alfred George Stephens was an Australian writer and literary critic, notably for The Bulletin. He was appointed to that position by its owner, J. F. Archibald in 1894.

George Lewis Becke Australian author

George Lewis Becke was an Australian Pacific trader, short story writer and novelist.

William Macleod

William Macleod, was an Australian artist and a partner in The Bulletin. He was described as generous, hospitable, a 'big man with a ponderous overhang of waistfront, a trim, grey beard, the curling moustachios of a cuirassier, and brown, kindly eyes gleaming through his spectacles'.

Coral Magnolia Lansbury was an Australian-born feminist writer and academic. Working in the United States from 1969 until her death, she became Distinguished Professor of English and Dean of Graduate Studies at Rutgers University.

Sophie Cunningham is an Australian writer and editor based in Melbourne.

AustLit: The Australian Literature Resource, usually referred to simply as AustLit, is an internet-based, non-profit collaboration between researchers and librarians from Australian universities, led by the University of Queensland (UQ), designed to comprehensively record the history of Australian literary and story-making cultures. AustLit is an encyclopaedia of Australian writers and writing.

Samuel Prior Australian journalist (1869–1933)

Samuel Henry Prior, was an Australian journalist, manager and editor of The Bulletin.

"The Brass Guitar" is the seventh television play episode of the second season of the Australian anthology television series Australian Playhouse. "The Brass Guitar" was written by Oriel Gray and originally aired on ABC on 31 July 1967 in Melbourne and on 4 September 1967 in Sydney,

Richard Walsh is an Australian publisher, editor, company director, media consultant, lecturer, broadcaster and journalist. For many years he ran the publishing and bookselling firm Angus & Robertson and later he headed the media company Australian Consolidated Press. In those roles he was "one of the most dominant figures in Australian publishing from the early seventies".

Lala Fisher Australian poet, writer and editor

Mary Lucy "Lala" Fisher, née Richardson; was an Australian poet, writer and editor.

The Bookfellow

The Bookfellow was a monthly English language journal published in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. The publication's focus was Australian literature and editions were often accompanied by illustrations.

Alexina Maude Wildman, also known as Ina Wildman, was an Australian journalist and columnist, known for writing weekly columns for The Bulletin magazine under her pen name "Sappho Smith". The first of her weekly columns appeared in the magazine on 28 April 1888. The column was written as a letter to "my dear Moorabinda," headed with a cartoon image of an old woman. The column contained a variety of information about current events, often portrayed in a sarcastic, critical way. It was the first gossip column in Sydney. Wildman's last column appeared on 22 August 1896, a few months before her death from nephritis in Waverley, New South Wales.

Pattie Fotheringhame, née Lewis, commonly referred to as Mrs J. Fotheringhame, was a journalist in Sydney, Australia, who wrote for The Bulletin as "Mab". She has been described as Sydney's first woman journalist.


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Further reading