Herald Sun celebrates 25th anniversary

The Herald Sun celebrated its 25th anniversary this week, with an evening of celebrations last night, and a special print edition today.

The function was held at The Emerson Hotel in South Yarra, and was attended by 400 prominent Victorians.

The Herald Sun is the product of a merger of the Herald and Weekly Times’ afternoon newspaper, The Herald, and its morning newspaper, The Sun-News Pictorial – two iconic Victorian brands.

Its first edition came off the presses on Monday, October 8, 1990, with the front page marking Collingwood’s first grand final win in 32 years.

Dame Elisabeth Murdoch, the widow of Sir Keith, the formidable editor who expanded the Herald and Weekly Times into a national newspaper, television and radio group, pressed the button to start the press.

Her daughter, Janet Calvert-Jones and grand-daughter, Penny Fowler, now the chairman of Herald and Weekly Times, was among the special guests at South Yarra function.

Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston said the night recognised the paper’s achievements over 25 years of news breaking and change within the industry. “’Very much the Herald Sun has grown up with Melbourne in tandem,” he said.

PHOTO: News Corp Australia

Editor of the ‘Herald Sun’ Damon Johnston has worked at the paper for almost 23 years. PHOTO: News Corp Australia

A coffee table book was launched on the night, with 208 pages of photography celebrating key moments in Victorian history over the past 25 years.

“It reflects the personality of the Herald Sun. So hopefully it’ll give people a bit of a laugh, take them on a trip down memory lane, and certainly you can easily wile away an hour flicking through the photos,” he said.

“’Very much the Herald Sun has grown up with Melbourne in tandem,” said Herald Sun editor Damon Johnston.

The paper published a special edition today, with a wraparound of Mark Knight’s cartoons, depicting significant personalities portrayed in news over the years.

The edition has a 24-page anniversary lift-out, looking back on the major news events of the past quarter-century.

Mr Johnston said that while the paper had changed over the years, its core remained the same.

“The Herald Sun is, on the one hand, very different to how it was 25 years ago with the advent of all our digital offerings, but while technology has transformed the Herald Sun into a 24/7 multimedia publishing house, in many ways it hasn’t changed,” he said.

“Our DNA is the still the same. We’re about news breaking, investigative journalism, football, covering the city and the state of Melbourne and Victoria, and being part of the lifestyle of this community.”

This was very much the ethos of both of its predecessors, The Herald and The Sun-News Pictorial.

The Herald Sun’s founding editor-in-chief Piers Akerman said the Herald and Weekly Times brands were beloved of Victorians who had been well served by some of the best journalists in the country.

However, with declining afternoon newspaper markets around the world, the viability of The Herald became no longer possible.

Readers accepted the rationale for the merger and adjusted to the combined masthead with great loyalty, Mr Akerman said. “But change usually brings challenges, and it was no different for the Herald Sun,” he said.

Staff at both papers did not initially warm to the merger.

“Some from The Herald had understandably grown up with the broadsheet format. There were people on the Sun Pic who very much enjoyed the breeziness of the tabloid format.

“So one of the great challenges was bringing both camps together and convincing them that their skills would be appreciated under the new masthead.”

“Every evening, when the presses began to roll, the whole building would shudder as these mighty machines started to turn over and throb, and that always delighted me,” said Piers Akerman, The Herald Sun’s founding editor-in-chief

In his time at the Herald Sun, Mr Akerman worked from the same office as Sir Keith Murdoch.

“It was one of the highlights of my career to have occupied the office, as editor-of-chief, that was once occupied by Sir Keith, Rupert’s father, and one of the greatest newspaper men, if not the greatest newspaper man, Australia has ever produced,“ he said.

He also experienced an up-swelling of pride each time the presses started rolling in the building.

“Every evening, when the presses began to roll, the whole building would shudder as these mighty machines started to turn over and throb, and that always delighted me,” he said.

“And I suppose it’s a sensation that doesn’t fail to stir journalists who have had that experience.”

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