Mercury to celebrate 160th anniversary

Southern Tasmania’s only daily newspaper, the Mercury, is set to celebrate its 160th anniversary with an editorial series tracking the Hobart paper’s role in Tasmanian and Australian history.

The series, 160 Years of the Mercury, will feature online and in print with a 10-part magazine series, and also will be accompanied by a resource kit for schools, with more than 50 local schools participating.

After the huge celebrations for the paper’s 150th, the Mercury team has taken a different approach with this year’s event.

“The aim is not to make it a navel -gazing exercise, but to look at the history of Tasmania and how we’ve been a part of it and the events that have built Tasmania into what it is today,” Mercury CEO Rex Gardner said.

“The paper has been here 160 years – we’re just custodians, if you like, of a paper that has a long and proud history.”

The magazines, which will run each weekday in the lead-up to the anniversary, will feature photographic double page spreads in which some of the oldest available images of Tasmanian life, sourced from more than a century ago, blend across the fold with shots of the present day. The experience is replicated online where users will be able to roll over images to see them transform.

Education services manager Damian Bester, who has overseen the production of the editorial series, said he had made an effort to create a point of difference from the paper’s last historical celebration.

“We have a lot of readers who would have collected what we did 10 years ago,” Mr Bester said of the Mercury’s 150th, “and it became quite a good history resource, as we hope this one will.”

The education resource is aimed at encouraging a new generation of readership while educating school students on Tasmanian history.

The Mercury advertising team also played a key part with advertising features by long-standing local businesses featuring throughout the series.

The sections would follow businesses established in the time frame explored in each magazine, with the first four booklets covering 25 year periods and the final six in 10 year instalments.

Mr Gardner said many companies with long and proud histories in Tasmania were participating, including bootmaker Blundstone and paper manufacturer Norske Skog, which operates out of the Boyer Mill outside Hobart.

On the day of the anniversary, July 5, each paper will come with a full reprint of the very first issue, a four-page broadsheet, from 1854, in which “people will be able to read about the Crimean War,” as Mr Bester notes, as well as a limited edition wall poster. The 8-page uncut sheet will feature a detailed “balloon’s-eye” sketch of Hobart from 1887 on one side and a 21st century helicopter view of present-day Hobart on the reverse.

The Mercury began as a weekly paper in 1854 and rapidly gained popularity, becoming more frequent before it settled as a daily, and wiping out much other competition, Mr Gardner said. Today it has a print readership of 113,000 and a unique digital audience of 83,000, with 4.9 million page views in May 2014.

The milestone comes as the Mercury team recently moved from its original art deco offices to a modern building in Salamanca Place, Hobart.

“While we celebrate the past, we’re very focused on the future,” Mr Gardner said.

The 160 Years of The Mercury series will commence on Monday June 23, with one part each weekday until the anniversary on July 5.

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