Week of publishing specials marks SMH 185th anniversary

Australia’s oldest continuously published newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald, marked its 185th anniversary this week with a series of events and special editorial coverage.

The week of commemorative publishing kicked off on Monday with a 16-page wrap that include a detailed history of the masthead and an editorial from current editor-in-chief, Darren Goodsir.

“It’s time for all of us in the newsroom, together with our readers, to celebrate an enviable string of achievements spanning three centuries,” Mr Goodsir wrote.

“But it is also a humbling occasion; a chance for us to reflect on our responsibilities in this digital age and the trust you give us each day to be journalists.

“We understand our reputation has been hard-earned over centuries, but can so easily be lost. That is why today we renew our commitment to independent, fearless, smart and fair journalism – and we thank you for the privilege and opportunity to do this on your behalf.”

Anniversary coverage continued throughout the week in print and digital.

It included reflections from some of the Herald’s senior writers and columnists, multimedia features, archival photos and front pages, quizzes, a history of the headline-making moments in Sydney and a video of Herald subscribers talking about what the paper means to them.

Subscriber-only Q&A sessions with the paper’s senior journalists were also held each night of the week in Fairfax Media’s office in Pyrmont.

The sessions featured sports journalist Peter FitzSimons, investigative journalists Adele Ferguson and Kate McClymont, economics columnist Ross Gittins and Mr Goodsir.

The sessions were hosted by Sydney Morning Herald editor, Judith Whelan, who joined the paper as a cadet journalist in 1985 in a group that included Kate McClymont and Anne Davies.

Ms Whelan said the passion of both the paper’s employees and customers contributed to paper’s longevity.

“People absolutely care about The Sydney Morning Herald,” she said.

“They feel as though they own it in a way; they feel as though it is their paper and they have that tremendous connection to it. And I think that has never gone and The Sydney Morning Herald will be there as long as that remains.”

Ms Whelan said audiences flocked to The Sydney Morning Herald during major news events, such as the Sydney Lindt café siege, because they are looking for a trustworthy source to cut through the noise and mass of information.

She said the audience’s trust in the paper could be illustrated through interactivity on social media.

“We’ve got more 600,000 people who follow us on Facebook and most of those people are sharing our stories. They’re happy to do that because as they curate their own brand through what they share. They’re happy, very happy to be associated with a story from The SMH because they know it will be fair, it will be accurate and it will actually be telling people something that they don’t know,” she said.

The Sydney Morning Herald front cover through the years

The Sydney Morning Herald was first published as the weekly The Sydney Herald on April 18, 1831.

It attracted 700 sales in its first week, moved to a daily in 1840 and was renamed The Sydney Morning Herald in 1842.

In 1841, the paper was acquired by John Fairfax, whose family controlled the paper for 149 years before mounting debt saw the Fairfax Group acquired by Canadian media baron Conrad Black and then re-listed on the stock exchange in 1992.

Smh.com.au was born in 1995 with the publication of a digital recast of the Herald’s computer section. Breaking news hit the website in 1998 and smh.com.au now has a unique audience of 4.7 million, according to the Nielsen’s Digital Ratings (monthly) which includes smartphone and tablets.

It has the second largest audience in Australia after news.com.au, and beats ABC news websites, The Guardian, Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph.

The Sydney Morning Herald moved from broadsheet to compact format in 2013 and has since undergone a dramatic transition in the past few years with an increased focus on digital and most recently an editorial restructure.

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