On Dit

On Dit

On Dit is a newspaper published by the Students' Association of the University of Adelaide which appears fortnightly during semester time. Founded in 1932, it is the second oldest student newspaper in Australia. The paper replaced its precursor the Varsity Ragge which ran from 1928 to 1931 when it ended because of what On Dit described as student apathy. The Varsity Ragge returned in 1934 for a single edition as a sort of rival to On Dit.


On Dit's title is French and has a number of different translations. These include "so I hear", "what the people are saying", "rumour", "one says", "they say", "we say", "people say", and "hearsay". The latter was a variation title of the newspaper in 1972 when due to French nuclear testing in the Pacific, the editors refused to use the paper's original French language title, opting for one of its English translations.


The newspaper began as two page broadsheet and within a few years quickly grew to four pages. Its 1937 editors Helen Wighton and Finlay L. Crisp were such a great editorial team that they later married. During World War II, the paper was not published during the years 1942 and 1943.

While the paper charged a low price to its readers in its first decades, it switched to free distribution in the 1960s, and remains so to this day, supporting itself with advertising and funds from the student union budget. In its early years it was an organ of the Adelaide University Union. But in 1947, the paper was transferred to the auspices of the Student Representative Council, which later became the Students' Association of the University of Adelaide.

During the 1950s and 1960s the paper attempted to resemble a professionally designed newspaper. This evolved into the Dynasty era during the 1970s and 1980s. During the latter, the paper broke major stories. By this time, On Dit had developed a very good reputation both within the state and nationally . On Dit was considered an alternative vehicle to attending media schools for budding reporters. One problem many editors struggled with was encouraging submissions and news from University of Adelaide campuses other than the city site.

On Dit celebrated its 21st Anniversary in 1953, its 25th Anniversary in 1957, its 50th Anniversary in 1982, and in 2007 celebrated its Diamond or 75th Anniversary.


For many years the paper was printed in a tabloid format on standard newsprint. This was changed to a magazine (half-tabloid newsprint) format early in 2006 to help the paper cope with financial uncertainty brought about by Voluntary student unionism. A special edition entitled Elle Dit, written primarily or exclusively by women, is also produced. In more recent years the paper has better resembled other free street press, though with more artistic (or at any rate abstract) covers, usually eschewing headlines, and a focus more broadly on commentary, politics and pop culture than on the popular music common to the format. It is usually distributed outside the university in similar locations to other street press publications.

Editorial staff

Prior to 2007, in a typical year there were two or three paid editors, elected by the student body the previous year, who planned the paper. The paid editors were assisted by unpaid sub-editors, columnists and other contributors who research and write individual sections. On Dit is unusual among student papers in that for much of its existence it has remained independent of the prevailing political parties on campus. For 2007, the Student Union voted to remove salaries from the editors (by way of comparison, the 3 editors in 1997 split an annual AU$30,000 between them). Because of Voluntary Student Unionism, the editors now have to secure all their funding from advertising space; the paper has gone from a weekly to a fortnightly.

A number of On Dit editors have over the years gone on to work for the local daily newspaper, The Advertiser (Adelaide). These have included Samantha Maiden, Colin G. Kerr, Mark Davis, Clementine Ford, Richard Ogier, David Mussared, Rosemary O'Grady, the Rev. Father Will Baynes, David Walker, David Penberthy and Samela Harris. Editor Noel Lindblom went on to work at the other local daily paper The News (Adelaide).

Many former On Dit editors, contributors and staff have also gone on to work for the Fairfax Media group. These have included John Sandeman, Moya Dodd, Daniel Wills, Gilbert Wahlquist, Tim Dodd, Noel Lindblom, Annabel Crabb, John Slee, Mark Davis, Peter White and John Tanner. Other On Dit editors to go on and work in the media have included Nonee Walsh and Roy Leaney at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Gemma Clark at Radio Station Nova 91.9 FM and Rosemary O'Grady and Michael Jacobs at the Adelaide Review.

Other On Dit contributors and staff to go on and work in the media have included Keith Conlon from Radio Station 5AA and journalists Jane Willcox, Barry Hailstone, Farah Farouque, Mike Duffy, Jenny Turner, Annabel Crabb and cartoonist Ross Bateup. Former women's columnist Arna Eyers-White and freight manager Alex Wheaton went onto manage and edit Adelaide's fortnightly street press paper dB Magazine.

A number of editors have gone on to work in the education sector and work as educationists and academics. These have included educator and feminist Helen Crisp (nee Wighton); historian Hon. Dr. John Bannon AO; educationist Neile Osman; Rhodes Scholar Herbert W. Piper; Rhodes Scholar Professor John Finnis; Adelaide Uni politics stalwart Jeff Scott; Adelaide Uni philosophy academic Dr. Andrew Gleeson; Rhodes Scholar Professor Leslie Finlay Crisp; Adjunct Professor Richard Broinowski; English tutor Paul Washington; Rhodes Scholar Professor Julian Disney AO, Clinical Associate Professor Jonathan Gillis; Dr Daniele Viliunas; Professor Peter Otto; and Research Fellow Dr. Jacqui Dibden.

Prominent past editors

Prominent past editors include former South Australia State Premier Hon. Dr. John Bannon AO; Hon. Mr Justice Samuel J. Jacobs AO QC; Elliot Frank Johnston QC; author Garry Disher; former ALP state politician Peter Duncan (Australian politician); Rhodes Scholar, Diplomat & Ambassador Charles Robin Ashwin; former South Australian MLC and current Federal Senator Nick Xenophon; former vice-captain of the Australia women's national football (soccer) team Moya Dodd; poet Max Harris AO; long-time The Advertiser (Adelaide) journalist Samela Harris and David Penberthy, former The Advertiser (Adelaide) journalist and the current editor of The Daily Telegraph in Sydney.

Prominent contributors

Prominent people who have contributed to or written for On Dit include Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard, South Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young; South Australian Labor Party Senator Penny Wong; Australian author and historian Geoffrey Dutton; comedians Francis Greenslade and Shaun Micallef; novelists Colin Thiele and Sean Williams (author); South Australian Democrat Senator Natasha Stott-Despoja; former ALP state politician Gordon Bilney; playwright Joe Penhall; The Australian Financial Review film critic Peter Crayford, and former Liberal Minister Christopher Pyne. Australian Labor Party Senator Anne McEwen (politician) contributed to On Dit in the area of administration when she worked for the Students' Association of the University of Adelaide.

On Dit today

In 2008, On Dit's publication will again be supported by advertising with additional costs being covered by the Adelaide University Union for twelve issues (fortnightly during term time). Michael Nicholson, Natalie Oliveri and Catherine Hoffman will be editing the publication without the support of salaries. In 2008, for the first time, new and current editions of On Dit became available electronically as an online publication in addition to being published on paper. Back issues became available for the first time online via the University's Barr-Smith Library in 2007. Currently, back issues up to November 1989 are available online.


External links

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