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The Bulletin

The Bulletin is a discontinued Australian weekly magazine that was published in Sydney from 1880 until January 2008. It was influential in Australian culture and politics from about 1890 until World War I, the period when it was identified with the "Bulletin school" of Australian literature. Its influence thereafter declined steadily. In the 1960s it was revived as a modern newsmagazine. The final issue was published on 23 January, 2008.

Early history

The Bulletin was founded by two Sydney journalists, J.F. Archibald and John Haynes, and the first edition appeared on 31 January, 1880. It was intended to be a journal of political and business commentary, with some literary content. Its politics were nationalist, anti-imperialist, protectionist, insular, racist, republican, anti-clerical and masculist - but not socialist. It mercilessly ridiculed colonial governors, capitalists, snobs and social climbers, the clergy, feminists and prohibitionists. It upheld trade unionism, Australian independence, advanced democracy and White Australia. It ran savagely racist cartoons attacking Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Jews, and mocking Indigenous Australians. The paper's masthead slogan, "Australia for the White Man," became a national political credo.

This mix of radicalism and xenophobia was popular in the male-dominated frontier districts of late 19th century Australia, and The Bulletin soon became known as "the bushman's bible," with a circulation reaching 80,000 by 1900. Archibald's masterstroke was to open The Bulletin 's pages to contributions from its readers in 1886, running pages of poetry, short stories and cartoons contributed by miners, shearers and timber-workers from all over Australia. Some of this material was of high quality, and over the years many of Australia's leading literary lights had their start in The Bulletin 's pages. At the same time, The Bulletin ran well-informed political and business news.

The Bulletin 's literary editor, Alfred Stephens, was the main inspiration for the "Bulletin school." Among the better-known contributors were the writers Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson, Bernard O'Dowd, Joseph Furphy, Miles Franklin and Vance and Nettie Palmer, the cartoonists Livingston Hopkins ("Hop"), David Low, Phil May, D H Souter and the illustrator and novelist Norman Lindsay.

Archibald retired in 1907, and thereafter The Bulletin became steadily more conservative, and by World War I had become openly Empire-loyalist. This marked its break with the political left and the end of its real influence, although it retained its place in Australian literary life well into the 1920s. In 1927, managing director William Macleod sold his stake in the magazine to Samuel Prior, long term financial editor, senior editor and, since buying Archibald's shares some years earlier, major shareholder. Macleod had earlier invited Prior's third child, Henry, to manage the magazine. The Prior family owned and operated The Bulletin Newspaper company for the following decades, introducing new ventures such as the Wild Cat Monthly in 1923, the Australian Woman's Mirror in 1924, and, in a joint venture with Norman Lindsay designed to publish Australian writers, the Endeavour Press in 1932. Ultimately, however, the magazine gradually declined, losing circulation steadily. Its pre-war attitudes came to seem increasingly reactionary, and its cult of the bushman increasingly anachronistic in what was already an urbanised country. By the 1940s The Bulletin was regarded as a sad relic, filled with racist and antisemitic bile, and with political commentary so right-wing as to seem almost comic.

Modern Era

In 1961 The Bulletin was sold to the press magnate Sir Frank Packer, who installed Donald Horne as editor. The paper was radically modernised, most of the writers were replaced, and "Australia for the White Man" disappeared from the masthead. Under the Packer family The Bulletin remained politically conservative, but rejoined the political and journalistic mainstream, as a well-edited magazine (modelled on Time) of political and business news and commentary, with occasional forays into literature as a gesture to its past.

The Packer family tolerated the magazine's unprofitability for the prestige of publishing Australia's oldest magazine. They published it "in conjunction with" Newsweek, which was usually found as a separate section within the magazine.

Online, The Bulletin (http://bulletin.ninemsn.com.au) existed in another form, publishing articles from the magazine as well as content exclusive to the web, photo galleries, an archive of past covers and a blogging site known at The Bullring (http://www.thebulletinblog.com.au/the_bullring.htm).

The Bulletin Magazine also founded the Smart 100 Award (http://au.truveo.com/The-Bulletin-Bayer-Smart-100/id/2874425537). The Smart 100 identified, with the help of respected judges in each field, the smartest, most innovative and most creative people working in the areas of business, ICT, science, art, sport, society, education, health, environment and agriculture.

On January 24 2008, ACP Magazines announced they had ceased publishing the magazine. Reasons given included that circulation had declined to 57,000 compared with sales figures in the order of 100,000 during the 1990s. The loss in readership was attributed to readers preferring the internet for current affairs.

Columnists and bloggers

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

See also

References

  • Bruce Bennett et al, The Oxford Literary History of Australia, OUP Melbourne 1998
  • Geoffrey Dutton, The Literature of Australia, Penguin, Melbourne 1964
  • Vance Palmer, The Legend of the Nineties, MUP Melbourne 1954
  • Patricia Rolfe, The Journalistic Javelin: An Illustrated History of the Bulletin, Wildcat Press, Sydney 1979.
  • William Wilde et al, The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature, OUP, Melbourne 1985

External links

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