Celebrating 125 years - Albany Advertiser has a rich history

JOSH NYMAN

With a history dating back to the 19th century, the Albany Advertiser is synonymous with West Australian history.

According to Jenny Gregory and Jan Gothard’s Historical Encyclopaedia of Western Australia (2009), the paper is the oldest continuous-running non-metropolitan newspaper in WA.

The story of its foundation dates back to January 1, 1883, when the first edition of the Albany Mail and King George’s Sound Advertiser was published.

That planted the roots of the modern day Albany Advertiser, which has been subject to its fair share of name changes over the years as it swallowed up various other publications along the way.

By far one of the most compelling parts of the paper’s history is its start.

Energetic English lawyer Lancel Victor De Hamel arrived in Albany in 1886 and burst on the scene with a fervent political campaign to become Albany’s mayor.

Unable to garner the support of existing conservative paper The Albany Mail, De Hamel set out to start his own.

In May 1888, the first Australian Advertiser — as it was then called — was published, however, the first archived edition was June 4, 1888.

The newspaper was described by author Donald Gordon as “stridently Albanian, bumptious and antagonistic towards Perth”.

Little more than a month later De Hamel was voted in as Mayor of Albany in a landslide and the founding editor continued to use the Australian Advertiser as a platform to launch further political aspirations.

As popularity of the Australian Advertiser grew, The Albany Mail quietly slipped out of existence, ceasing publication in August 1889.

But the Advertiser’s existence did not continue without opposition.

In May 1890 the Albany Observer started, but its foray into Albany life lasted less than a year when it collapsed in March 1891.

The Advertiser continued to publish thrice weekly and leaned very much towards the latter word in its masthead — advertising.

It was not uncommon for the entire front page to be taken up by advertising.

On February 20, 1897, the Australian Advertiser converted its masthead to the Albany Advertiser, a name that proudly lives on today.

As the 20th century came, so did world conflict, and subsequent Advertiser editors saw it as their duty to report on world affairs.

With the magnitude of world events, especially military conflict, sweeping mass media outlets by storm in the first half of the century, the Advertiser responded by including vast coverage of national and world affairs.

However, if there is one profoundly noticeable change in the style of the Advertiser, it is its metamorphosis from a bugle of global news to a community-focused newspaper.

Through the 1930s under new ownership, the Advertiser thrust its focus towards attractions and tourism by producing a semi-matt image-laden annual holiday magazine titled Holiday Number.

By the late 1940s, the Advertiser’s circulation incorporated the weekly Denmark Post, which serviced the Denmark, Walpole and Nornalup district until 1964.

The 1950s signalled a marked change of content in the Advertiser, shifting from world affairs to local news, a trend carried through to bi-weekly publications today.

A resilient publication, the Albany Advertiser overcame near death on January 16, 1981 when its York Street headquarters was ravaged by a fire that razed half the office. Started by a waxer that was left on overnight, the fire completely destroyed the editorial and production sections of the building and stopped just 3m before the press.

Not letting that fateful Friday night fire interrupt production, staff of the day took up temporary office over the road and pumped out the next Tuesday edition as dutifully as ever, with then general manager Alan Elvin managing only five hours sleep over the course of that eventful weekend.

The building was reopened exactly 12 weeks later on April 10 by then Industrial Development and Commerce Minister Barry McKinnon.

The physical appearance of the paper has changed on a swag of occasions, its classic evolution over the years including 13 masthead style changes since being established.

Through the late 1960s and early 1970s emerged a bold stencil-style Advertiser masthead embodying the prevailing typographies of the era, while in 2010 former editor Leith Phillips redrew the masthead modelled from 1928 editions.

And it is that mast that has been delivering news to Great Southern readers from Walpole to Jerramungup, Albany to Cranbrook for 125 years.

With an average circulation of 5576 each edition, it is safe to say the Albany Advertiser has forged a place in history as one of regional Australia’s most successful news publications.