The Bulletin

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For other uses, see Bulletin (disambiguation).
The Bulletin
The Bulletin Feb2007.jpg
Front cover of the 13 February 2007 edition
Editor-in-Chief John Lehmann
Categories newsmagazine
Frequency weekly
First issue 1880
Final issue 2008
Company Australian Consolidated Press
Country  Australia
Language English
ISSN 1440-7485

The Bulletin was an Australian magazine first published in Sydney on 31 January 1880. The publication's focus was politics and business, with some literary content, and editions were often accompanied by cartoons and other illustrations. The views promoted by the magazine varied across different editors and owners, with the publication consequently considered either on the left or right of the political spectrum at various stages in its history. The Bulletin was highly influential in Australian culture and politics until after the First World War, and was then noted for its nationalist, pro-labour, and pro-republican writing. It was revived as a modern news magazine in the 1960s, and was Australia’s longest running magazine publication until the final issue was published in January 2008.

Early history[edit]

The Bulletin was founded by J.F. Archibald and John Haynes, with the first issue being published in 1880. The original content of The Bulletin consisted of a mix of political comment, sensationalised news and Australian literature.[1]

In the early years The Bulletin played a significant role in the encouragement and circulation of nationalist sentiments that remained influential far into the next century. Its writers and cartoonists regularly attacked the British, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Jews and Aborigines.[2] In 1886, Editor James Edmond changed The Bulletin's nationalist banner from "Australia for Australians" to "Australia for the White Man".[3] An editorial, published in The Bulletin the following year, laid out its reasons for choosing such banners:[4]

By the term Australian we mean not those who have been merely born in Australia. All white men who come to these shores—with a clean record—and who leave behind them the memory of the class distinctions and the religious differences of the old world ... all men who leave the tyrant-ridden lands of Europe for freedom of speech and right of personal liberty are Australians before they set foot on the ship which brings them hither. Those who ... leave their fatherland because they cannot swallow the worm-eaten lie of the divine right of kings to murder peasants, are Australian by instinct—Australian and Republican are synonymous.

As The Bulletin evolved it became known as a platform for young and aspiring writers to showcase their short stories and poems to large audiences. By 1890 it was the focal point of an emerging literary nationalism known as the "Bulletin School", and a number of its contributors, often called bush poets, have become giants of Australian literature. Notable writers associated with The Bulletin at this time include:

"It was Australia", said writer-adventurer Randolph Bedford. English author D. H. Lawrence, in his otherwise dreary view of Australian culture in Kangaroo (1923), praised The Bulletin for its straightforwardness and the "kick" in its writing: "It beat no solemn drums. It had no deadly earnestness. It was just stoical and spitefully humourous." In The Australian Language (1946), Sidney Baker wrote: "Perhaps never again will so much of the true nature of a country be caught up in the pages of a single journal". The Bulletin continued to support of the creation of a distinctive Australian literature into the 20th century, most notably under the editorship of S.H. Prior (1915–1933) who created the first novel competition. The literary character of the The Bulletin continued until 1961, when it was brought by Consolidated Press.[3]

Later era[edit]

The prominent literary character of the Bulletin ended in 1961 when it was bought by Consolidated Press and merged with the Observer. Seen by many as outdated, the Bulletin eventually shifted to the news format that continued until its demise in 2008. During this time, it was a massive money-bleeder. However, the Packer family’s Australian Consolidated Press (ACP) absorbed the magazine’s financial losses as a trade off for the prestige of publishing Australia’s oldest magazine. Kerry Packer, in particular, had a personal liking for the magazine and was determined to keep it alive.[5]

As the new editor, one of Donald Horne's first actions was to remove 'Australia for the White Man' from the banner, signalling a change in character which included a greater interest in the Asia-Pacific region and support for immigration reform.[6]

From the 1980s onward, it attracted an increasingly older readership whose numbers weren't replenished as it died off. Despite its increasingly marginal position in Australia, Kerry Packer had a personal liking for The Bulletin, and was determined to keep it alive. The beginning of the end, however, came in 2007 when CVC Capital Partners bought controlling interest in ACP's parent company, now known as PBL Media. On 24 January 2008, ACP Magazines announced it was shuttering The Bulletin after all attempts to find a buyer failed.[6] Reasons given included that circulation had declined to 57,000 compared with sales figures in the order of 100,000 during the 1990s and that despite some of ACP's best resources being poured into the magazine including a dynamic ad sales team the magazine was no longer profitable. The loss in readership was attributed to readers preferring the internet for current affairs.[7]

The 1980s and 1990s were mainly fallow years for the Bulletin. It attracted an increasingly older readership that wasn't replenished as it died off. Publisher Max Walsh, who was induced to return by Trevor Kennedy, promoted Lyndall Crisp as its first female editor. But the young James Packer, who had come into the family business as a general manager reporting to Walsh, then advocated the installation of former 60 Minutes producer Gerald Stone as editor-in-chief. Stone filled the magazine with the flaccid clichés of television current affairs. It was published as a dual publication in conjunction with Newsweek in attempt to recoup costs.[6]

Packer anointed Garry Linnell as editor-in-chief in December 2002. In the Bulletin's 125th year, Linnell had the nerve to offer a $1.25-million reward to anyone who found the near-extinct Tasmanian tiger. But when Packer died in 2005, it was the Bulletin itself that got endangered. The beginning of the end came when James Packer sold controlling interest in the Packer media assets, now known as PBL Media, to the private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific. On 24 January 2008, ACP Magazines announced it was shuttering The Bulletin after all attempts to find a buyer failed.[6][8] Reasons given included that circulation had declined to 57,000 compared with sales figures in the order of 100,000 during the 1990s and that despite some of ACP's best resources being poured into the magazine including a dynamic ad sales team the magazine was no longer profitable. The loss in readership was attributed to readers preferring the internet for current affairs.[7]


Notable Editors[edit]

Samuel Henry Prior (10 January 1869 – 6 June 1933) was an Australian journalist and editor, best known for his editorship and ownership of the The Bulletin.[16]

Born in Brighton, South Australia Prior was educated at Glenelg Grammar School and the Bendigo School of Mines and Industries. He started his career as a teacher, before becoming a journalist at the Bendigo Independent in 1887. As a mining reporter, he was assigned to Broken Hill to report on the silver mine.[17][18]

Prior first became an editor at the Broken Hill Times & Broken Hill Argus. His editorship at both publications was shorted lived, and in 1889 he joined the Barrier Miner as editor and remained in the role for 14 years.[17]

At the Barrier Miner Prior’s editing and writing style displayed a liberal spirit strongly inspired by nationalism. During this editorship he developed a talent for financial journalism and was also known as a champion for trade unionism and the Federation of Australia. Seeking a larger audience and platform for his financial journalism, Prior sent his work to J.F. Archibald at the Sydney Bulletin. Impressed by his pieces J.F. Archibald offered Prior the role of Finance editor in 1903, where he quickly turned the ‘Wild Cat’ column (Financial and investment news and insights column focused on mining companies) into a popular and important column for The Bulletin.[18]

In 1912 Prior was promoted to associate editor of The Bulletin and in 1914 he came the majority shareholder after JF Archibald sold his shares to Prior. In 1915 he became the editor of The Bulletin, given his ownership interests this move was looked upon unfavourably by existing, writers and contributors. However, Prior used this opportunity as editor to showcased his commitment to literature, through discovering, harnessing and publishing writers.[18]

During this editorship Prior displayed his writing range, personally contributing critical, short story and poetry pieces. He became known for his ability to manage difficult and temperamental writers during his tenure, including Henry Lawson and became one of a few people allowed to edit Lawson’s copy.[18]

Prior was an extremely meticulous editor who would ‘stop the press’ of The Bulletin to correct a letter or comma. He ensured The Bulletin maintained and built its reputation for financial journalism and grew the ‘Wild Cat’ column to become the ‘Wild Cat Monthly’ which was syndicated to regional newspapers.[17]

In 1927, Prior was sold the remaining shares in The Bulletin and became the sole owner and manager in addition to editor. The following year (1928), Prior further displayed his commitment to literature by creating the first ‘Novel Competition’, offering aspiring writers prize money and the publishing of their work in The Bulletin.

Prior remained editor until 1933 when he passed away from heart disease. The Prior family stayed in control of The Bulletin and in 1935 honored their father’s commitment to literature by creating the S.H. Prior Memorial Prize for a work of Australian literature.

In 1960, the Prior family sold The Bulletin to Consolidated Press Ltd.[18]

In 2002, Garry Linnell became the second-last editor-in-chief of the Bulletin. He is currently the Fairfax Director of News Media and is also Sydney radio station 2UE’s breakfast announcer. He is responsible for The Age, The Canberra Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, and He is also a member of the Australian press council since 2012 and has once served as a judge. Linnell joined the Bulletin in 2001 at a time when the magazine was almost collapsing due to the great losses it was making. Its failure would have ended earlier if it weren’t for Linnell’s efforts to save it during his time as editor-in-chief. He tried to change the bad reputation that the readers have, as a racist, nationalist, and masculine magazine. He took its circulation to more than 100,000 at a time when the era of news magazines was in decline due to the economy and the power of the Internet.[19]

The Bulletin had remained politically conservative all along, thus reducing the readers’ interest in it. It is during Linnell’s time that Bulletin rejoined the political and business news in commentary, with great concern to its literature as a way of improving its magazine’s past.One of Linnell’s greatest and favourite controversial stories comes from the time when Kerry Packer called him to his office. Packer wanted Linnell to make people talk about The Bulletin.[19]

Linnell followed Packer’s instruction to the best of his ability, and at one point he did something that can be said by his critics to have been cunning which, however, made people not only keep talking about The Bulletin, but him as well. On one occasion, former Prime Minister Paul Keating who did not like the way The Bulletin did its stuff, wrote a letter to Linnell saying that he found the publication ’rivetingly mediocre.’ Linnell not only published the letter in the magazine, but also sarcastically promoted the fact that Paul Keating had written for ‘them’. He went ahead to award the Letter of the Week to Paul Keating and offered him a prize. It was a whole year’s subscription to The Bulletin.[19]

Critics said he contributed to the death of The Bulletin a few years after he left. By the end of 2005, he dares to make an offer of 1.25 million dollars to anyone who would bring a Tasmanian bear, making him a suspect of money fraudulence. Linnell did succeed in giving the readers something they haven’t’ seen before, and ultimately, to make people talk about it.[19]

Columnists and bloggers[edit]

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

See also[edit]



  • Bruce Bennett et al. (1998). The Oxford literary History of Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-553737-6. 
  • Dutton, Geoffrey (1964). The Literature of Australia. Melbourne: Penguin. 
  • Vance Palmer (1980). The Legend of the Nineties. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. ISBN 978-0-522-83690-5. 
  • Patricia Rolfe (1979). The Journalistic Javelin: An Illustrated History of the Bulletin. Sydney: Wildcat Press. ISBN 978-0-908463-02-2. 
  • William Wilde et al. (1985). The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature. Melbourne: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-554233-9.