Front cover of the 13 February 2007 edition
|Company||Australian Consolidated Press|
The Bulletin was an 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.
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 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, Harrison Owen, Robert Kaleski and Vance and Nettie Palmer, the cartoonists Livingston Hopkins ("Hop"), David Low, Phil May, D. H. Souter, Norman "Heth" Hetherington, Oswald Pryor and the illustrator and novelist Norman Lindsay.
Archibald retired in 1907, and thereafter The Bulletin drifted steadily rightward. By World War I, it had made its final break with its leftist past when it adopted an openly Empire-loyalist stance. This marked 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. Its pages were filled with racist and antisemitic bile, and with political commentary so right-wing as to seem almost comic.
In 1961 The Bulletin was sold to the press magnate Sir Frank Packer and his company, Australian Consolidated Press, 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 was refashioned into a well-edited newsmagazine (modelled on Time) of political and business news and commentary, with occasional forays into literature as a gesture to its past. While it remained politically conservative, it rejoined the political and journalistic mainstream.
Although the magazine was a chronic money-loser, the Packer family tolerated its 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 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 as The Bullring.
The Bulletin Magazine also founded the Smart 100 Award. 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.
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. In late 2007 James Packer sold his family's media assets, including Australian Consolidated Press, to the private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific. Four months later, CVC announced that the Bulletin would cease publication. The last issue, with a cover story titled 'Why We Love Australia', was published on 23 January 2008 and dated 29 January 2008.  On 24 January 2008, ACP Magazines announced it was shuttering The Bulletin after all attempts to find a buyer failed. 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.
Columnists and bloggers
Regular columnists and bloggers on the magazine's website included:
- "The Bulletin pulled from shelves". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 2008-01-24.
- Steffen, Miriam (24 January 2008). "End of an era as The Bulletin closes". Sydney Morning Heald. Retrieved 2008-01-24.
- "1910 The Bulletin Magazine | Australia's migration history timeline | NSW Migration Heritage Centre". Retrieved 2013-12-31.
- "It is Nice in the Surf but What about the Men in the Trenches? Go and Help". World Digital Library. 1917. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
- D H Lawrence Kangaroo, 1923, chapter 14 'Bits'.
- "The Bulletin".
- Austlit. "The Bulletin". austlit.edu.au.
- Haigh, Gideon (1 March 2008). "Packed It In: The Demise of The Bulletin". The Monthly.
- Austlit. "W. H. Traill". austlit.edu.au.
- Austlit. "S. H. Prior". austlit.edu.au.
- Austlit. "John E. Webb". austlit.edu.au.
- Austlit. "Peter Hastings". austlit.edu.au.
- Austlit. "James Hall". austlit.edu.au.
- Austlit. "Lyndall Crisp". austlit.edu.au.
- Austlit. "Paul Bailey". austlit.edu.au.
- Austlit. "Garry Linnell". austlit.edu.au.
- Austlit. "Kathy Bail". austlit.edu.au.
- Austlit. "John Lehmann". austlit.edu.au.
- 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.