The Age

The Age
The Age
The Age logo.svg
The front page of The Age
on 6 June 2011
Type Daily newspaper
Format Broadsheet
Owner Fairfax Media
Editor Paul Ramadge
Founded 1854
Headquarters Melbourne, Australia
Circulation Monday - Friday 685,000, Saturday 844,000, Sunday 697,000[1]
ISSN 0312-6307
Official website

The Age is a daily broadsheet newspaper, which has been published in Melbourne, Australia since 1854. Owned and published by Fairfax Media, The Age primarily serves Victoria, but is also available for purchase in Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory and border regions of South Australia and southern New South Wales and is delivered in both a hardcopy and online format. The newspaper shares many articles with other Fairfax Media metropolitan daily newspapers, such as The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Age was founded by three Melbourne businessmen, the brothers John Cooke and Henry Cooke who had arrived from New Zealand in the 1840s, and Walter Powell. The first edition appeared on 17 October 1854.

The Age currently has an average weekday circulation of 190,600, increasing to 275,000 on Saturdays (in a city of 4 million). The Sunday Age has a circulation of 225,400.[2] The paper currently has a Monday to Friday readership average of 668,000, reaching an average of 857,000 on Saturdays. The Sunday Age attracts an average of 695,000 readers.[2]



Syme family

The venture was not initially a success, and in June 1856 the Cookes sold the paper to Ebenezer Syme, a Scottish-born businessman, and James McEwan, an ironmonger and founder of McEwans & Co, for 2,000 pounds at auction. The first edition under the new owners was on 17 June 1856. From its foundation the paper was self-consciously liberal in its politics: "aiming at a wide extension of the rights of free citizenship and a full development of representative institutions," and supporting "the removal of all restrictions upon freedom of commerce, freedom of religion and - to the utmost extent that is compatible with public morality - upon freedom of personal action."[3]

Ebenezer Syme was elected to the Victorian Legislative Assembly shortly after buying The Age, and his brother David Syme soon came to dominate the paper, editorially and managerially. When Ebenezer died in 1860, David became editor-in-chief, a position he retained until his death in 1908, although a succession of editors did the day-to-day editorial work. In 1891 Syme bought out Ebenezer's heirs and McEwan's and became sole proprietor. He built up The Age into Victoria's leading newspaper. In circulation it soon overtook its rivals The Herald and The Argus, and by 1890 it was selling 100,000 copies a day, making it one of the world's most successful newspapers.

A copy of the first edition of The Age

Under Syme's control The Age exercised enormous political power in Victoria. It supported liberal politicians such as Graham Berry, George Higinbotham and George Turner, and other leading liberals such as Alfred Deakin and Charles Pearson furthered their careers as The Age journalists. Syme was originally a free trader, but converted to protectionism through his belief that Victoria needed to develop its manufacturing industries behind tariff barriers. In the 1890s The Age was a leading supporter of Australian federation and of the White Australia policy.

After Syme's death the paper remained in the hands of his three sons, with his eldest son Herbert Syme becoming general manager until his death in 1939. Syme's will prevented the sale of any equity in the paper during his sons' lifetimes, an arrangement designed to protect family control but which had the effect of starving the paper of investment capital for 40 years. Under the management of Sir Geoffrey Syme (1908–42), and his chosen editors Gottlieb Schuler and Harold Campbell, The Age failed to modernise, and gradually lost market share to The Argus and to the tabloid The Sun News-Pictorial, although its classfied advertisement sections kept the paper profitable. By the 1940s the paper's circulation was smaller than it had been in 1900, and its political influence also declined. Although it remained more liberal than the extremely conservative Argus, it lost much of its distinct political identity.

The historian Sybil Nolan writes: "Accounts of The Age in these years generally suggest that the paper was second-rate, outdated in both its outlook and appearance. Walker described a newspaper which had fallen asleep in the embrace of the Liberal Party; "querulous," "doddery" and "turgid" are some of the epithets applied by other journalists. It is inevitably criticised not only for its increasing conservatism, but for its failure to keep pace with innovations in layout and editorial technique so dramatically demonstrated in papers like The Sun News-Pictorial and The Herald."

In 1942 David Syme's last surviving son, Oswald Syme, took over the paper. He modernised the paper's appearance and standards of news coverage (removing classified advertisements from the front page and introducing photographs, long after other papers had done so). In 1948, convinced the paper needed outside capital, he persuaded the courts to overturn his father's will and floated David Syme and Co. as a public company, selling 400,000 pounds worth of shares, enabling a badly needed technical modernisation of the newspaper's production. A takeover attempt by the Warwick Fairfax family, publishers of The Sydney Morning Herald, was beaten off. This new lease on life allowed The Age to recover commercially, and in 1957 it received a great boost when The Argus ceased publication.

1960 - 2011

Oswald Syme retired in 1964, and his grandson Ranald Macdonald became chairman of the company. He was the first chairman to hand over full control of the paper to a professional editor from outside the Syme family. This was Graham Perkin, appointed in 1966, who radically changed the paper's format and shifted its editorial line from the rather conservative liberalism of the Symes to a new "left liberalism" characterised by attention to issues such as race, gender and the environment, and opposition to White Australia and the death penalty. The Liberal Premier of Victoria, Henry Bolte, called The Age "that pinko rag," a view conservatives have maintained ever since. Former editor Michael Gawenda in his book American Notebook wrote that the "default position of most journalists at The Age was on the political Left.".[4]

Front page of The Age reporting the dismissal of the Prime Minister on 11 November 1975

Perkin's editorship coincided with Gough Whitlam's reforms of the Australian Labor Party, and The Age became a key supporter of the Whitlam government which came to power in 1972. Contrary to subsequent mythology, however, The Age was not an uncritical supporter of Whitlam, and played a leading role in exposing the Loans Affair, one of the scandals which contributed to the demise of the Whitlam government.

After Perkins's early death in 1975 The Age returned to a more moderate liberal position. It supported Malcolm Fraser's Liberal government in its early years, but after 1980 became increasingly critical and was a leading supporter of Bob Hawke's reforming government after 1983. But from the 1970s the political influence of The Age, as with other broadsheet newspapers, derived less from what it said in its editorial columns (which relatively few people read) than from the opinions expressed by journalists, cartoonists, feature writers and guest columnists. The Age has always kept a stable of leading editorial cartoonists, notably Les Tanner, Bruce Petty, Ron Tandberg and Michael Leunig.

In 1966 Macdonald took the fateful step of allowing the Fairfax's to acquire a stake in the paper, although an agreement was signed guaranteeing the editorial independence of The Age. In 1972 Fairfax bought a majority of David Syme shares, and in 1983 bought out all the remaining shares. David Syme and Co. became a subsidiary of John Fairfax and Co. Macdonald was denounced as a traitor by the remaining members of the Syme family (who nevertheless accepted Fairfax's generous offer for their shares), but he argued that The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald were natural partners and that the greater resources of the Fairfax group would enable The Age to remain competitive. By the 1980s a new competitor had appeared in Rupert Murdoch's national daily The Australian. In 1999 David Syme and Co. became The Age Company Ltd as part of John Fairfax Holdings Ltd., finally ending the Syme connection.

Previous Headquarters
The Age Headquarters in Collins Street, completed 2009

The Age was published from offices in Collins St until 1969, when it moved to 250 Spencer St (hence the nickname "The Spencer Street Soviet" favoured by some critics). In 2003, The Age opened a new printing centre at Tullamarine. The Headquarters moved again in 2009 to Collins Street opposite Southern Cross Station.

Currently there are two editions of The Age printed nightly. The NAA edition, for interstate and country Victorian readers and the MEA edition, for metropolitan areas. These two editions are printed in three separate editions, the earliest for country and interstate readers, the second edition for metropolitan and the final late edition THA, also for metropolitan areas carrying late or breaking stories not covered in the first two editions.

Friday's edition of the newspaper now includes a racing liftout which includes extended form and analysis for Saturday's major race meetings.

Like its Fairfax stablemate The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age announced in early 2007 that it would be moving from a broadsheet format to the smaller Berliner size, in the footsteps of The Guardian and The Courier-Mail.[5] Both The Age and the Herald dumped these plans later in the year without explanation, to the amusement of The Australian's Chris Mitchell, who called the about-face "a bit embarrassing".[6]

In 2009, The Age suspended its columnist Michael Backman after one of his columns condemned Israeli tourists as greedy and badly behaved prompting criticism that he was anti-semitic. However a Press Council complaint against The Age for its handling of the complaints against Backman was dismissed.[7]

Media House

The Age headquarters, known as Media House, is shared with other Fairfax business units including: 3AW radio, Magic1278 radio, The Australian Financial Review Group, and Fairfax Community Network.[8] Media House was designed by Bates Smart and built by Grocon for $110 million.[9] The building was formally opened in October 2009.[10]


The Age masthead has received a number of updates from 1854 to present day. The most recent update to the design was made in 2002. The current masthead features a stylised version of the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom and "The Age" in Electra Bold type. The crest features the French words "Dieu et mon droit" (in English: "God and my right"). According to The Age's art director, Bill Farr: "No one knows why they picked the royal crest. But I guess we were a colony at the time, and to be seen to be linked with the Empire would be a positive thing." The original 1854 masthead included the Colony of Victoria crest. In 1856, that crest was removed and in 1861, the Royal coat of arms was introduced. This was changed again in 1967, with the shield and decoration altered and the lion crowned. In 1971, a bold typeface was introduced and the crest shield rounded and less ornate. In 1997, the masthead was stacked and contained in a blue box (with the logo in white). In 2002, in conjunction with an overall revamp of the paper, The Age masthead was redesigned as it currently appears.[11]


In 1972 John Fairfax Holdings bought a majority of David Syme shares, and in 1983 bought out all the remaining shares.

Since the 1980s The Age, despite the loss of its corporate independence, has remained a successful and influential newspaper. It has a range of high quality writers and contributors. The investigative team have broken a number of major stories. Its arts and lifestyle content - increasingly important in all newspapers as the leading role in news coverage is lost to television and the internet - is generally regarded as comprehensive.

The Age Print Centre

The Age was published from its office in Collins Street until 1969, when the newspaper moved to 250 Spencer street. In 2003, The Age Print Centre was opened at Tullamarine. The centre produces a wide range of publications for both Fairfax and commercial clients. Among its stable of daily print publications are The Age, The Australian Financial Review and The Bendigo Advertiser. The Age Print Centre uses Norske Skog paper and is a member of the Publisher's National Environment Bureau (PNEB).


In 2004 Gawenda was succeeded as editor by British journalist Andrew Jaspan. Jaspan aroused controversy by initially not appearing to know that The Age was published in Melbourne, sacking Gerard Henderson, a prominent conservative columnist, from the paper and by making remarks critical of Douglas Wood, an Australian who was held hostage and tortured in Iraq. Jaspan accused Wood on ABC radio of being boorish and coarse for speaking harshly about those who kidnapped and tortured him.[12]

The generally left-wing The Age is frequently compared with Britain's leftist Guardian newspaper.[6] Henderson, writing in the Murdoch owned competitor, The Australian, is one of many to describe it as "The Guardian on the Yarra".[13]

Following the appointment of Andrew Jaspan as editor, The Age has taken a prominent campaigning role in relation to some issues, for example by launching a campaign to Free David Hicks (a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay) in February 2007 and in relation to global warming.[citation needed]

According to The Guardian newspaper, former Fairfax chief executive Fred Hilmer wrote in his memoirs that "he struggled to cope with a left-leaning editorial culture at papers such as The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, and was surprised that journalists saw themselves as advocates rather than simply reporters."[14] Hilmer said that "Fairfax's default position was to turn left and be agenda-driven... Journalists often conducted campaigns where they persisted in covering stories long after readers had lost interest."[14]

The Age is known for often reporting on corruption in religion. In one controversy, on 19 March 2010 The Age reported that the Vienna Boys Choir “has been caught up in accusations that pedophile priests systematically abused their choristers", even though the complaints were made against teachers and older pupils of the choir, which is a private organisation.[15] Crikey accused The Age of outright "fabrication".[16]


Under David Syme

Under Geoffrey Syme

Under Oswald Syme

  • Harold Campbell 1942–59
  • Keith Sinclair 1959–66


See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "The Age - Audience". Fairfax Advertising Centre (Australia)]. June 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "The History of The Age". About us. The Age Company Ltd. 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Overington, Caroline (21 July 2007). "Leunig off line: ex-editor". The Australian (News Limited).,,22108313-7582,00.html?from=public_rss. Retrieved 2007-07-22. 
  5. ^ Hogan, Jesse (26 April 2007). "Fairfax flags narrower papers, job losses". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 2007-04-27. 
  6. ^ a b Manning, James (10 March 2008). "National daily plans new business website and monthly colour magazine". MediaWeek (Sydney, Australia) (854): 3, 7, 8. 
  7. ^ "Complaint against The Age dismissed". The Age (Fairfax Media). 26 April 2009. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  8. ^ "Fairfax Weekly publications (VIC)". Fairfax Advertising Centre. Fairfax Media. 2011. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  9. ^ Grocon, retrieved 15 June 2011
  10. ^ Dobbin, Marika (28 October 2009). "Media House opens, reviving interest in building over rail lines". The Age (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 15 June 2011. 
  11. ^ Johnstone, Graeme (March 2009). "Evolution of a masthead". The Age Extra (4): 4–5. Retrieved 9 June 2011. 
  12. ^ Bolt, Andrew (26 June 2005). "How the Left gets loonier". The Herald Sun (News Limited).,5478,15708883%5E25717,00.html. Retrieved 2004-07-22. 
  13. ^ Henderson, Gerard (21 December 2006). "Cut & paste: The Age newspaper's soft spot for 'Jihad' Jack Thomas". The Australian (News Limited). Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  14. ^ a b Manning, Paddy (24 January 2007). "Fairfax boss was troubled by left-leaning editorial culture". The Australian (News Limited).,20867,21108534-7582,00.html?from=public_rss. Retrieved 2007-07-22. 
  15. ^ Boyes, Roger (18 March 2010). "Vienna Boys Choir caught up in sex abuse scandals". The Times (London: Times Newspapers Ltd). Retrieved 5 July 2011. 
  16. ^ Mees, Paul (23 April 2010). "Here’s a crazy idea: What if the Pope is innocent?". Crikey. Private Media Pty Limited. Retrieved 5 July 2011. 

Further reading

  • C. E. Sayers, David Syme, Cheshire 1965
  • Don Hauser, The Printers of the Streets and Lanes Of Melbourne (1837–1975) Nondescript Press, Melbourne 2006

External links

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