Fairfax Media Archive Symposium

Fairfax Media Archive Symposium

Fairfax Media Archive Symposium

Several members of the Centre for Media History took part in a stimulating symposium hosted by the State Library of NSW recently to celebrate the acquisition of the Fairfax Media Business Archive. Held on August 10, 2018, the symposium underlined the value of the archive as the key source of information about the operations of the organisation from the 1840s to the 1990s.

Professor Bridget Griffen-Foley gave the keynote address revealing the ways in which research in the archive underpins all her books, which range in subject from the Packer media empire to Australian commercial radio. Emeritus Professor Murray Goot’s paper used the archive to explore the Age Poll/Herald Survey. The poll aimed to be more sociological than the Gallup Poll, asking a different style of questions and allowing for different responses.

Professor Sally Young spoke of the importance of the archive in revealing the behind-the-scenes competition for newsprint in the 1930s and ‘40s and the race to make it from Australian hardwood. Dr Margaret Van Heekeren spoke of the ideological context of Fairfax editorial decisions in the early to mid-twentieth century, quoting from a 1957 lecture given by the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) editor John Douglas Pringle. Dr Willa McDonald explored the courageous investigate journalism of SMH reporter Kate McClymont to discuss the need for reform of Australian defamation law in the digital age.

John Fairfax AO introduced the day’s proceedings, speaking briefly about the Fairfax Media Empire while the library’s Peter Arfanis traced the history of the negotiations that led to the acquisition of the archive and provided some handy research tips for using it. Ward O’Neill showed fascinating images in his discussion of the work of fellow Fairfax artists, while Susan Wyndham, freelance journalist and former literary editor of the SMH, reminisced about her long career at Fairfax to trace changes in the SMH’s coverage of books.

Held in the shadow of the announcement of the merger of Fairfax with Nine, which will see the disappearance of the Fairfax name, the symposium underlined the importance of the archive to Australia’s political and cultural history.

Back to the top of this page