The State Library of NSW, in partnership with the National Library of Australia, has been working to digitise its newspaper collections with Sydney’s Daily Telegraph (1883-1923) the latest title to be added to TROVE.
Priced at a penny, the four-page Daily Telegraph (aka 'The Tele' or 'The Terror') was first launched in Sydney on 1 July 1879. Intended as a rival to the Sydney Morning Herald, the paper ran as a broadsheet until 1927, when it switched to its more familiar tabloid format. Today, it’s the largest selling daily newspaper in New South Wales.
By modern standards, nineteenth century newspapers were heavy going reading. Their front pages were given over to tightly-composited columns of classified and shipping notices, with inside pages covered in lengthy articles printed in tiny text offering extended coverage of current events, civic commentary and parliamentary speeches reprinted verbatim.
During the late nineteenth century, newspapers began looking to the rising ‘penny press’ and its mass readership attracted by a mix of sensationalist writing and scandalous content dubbed the ‘New Journalism’. Financially ambitious newspaper proprietors quickly seized the opportunity of using these new design, writing and marketing techniques to remove all the dullness and severity from newspapers and test how commercially successful a truly populist editorial agenda might be.
The ‘New Journalism’ also expanded and professionalised journalism as a trade with reporters learning to judge the types of stories that would appeal to mass readerships and to tell these in a more compelling way. This style of writing sought to present lots of human interest stories which recreated reality, creating mirrors of everyday life that could be used to promote popular causes – it also sold newspapers.
While still a broadsheet, the Telegraph was the first Australian daily newspaper to embrace the design elements of the ‘New Journalism’. This included a variety of innovations like bold, banner headlines and short paragraphs written in simple, accessible English, using pictures and diagrams to break up the text.
By the end of its first decade, the pro-free trade and anti-labor Telegraph was outselling its rival, the Sydney Morning Herald. Clearer writing and attractive design had boosted sales, making the newspaper more accessible to a wider readership but there were troubled times ahead.
From 1900 to World War I, the Telegraph continued to compete in the very fierce Sydney newspaper market in its broadsheet format. During the early 1920s, it changed owners and took on various incarnations. The paper continued to distinguish itself from other Sydney newspapers by placing news on the front page, using increasingly bolder headlines and photography as well as reporting even more sensational news.
In 1927, the Telegraph changed to a tabloid pictorial format with a fantastic art-deco layout indicative of the period. From 1927 to 1931, the paper went through many variations of its name including the Daily Telegraph News-Pictorial, Daily Telegraph Pictorial and Daily Pictorial.
In 1931, the Daily Telegraph returned to a broadsheet format and its original name, but kept news and headlines on the front page. During the 1930s, the paper finally found a good balance between reporting serious and sensational news which saw the Telegraph firmly established as Sydney's second major morning newspaper into the middle of the twentieth century.
This title has been digitised and made fully searchable online as part of the State Library's Digital Excellence Program, a major initiative supported by the NSW Government.