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    SEPTEMBER 13, 2006
Page 2 - Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006


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                                           Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - Page 3
 Observer       Anniversary Souvenir                                                           Melbourne
In the news for 37 years                                                                    INSIDE YOUR
■ Back in 1969, 37 years ago
this week, the Melbourne Ob-                                                             ■ Observer started in
server hit the streets for the                                                           1969. Page 4.
first time.                                                                              ■ Our first owner, Gordon
    I was an eager 12-year-old                                                           Barton. Pages 5-6.
newsboy, selling the Observer                                                            ■ It was never going to
at 12 cents a copy, door-to-                                                             be easy. Page 7.
door, in the streets of East                                                             ■ Big team recruited.
Preston and Reservoir.                                                                   Page 10.
    In 1969, the 70s, the 80s,                                                           ■ Observer closes, but
90s, and now the 21st Cen-                                                               not for the first time.
tury, the Observer has had                                                               Page 11.
many varied chapters.                                                                    ■ A critical look at the
    First owner, small-L Liberal                                                         Maxwell Newton days.
Gordon Barton had an agenda                                                              Pages 12-13.
for political reform. We watched                                                         ■ Walkley Award winning
as wayward genius Maxwell                                                                Editor, John Sorell. Pages
Newton took the newspaper                                                                14-15.
downmarket - and the circula-                                                            ■ Real story behind
tion skyward.                                                                            Graham Kennedy ‘engage-
    Peter Isaacson converted                                                             ment’. Page 17
a lurid tabloid into a quality                                                           ■ Colour coverage: Pope
weekend publication, surren-                                                             Paul visits Melbourne.
dering only when media giants                                                            Page 25.
launched three opposition pa-                                                            ■ Observer bought by
pers in August 1989.                                                                     Peter Isaacson. Page 26.
    My company re-launched                                                               ■ Iron Outlaw and Steel
the Melbourne Observer four                                                              Sheila. Pages 28-29.
years ago this week, rapidly                                                             ■ Still your Observer
achieving reader loyalty.                                                                newsboy. Page 30.
        Continued on Page 30       ● Ash Long, Publisher of the Melbourne Observer

         ● Keith McGowan, 3AW Overnighters host                 ● Sam Fiorini, manager of All Day Distribution
Page 4 - Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006
 Observer       Anniversary Souvenir

 Observer started 37 years ago
■ The first edition of the Melb-                                                                       In the politics of 1969, Fed-
ourne Observer was published                                                                        eral Labor MP, Dr Jim Cairns
on Sunday, September 14,                                                                            was proclaiming that the Bolte
1969.                                                                                               State Government was sweep-
   ‘Race For Local Football                                                                         ing the abortion issue ‘under
Pools’ was the headline on the                                                                      the carpet’.
front-page that hit Melbourne,                                                                         The first edition of the Ob-
a town that was yet to even see                                                                     server in 1969 came at a time
Tattslotto.                                                                                         when Sir Henry Bolte was
   (The first Tattslotto draw                                                                       long-time Premier of Victoria,
was televised on HSV-7 on                                                                           and Clyde Holding was Leader
June 22, 1972, hosted by                                                                            of the State Opposition.
David Johnston and Lucy                                                                                State Health Minister Vance
Kiraly).                                                                                            Dickie was quoted to be order-
   The front-page story specu-                                                                      ing a ‘special report’ on the
lated that British ‘pools’                                                                          Spellbound television program
organisation, Littlewoods’,                                                                         on HSV-7 where hypnotism
could mount a challenge to                                                                          was used for entertainment
operate football lotteries in                                                                       purposes by therapist Martin
Victoria, based on the big En-                                                                      St James.
glish weekly pools.                                                                                    A still picture from the pro-
   Tattersalls         (George                                                                      gram shows host Garry Mead-
Adams) held the monopoly for                                                                        ows lighting a cigarette on air,
gambling for Victoria in 1969,                                                                      whilst a ‘victim’ was engaging
with its lottery consultations.                                                                     in a stunt in the show.
   The first Observer front-                                                                           “The show (was) described
page featured a large picture                                                                       by critics as ‘the sickest to ever
of Janine Forbes, 19, of                                                                            appear on television,” the Ob-
Cheltenham, an entrant in the                                                                       server reported breathlessly.
Miss International Beauty                                                                              In the further weeks of
Contest in Tokyo, anxiously                                                                         1969, the Observer revealed
awaiting the results of the                                                                         ‘New Evidence of Army Sa-
beauty pageant.                                                                                     dism’, reporting on ‘bastard-
   In sport, the Observer                                                                           isation’ at Duntroon and
noted that Carlton screamed                                                                         Scheyville army bases.
                                   ● Victoria’s new independent newspaper, the Observer,
                                   quickly achieved weekly sales of more than 100,000.
                                   Doncaster milk bar owner Mr Kenna was seen promoting
                                   sales of the paper. He won a black-and-white television
                                   set for his efforts (colour TV was still six years away!)
                            to a six-goal victory over              The Victorian road toll for
                            Collingwood in the Second            1969 was a staggering 1034
                            Semi-Final held at the MCG in        people. It led to a turnpoint
                            front of more than 100,000           safety campaign in the daily
                            people.                              Sun News-Pictorial.
                               Later in the same month,             Other news to end the year
                            the 1969 Grand Final cover-          was 25-year-old fashion de-
                            age was headlined ‘It’s Tiger        signer Prue Acton’s company
● Sir       Henry   Bolte: Town’. Richmond 12.13.85              going into receivership for more   ● Dr Jim Cairns, later to
Victoria’s no-nonsense con- deafeated Carlton 8.12.60,           than $1 million.                   become Deputy Prime Min-
servative Premier was no with Royce Hart saying the win             Decimal currency had            ister in the Whitlam Federal
fan of the new Observer was ‘for (coach) Tom Hafey               been introduced just three         Government, was in the
newspaper.                  alone’.                              years earlier on Feb. 14, 1966.    Observer headlines.
                                                  Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - Page 5
 Observer       Anniversary Souvenir

‘In his own way, a great patriot’
“Cynicism, sterility and the                                                                                     'For the rest, the Sunday
musty smell of the 19th cen-                                                                                Observer will try to inform and
tury fug the corridors of power                                                                             entertain you and your family
in Australia.                                                                                               as best it can.
   “This country desperately                                                                                     'This is possibly the first
needs better men and better                                                                                 Sunday paper you have bought.
ideas," opined publisher Gor-                                                                               It is certainly the first I have
don Barton in the first edition                                                                             published. I hope you like it,"
of the Observer, on Septem-                                                                                 Barton said.
ber 14, 1969.                                                                                                   After his death, publisher
     Signing himself as 'Chair-                                                                             Richard Walsh told the ABC:
man of Directors, IPEC Austra-                                                                              "He had been very successful
lia Ltd', Barton went on to say:                                                                            in business, but he was one of
■ 'SO THAT we may cease to                                                                                  the most unbusinesslike busi-
behave like frightened larrikins                                                                            nessmen I've had anything
abroad.                                                                                                     much to do with, and that was
■ ‘SO THAT our great and                                                                                    mainly because he was actu-
growing national wealth is put                                                                              ally an idealist, and was preoc-
to its best use and noT wasted                                                                              cupied with where Australian
■ 'SO THAT our children are                                                                                 society was going to.
educated to enjoy a good life.                                                                                  “He was, in his own way, a
■ 'SO THAT our old people are                                                                               great patriot because he was
honoured and protected from                                                                                 unhappy with Australian soci-
hardship.                                                                                                   ety, he was very unhappy with
■ 'SO THAT sickness and un-                                                                                 out involvement in the Vietnam
employment do not become                                                                                    War.”
burdens which crush the spirit.                                                                                 Barton said: “I think the
■ 'SO THAT our Aborigines are                                                                               most important thing is not to
given no less attention than our                                                                            waste your opportunities. You
overseas investors.                                                                                         only come this way once. Here
■ 'SO THAT our personal rights                                                                              I am in this tiny spot of the
may be protected and Parliament                                                                             earth, for this tiny period of
functions as a legislature and                                                                              time – which may be 70 years
not as a rubber stamp.                                                                                      hopefully, or maybe less – and
                                                                                                            it seems that one has the re-
                                                                                                            sponsibility of making the most
                                                                                                            of this.”
                                   ● Transport magnate Gordon Barton established the
                                   Melbourne Observer on Sunday, September 14, 1969.
                                   He was Chairman of IPEC Australia, and also a driving
                                   force in the Australia Party.

                                   ■ 'SO THAT it becomes clearly             “However, as a good news-
                                   understood that the purpose of        paper should, we shall try to
                                   government is to serve the            keep our opinion to our edito-
                                   people and not vice versa.            rials and to give space in our
                                   ■ 'SO THAT common sense               columns to those who dis-
                                   and humanity displace political       agree.
                                   dogmas and slogans in our na-              “Our policy in regard to
                                   tional debate.                        news is that it shall be objec-
● Gordon Barton lost $1.5
                                   ■ 'SO THAT we may again be            tive, complete and concise and
million within 14 months on        proud to be Australian.               up-to-date.
the Sunday Observer pub-              “It will be the political policy        “Our columnists will be ex-
lishing       project    in        of this newspaper to support          pected to be independent,          ● Gordon Barton, 75, died
Melbourne.                         such ideas and such men.              plain spoken and fearless.         in Spain in April 2005
Page 6 - Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Observer        Anniversary Souvenir

 Owner against Viet conscription
■ The Observer swung
against the prevailing views of
the establishment press oper-
ated by The Herald & Weekly
Times, Fairfax and Packer or-
ganizations in the late 1960s.
    An editorial in the second
edition of the newspaper cam-
paigned against conscription:
"The National Service Act is
neither necessary, nor fair,"
declared the leader writer.
    "It should be repealed with-
out delay, before it makes
more of our young men into
criminals, and before it brings
the law generally into con-
    The Observer carried pho-
tographed of university news-
paper editors Mike Richards
                                                                                        feated in the 1972 Federal
and Henry Rosenbloom, who
risked 12 months jail by urg-                                                           Election to Labor's Gough
ing in their Farrago columns                                                            Whitlam.
that 20-year-olds not register                                                              The Observer continued its
for National Service.                                                                   campaign against conscription
    The Observer was not                                                                to the armed forces, with a
afraid to tap into the political                                                        signed advertisement declaring
climate of the day either.                                                              'Don't Register'.
    Victorians had been used to                                                             It included the signatures of
a conservative political news-                                                          future Deputy Prime Minister
paper diet from The Herald &                                                            Dr Jim Cairns, the then-Rev-
Weekly Times Ltd (publishers                                                            erend Terry Lane and Ob-
of the Sun News-Pictorial and                                                           server general manager John
the afternoon Herald), and                                                              Crew.
David Syme & Co Ltd (pub-                                                                   In 1970, the Observer
lishers of The Age).                                                                    front-paged with 'Labor Raps
    The Observer carried full-                                                          Press Gag', with ALP figures
page ads for the Australia                                                              heavily critical of The Herald
Party, which was led by news-                                                           & Weekly Times.
paper publisher Gordon                                                                      The Observer's story al-
Barton who had earlier stood                                                            leged that the HWT was engi-
for the Liberal Reform Party.                                                           neering the split of the Labor
    The October 26, 1969 edi-
tion headlined 'Landslide',                                                             Party.
noting that 'The Gorton Gov-                                                                Within a week, the giant
ernment was fighting for its life                                                       HWT delivered a writ upon the
late last night against a huge                                                          Observer, its editor and pub-
swing to Labor'.                                                                        lisher.
    Indeed, Prime Minister                                                                  The HWT countered with a
Gorton was soon to vote him-                                                            special Sunday edition of The
self out of the top job, ceding                                                         Sun in May 1970 to report on
                                    ● Gordon Barton’s Observer ran a political agenda
it to Treasurer William                 consistent with his involvements with the       the re-election of Sir Henry
McMahon, who would be de-             Liberal Reform Group and the Australia Party      Bolte's Government to power.
                                                    Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - Page 7
 Observer       Anniversary Souvenir

 It was never going to be easy!                                                                               ■ An advertisement in the
                                                                                                              first Observer classifieds
                                                                                                              ($1.25 for two lines, $5 per
■ Almost as soon as it started,                                                                               column inch) offered $7500
                                                                                                              annual salary for the Pro-
the Observer was the subject                                                                                  duction Manager's job at the
of speculation that it was about
to close.                                                                                                     newspaper.
                                                                                                                  The job involved supervis-
    It HAS closed twice - but                                                                                 ing a 'web-offset newspaper
here we are, 37 years later!
    Early advertisements take us                                                                              plant which includes IBM
                                                                                                              magnetic tape typesetting,
back to more uncomplicated                                                                                    paste-up, camera and plate
times of 1969 and the early
1970s:                                                                                                        departments. A Goss Ur-
                                                                                                              banite press will be installed
■ Waltons city department                                                                                     in December this year,' pro-
store was one of the strong
early advertisers in the Ob-                                                                                  claimed the 1969 ad.
                                                                                                                  An ad for a Senior Adver-
server - with prices for                                                                                      tising Sales Representative
children's clothing starting at
just 50 cents for T-shirts.                                                                                   for an unidentified 'metro-
                                                                                                              politan newspaper' offered
    Perhaps there was more                                                                                    remuneration expressed
than met the eye with the early
Waltons ads, as many of the                                                                                   thus:
                                                                                                                  "This is a $10,000 per
incentives provided for the net-                                                                              year position. Naturally the
work of 2000 news boys and
girls were vouchers to shop at                                                                                person selected to handle
                                                                                                              the job will have to prove
Waltons.                                                                                                      himself. In fact both the
■ Gordon Barton included a
number of large ads for his                                                                                   man and the company will
                                                                                                              know his worth because he
IPEC and Rex transport                                                                                        will be paid in direct relation
organisations in those days,
and even Rupert Murdoch's                                                                                     with results.
                                                                                                                  “This is why an initial sal-
Truth newspaper took to tak-                                                                                  ary of only $5200 will be
ing out a notice to promote its
colour Sunday edition prior to                                                                                paid. The Man we have in
                                                                                                              mind will not be prepared to
the Melbourne Cup race                                                                                        work for this and through his
■ Customers were invited to                                                                                   initiative and efforts will
                                    ● There was press speculation in Jobson’s Investment                      quickly double this figure."
'discover the gay way to shop'      Digest that Gordon Barton’s publishing enterprise was in                      Other ads for Sales Rep-
at the new Doncaster                strife. But there was an agenda: the publisher of Jobson’s
Shoppingtown to be opened                                                                                     resentatives cautioned that
                                    was Maxwell Newton, who became proprietor of the Ob-                      the appointees would "have
at White’s Corner.                  server within weeks of this front-page.                                   to be dignified men who can
■ New Footscray Motors
boss Don Lougheed offered           stereo - went on sale at                                                  represent us efficiently."
                                                                           watching the military parade.          As times became harder,
vehicles on $25 deposit. 1962       Sutton's Elizabeth St store for        The photo was taken by Ray
                                    just 99 cents. New releases, for                                          and ads tougher to sell, a
EK sedans were on sale from                                                Drew.
$590, station wagons from           $2.50, were available for Anne                                            1970 ad offer representa-
                                                                              Next-day colour was some-       tives that "the income will be
$790. A 1968 Holden Torana          and Johnny Hawker, Zorba's             thing of a press novelty in that
                                    Dance, Mario Lanza in The                                                 more than that paid to any
'SL' sedan was on offer for                                                era, with Herald Gravure pre-
$1490.                              Student          Prince         and                                       other newspaper advertising
                                                                           prints reserved for the after-     representatives in Victoria"
■ Murdoch Electrical offered        Mantovani.                             noon broadsheet for occasions
a 70 Series Victa lawn mower                                                                                      The newspaper promoted
                                                     ●                     such as the Grand Final.
                                        The Observer led the way                                              itself as 'cheaper than a pint
for just $99, and a 23-inch                                                   The Observer followed its       of milk' (10 cents a bottle),
Phillips TV set was available for   in full-colour editorial presen-       colour front-page effort in May
                                    tation. The first full-colour front-                                      with the 12-cent cover price
just $1.85 per week, with no                                               1970 with Footscray’s ‘Mr
                                    page was on April 26, 1970,                                               discounted to about 8 cents
mention at all of interest rates                                           Football’ Ted Whitten running      a copy with a home delivery
or total price.                     with a moving Anzac Day por-           onto the ‘Footscray Oval’ for
■ LP records - both mono and        trait of a single-leg veteran                                             deal.
                                                                           his 321st retirement game.
Page 8 - Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006
                                  Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - Page 9
Observer      Anniversary Souvenir

                     ● ‘Observer’ sales brochure for Melbourne milk bars, 1970
Page 10 - Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006
                                  Observer       Anniversary Souvenir

       PEOPLE                               Big team recruited
                                 ■ Early issues of the                                                   strapper, Leslie Lewis, was
                                 Melbourne Observer - edited                                             charged with allegedly doping
                                 by Michael Cannon - were                                                the horse.
                                 light on 'by-lines' to identify                                            Michael Costigan had
                                 authors of the various news and                                         joined the Observer stable in
                                 magazines articles. This was                                            1969, and journalist Wilfred
                                 common newspaper practice of                                            Burchett - who was battling
                                 the era.                                                                with the Australian Govern-
                                    John McLaren authored the                                            ment for the restoration of his
                                 'This Week summary of news                                              passport - filed his controver-
                                 events, Don Whittington pro-                                            sial views as a war correspon-
   ● Judy Banks and
 Fredd Bear (Tedd Dunn)          vided a federal analysis with                                           dent covering the 'Japanese
                                 'Canberra Carousel', plus                                               invasion of China'.
 ■ Judy Banks (above)            there was a TV column 'Private
 launched Fredd Bear’s                                                                                      In 1970, the paper tri-
                                 Eye' by Paul Jacks, a book col-                                         umphed that it had chartered
 Breakfast A Go-Go on            umn by Freda Irving; Des                  ● Fred Villiers
 ATV-0 in 1969, as the Ob-                                                                               a Piper Navajo aircraft to bring
                                 Tuddenham, David Lee, Tom              In coming editions, Gary         the left-wing journalist into
 server commenced publi-         Lahiff and Fred Villiers were
 cation.                                                            Mac, of 3AK fame, introduced         Australia from Noumea, with
                                 amongst those in the 11-pages      a 'Music World' column, and          approval finally given by Direc-
    Channel 0 had started        of sports news.
 transmission only five years                                       Denbeigh Salter provided film        tor General of Civil Aviation,
                                    Soon to join the team were      reviews with his first critique
 earlier from studios at         cartoonist 'Sutch' (followed by                                         Sir Donald Anderson.
 Nunawading.                                                        being of The Italian Job star-          The flight also carried Ob-
                                 Feiffer), writer David Martin,     ring Michael Caine, Noel
     It was the project of Sir   Niall Brennan, Alan Fitz-                                               server News Editor Bill Green
 Reginald Ansett, who had                                           Coward and Benny Hill.               and Observer photographer
                                 gerald, Helen Homewood,                Anthony Berry and Hazel
 pioneered Australia’s pri-      John Steed, Cyril Pearl, plus                                           Bill Veitch.
 vately-owned airline.                                              Berry were signed to conduct            That week's edition carried
     In television, Channel 7    re-prints of Malcolm Mugg-         the Sunday Observer Travel
                                 eridge's 'London Diary' column                                          the headline: 'He's Home',
 was owned by The Herald                                            Service.                             complete with photo of
 & Weekly Times Ltd, and         from The New Statesman.                Noel Turnbull turned in his
                                    Although the first edition of                                        Burchett flanked by Melb-
 Channel 9 was operated by                                          share of front-pages, and other      ourne lawyer Frank Galbally.
 the Packer family’s Aus-        the Observer was totally black-    by-lines included those for
                                 and-white, a feature of                                                    The January 18, 1970 (is-
 tralian Consolidated                                               Michael Stewart, Women's
 Press.                          Barton's newspaper was an                                               sue number 19) issue noted
                                                                    Editor Kerry Walsh, motoring         that first Observer editor
      ABC-TV had started its     eight-page comics section,         writer Don Gibb and Lloyd
 expansion to regional areas     printed entirely in full-colour.   Marshall in Perth.                   Michael Cannon “resigned to
 throughout the 1960s.                                                  Ray Drew and Mike                devote his time to compiling a
     Barry Crocker, later to                                        O'Connor were photographers          new book”. David Robie, an
 become for his exploits as                                         in those early days. Shopping        experienced journalist in New
 ‘Barry McKenzie’, was win-                                         columnist was Nora Payne.            Zealand and Australia, took
 ner of the 1969 TV Week                                                Peter Wharton was soon to        over the top job.
 Logies.                                                            join on board with his trotting         One of the big recruitments
      TV events for the year                                        tips, as was Peter Pearson           was cartoonist Michael Leunig
 included the US Apollo 10                                          covering greyhounds.                 who started with the paper in
 mission to the Moon by Neil                                            An early sign-on was 'Peep-      May 1970, with a view of the
 Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin                                             ing Pete' (Vic Beitzel) with his     Vietnam Moratorium. Leunig
 and Michael Collins.                                               racing observations, including       expanded his name as a car-
     Prince Charles was in-                                         the 1969 Melbourne Cup               toon favourite with Nation Re-
 vested by the Queen as                                                                                  view, and then later with The
 Prince of Wales.                                                   question: 'Was Big Philou
                                                                    Nobbled?'                            Age.
      Television news high-                                                                                 Footy writers for the first
 lighted the aircraft carrier                                           The heavily backed second
 HMAS Melbourne’s colli-                                            Cup favourite had been               season included Peter
 sion with the American de-                                         scratched just 39 minutes be-        Finlayson, Graeme John,
 stroyer Frank E Evans.                                             fore the start of the Cup.           Dennis Bourke, Peter
                                      ● Michael Leunig                  Five months later, the horse’s   Pearson and Arthur Olliver.
                                                Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - Page 11
 Observer        Anniversary Souvenir

Observer closes, not for the last time!
■ By early 1971, Gordon                                                                                    and imaginative feature series
Barton had tired of the Ob-                                                                                for the Sunday Observer
server experiment, and his fo-                                                                             Magazine, albeit now in a re-
cus was on the more cerebral                                                                               duced black-and-white format.
Sunday Review.                                                                                                Talented young journalist
    It was also much cheaper for                                                                           Sean Hanrahan, who was later
him to publish. He had lost                                                                                to edit Melbourne suburban
$1½ million in 14 months.                                                                                  newspapers including South-
      The Sunday Review was                                                                                ern Cross and Valley Voice,
pitched at a much more aca-                                                                                added his skills to the newspa-
demic market, and allowed                                                                                  per.
Barton to share his views with                                                                                Footballer Alex Jesaulenko
a more accommodating audi-                                                                                 was signed to write for the Ob-
ence. It had achieved an aver-                                                                             server, just weeks before its
age net circulation of 32,616                                                                              closure. So was 3UZ racing
in its first year.                                                                                         man John Russell.
    "Unencumbered by substan-                                                                                  Nancy Cato produced a
tial advertising, it is lean                                                                               bright 'Horizons' kids page.
enough to follow stories                                                                                       But it wasn't enough.
through to their bitter end," said                                                                         Barton had lost his nerve …
a Sunday Review ad, pub-                                                                                   and the newspaper’s political
lished in the Sunday Ob-                                                                                   coverage became self-indul-
server.                                                                                                    gent.
   "The foreign news is sup-                                                                                   'Another Dienbienphu?’ was
ported by a team of Asian cor-                                                                             the Observer headline for Feb-
respondents, the sources of                                                                                ruary 28, 1971, in the second-
UPI and the authority of com-                                                                              last edition under Barton’s
mentators like Rohan Rivett,                                                                               proprietorship.
Robert Cooksey and Max                                                                                           It was a reference to a
Teichmann.                                                                                                 1954 massacre when French
      "The literary and features                                                                           troops were circled by Viet-
sections are enlivened by the                                                                              namese troops, explained
                                     ● Germaine Greer: won much coverage in the Observer                   Barton's favourite foreign affairs
wit of Bill Peach, Barry
Humphries, Ray Taylor and                                                                                  man, Wilfred Burchett.
                                     ■ The first closure of the Observer was reported in The Age on            Maybe so … but it certainly
Owen Webster. Tom Roper              Friday, March 12, 1971:
provides a column of impor-                                                                                did not tap the pulse of
                                        The Melbourne newspaper, the Sunday Observer, is almost            Victoria.
tance to anyone interested in        certain to cease publication, and not be published this weekend.
Australian education."                                                                                          The March 7, 1971 edition
                                        Its editor, Mr Kevin Childs, said last night he had been told      of the Sunday Observer again
    Soon, the paper merged           this by the managing director of the Sunday Observer, Mr John
with Nation, a fortnightly                                                                                 front-paged with a Vietnam
                                     Crew.                                                                 story, an item about a plan for
owned by Tom Fitzgerald and             He was also told that Mr Gordon Barton, the chairman of
edited by George Munster.                                                                                  free hospital bed plans, and a
                                     Ipec Australia, the company which launched the newspaper,             teaser about Jezza's article
    The final days of the Ob-        would be talking to the staff of the Observer this morning.
server - Mark I - were not with-                                                                           about sex and footy.
                                        It was understood that distribution problems would be the              More revealing - in hindsight
out editorial glory. Bruce           cause of the closure.
Hanford was one of the writ-                                                                               - was the double-page ad for
                                        Circulation has fallen to 80,000 from an ‘all time high’ of        The Sunday Australian, the
ers to participate in a feature      120,000.
series entitled 'The Human Ex-                                                                             10-cent broadsheet being ad-
                                        The company had been unable to distribute the newspaper            vanced by Rupert Murdoch's
periment' which examined             through normal outlets.
changing morals and stan-                                                                                  News Limited.
                                        It is believed the newspaper has lost its publisher $1.5 million       As we say in Melbourne foot-
dards.                               in the 14 months of publication.
  Lindy Hobbs, soon to make                                                                                ball reporting terms:
                                        Ipec will continue to publish the weekly Sunday Review at its        OUT: Barton
her name in the international        Melbourne plant.
reporting arena, filed articulate                                                                            IN: Murdoch, Newton
Page 12 - Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006
 Observer       Anniversary Souvenir

Barnum and Bailey, Beitzel and
■ The early days of the Melb-                                                                                Carmichael, the communist
ourne Observer under Max-                                                                                    Assistant Secretary of the AEU.
well Newton were chronicled                                                                                      “Of course, with these at-
by ‘C M Evans’ of Nation Re-                                                                                 tacks the goodwill of the old
view in July 1971.                                                                                           Sunday Observer readers was
    “A large question-mark                                                                                   virtually lost overnight. But the
hangs over the future of the                                                                                 Victorian Authorised News-
fledgling Melbourne Observer,                                                                                agents’ Association (VANA)
Max Newton’s 55,000-circu-                                                                                   agreed to handle the paper (it
lation attempt to break into the                                                                             had refused to handle the Sun-
newspaper regime,” the media                                                                                 day Observer), the old paper
critic commented.                                                                                            had been denied and Packer’s
    “So far it has been a disas-                                                                             Conpress provided a cheap
ter. Yet if ever a would-be news-                                                                            distribution system. Yet it has
paper tycoon has had every-                                                                                  failed,” commented the 1971
thing handed to him on a plat-                                                                               critique.
ter and thrown it away through                                                                                   “The facile Harry Beitzel,
cupidity, it is Newton, or Su-                                                                               the ex-footy umpire, who has
per-max as some of his more                                                                                  made a lot of money out of a
sycophantic employees like to                                                                                Barnum and Bailey approach
call him.                                                                                                    to rules, was accepted as the
    “With the folding of                                                                                     voice of Victoria and his sports
Barton’s old Sunday Ob-                                                                                      section of the paper expanded.
server he inherited a name, a                                                                                This didn’t help either.
lot of goodwill, staff and enthu-                                                                                “Newton has now had three
siasm. Such was the enthusi-                                                                                 presses and shifting office as
asm of journalists from the old                                                                              many times in 20 weeks
paper that a number rushed                                                                                   doesn’t help. A completely
back from holidays to join in the                                                                            demoralised staff, with only two
new operation as soon as they           ● Harry Beitzel: ‘a Barnum and Bailey approach’                      reporters of any experience,
got wind of it.                                                                                              helps even less.
    “A swift lunchtime raid on         “One reporter produced an        the organisation, Peter Kelly -          “Accompanying the Get-
the old Observer offices at         entire column which was ready       the ex-ALP member, former            Hawke campaign has been an
Fishermen’s Bend procured           to print and had only to be         Bulletin staffer and ex Press        anti-Comm. campaign by Kelly,
the titlepieces for regular col-    pasted up.                          Secretary to the then treasurer      reminiscent of the days of
umns.                                  “The Review has previously       McMahon.                             Senator Joe McCarthy.
                                    published (‘Changing the                “This garbage ios mainly
                                    Colour of the new Observer’,        anti-Hawke, anti-Whitlam,
                                    March 28, 1971), an account         anti-trade union. Sometimes
                                    of the early disillusion with the   former ALP Federal Secretary
                                    printing of propaganda by           Cyril Wyndham volunteers his
                                    Santamaria. This drove away         hand at the same material
                                    two of the old staff.               when he gets time away from
                                       “Last week former Sunday         his job of writing about food
                                    Observer Editor Kevin Childs        prices in Newton’s Canberra
                                    resigned as News Editor of the      Sunday Post under the by-line
                                    Melbourne Observer and re-          of ‘Stan Lee’.
                                    turned to The Age. He appears           “Newton has given this in-
                                    to have finally become disillu-     struction to his staff: ‘We’re for
                                    sioned with the propaganda          the Liberal Government and
                                    masquerading as news com-           out to get Hawke. From the
● B.A. ‘Bob’ Santamaria             ment, printed in the Observer       first issue the anti-Hawke cam-      ● The Melbourne Observer
provided some of the early          under the names of Newton           paign was on - efforts being         was ‘anti-Hawke, anti-
political commentary.               and his sole fellow director in     made to link him with Laurie         Whitlam’ in 1971
                                               Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - Page 13
Observer        Anniversary Souvenir

  bunkum in paper’s early years
                                                                      of integrity if it had some pol-   Sibley, a survivor from the old
                                                                      ish to its articles and presen-    Observer and Newsday.
                                                                      tation. But a tight budget, a          “Newton, once hailed as a
                                                                      small staff and executives ha-     force for good in Australian
                                                                      rassed by concern for other        journalism because of his fear-
                                                                      Newton papers has meant fail-      lessness when confronted by
                                                                      ure in this direction also. The    the Federal Government over
                                                                      presentation is often worse        publication of secret docu-
                                                                      than a suburban giveaway.          ments, is now seen in an en-
                                                                         “This superficial slapdash      tirely different light.
                                                                      approach shows through, in             “Although he seems to re-
                                                                      spite of extensive rewriting and   tain the confidence of his back-
                                                                      despite monitoring of other        ers, who apparently include
                                                                      papers and radio news in or-       Packer and Felipe Ysmael, his
                                                                      der to get some news into the      failure in Melbourne makes
                                                                      paper.                             the hope for something better
                                                                         “The only saving face among     in the form of a popular Sun-
                                                                      the writers is columnist Sheila    day paper distressingly dim.”

                                                                        Print run grew
                                                                         to 240,000
                                                                       ■ For a short while, the
  ● Sir Frank Packer: his Consolidated Press network                   Melbourne Observer
    assisted with early distribution of the Observer                   became a little zany, top-
                                                                       ping some of the Fleet
   “The staff thought so much      the ex-Editor of the now de-
of a piece by Kelly that it was                                        Street ‘red-tops’ with a
                                   funct Newsday, Tim Hewat,           truly tabloid approach.
cut out, and pasted on the wall    was chosen to write the
with the word Communist un-        Melbourne Observer TV col-              In the final years of
derlined. In a shortish article,   umn, under the by-line Ralph        Maxwell Newton’s pro-
he’d used it 11 times.             Erskine.                            prietorship, the Observer
   “When the Victorian ALP             “Hewat, who sells his           relied on large headlines
reorganisation vote was on, the    Wanted program to 9, has cer-       and increasingly unbe-
copy was vetted by Kelly. In an    tainly given that network and       lieveable stories to mar-
extraordinary commisar-like        his own program a lot of praise.    ket the newspaper.
performance, he wrote in ref-          “Car, movie and restaurant          At its peak, the Ob-
erences to communist influ-        advertisers get free editorial      server reached a top
ence in the Victorian ALP on       plugs in the form of ‘reviews’      print run of 240,000 - all
                                                                       handled by Print Manager     ● The Observer, under the
copy written by experienced        in return for ads. Moves to halt                                 ownership of Maxwell Newton,
men.                               this have proved a failure,” the    Tom Gardiner on a line       reached a print run maximum
   “There were protests when,      1971 Review article stated.         of Goss ‘Community’          of 240,000 with a full-colour
at the insistence of Channel 9         “The newspaper might had        presses at the small         Grand Final edition in the mid-
network chief Clyde Packer,        a chance to overcome its lack       Richmond factory.            1970s.
Page 14 - Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006
 Observer       Anniversary Souvenir

Editor John Sorell
was ‘on the spot’
■ Much of the early circula-         ists at large. "When it became
tion success of the Melbourne        known that I was joining the
Observer can be attributed to        Melbourne Observer, I re-
one man - John Sorell.               ceived messages of support
   On July 30, 1972, the             from all sections of the com-
Melbourne Observer an-               munity which reflected an ac-
nounced that it had signed           ceptance of the paper's posi-
Walkley Award-winning jour-          tion in this city.”
nalist John Sorell as Editor.             "There were a few who told
      Sorell, then 35, had be-       me I was a mug to leave the
came a Melbourne household           security and warmth of my pre-
name with his daily 'On The          vious employer.”
Spot' column in the Melbourne             Sorell outlined his plans for
Herald afternoon broadsheet          the Melbourne Observer over
newspaper.                           the coming years.
   He won his first national             "I'm looking forward to the
award for a report of oil and        challenge of advancing the
gas troubleshooter Red Adair,        Melbourne Observer, even if,             ● John Sorell, famed ‘Old Boy’ of the renowned
then a second accolade for his       at times, we have to put up with          Hutchins School on Hobart, became a multiple
                                                                                Walkley Award-winning journalist, through his
exclusive interview with de-         the forces of darkness.               ‘On The Spot’ column in Melbourne’s Herald afternoon
posed Prime Minister John                  "I don't have any bold or          newspaper. He became Editor of the Melbourne
Gorton.                              brash ideas about changing the              Observer, then Channel 9 Director of News
   Sorell's assessment of the        paper overnight. Changes will
Observer was: "It has a tre-         be gradual, because the basic        'engagement' of 'confirmed            Hong Kong; TV weather girl
mendous future in this town.         established format is clearly        bachelor' Graham Kennedy              Rosemary Margan was signed
The paper has character. It is       successful."                         and Lana Cantrell).                   for the Observer's women's
vigorous without being irre-              Sorell predicted he would           Other exclusives included         pages; and 3UZ's Bert Bryant
sponsible, follows no parties or     double the newspaper's circu-        Billy McMahon, Bob Hawke              joined the racing pages.
policies and recognises no sa-       lation within a year.                … even Gordon Barton (but                 Keith Dunstan, favourite
cred cows.                                 Within six months, sales       not a word about his Ob-              columnist in The Sun News-
   "We're still comparatively        had jumped from 70,000 to            server!)                              Pictorial, had written a new
small, but we are Melbourne's        92,000 in February 1973.                  Sorell was quick to recruit.     book, Knockers … Sorell ob-
own Sunday newspaper. We are               "To coincide with 100 is-      Journeyman journalist Alan            tained the rights to serialise the
definitely here to stay.             sues under Newton proprietor-        Stewart hit the front-page with       book.
      "Most of the hard work has     ship, Sorell announced the 50        a story that Victoria's first footy       So, of course, the front-
already been done in getting         per cent jump in three months.       pools venture, backed by Sir          page headline appeared 'Keith
the paper on the road.                     Sorell's first edition in-     Maurice Nathan, had only at-          Dunstan Writes For Us'.
      “My charter, as I see it, is   cluded a front-page where            tracted wagers totalling                  A special Federal Election is-
to retain the bright, interesting    former ALP leader Arthur             $6446.                                sue on December 3, 1973 her-
character of the paper, and to       Calwell buried the hatchet with           Brian Blackwell broke the        alded: 'Good Morning, Labor.
encourage Melbourne people           PM-to-be Gough Whitlam.              story that Kodak had given the        GOUGH THE TOFF!'
to become involved with it.               His 'Sorell on Sunday' col-     'OK' to family snapshots show-             Sales rose to 95,000 …
     "We'll continue to give them    umn warned how Melbourne             ing full-frontal nudes. That was      and the Melbourne Obs-
the sort of story they don't get     Lord Mayor Cr Alwynne                big news in 1972!                     erver’s cover price rose to 20
in the other papers.                 Rowlands faced the knife.                 Martin Ryan asked if Sir         cents.
    "We are not part of the es-           In the next week Sorell fol-    Henry Bolte had conducted an              John Sorell’s tenure at the
tablishment and there are no         lowed with an exclusive inter-       illegal starting price bookmak-       Observer continued until the
areas we are not prepared to         view with TV star Graham             ing business from a small drap-       mid 1970s when he was
write on. I sense great good-        Kennedy.                             ery store in the main street of       wooed by the Packer Family
will for this paper and in the           (It was Sorell who later cho-    Skipton.                              to become Director of News at
community and among journal-         reographed the high-publicity            Geoff Hawthorne filed from        GTV-9.
                                               Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006 - Page 15
 Observer       Anniversary Souvenir

Exclusive interview led to Walkley
■ John Sorell had started his
newspaper career on the
Hobart Mercury in 1955, and
after his stint at the Melbourne
Observer, went on to become
the successful Director of News                                                                               PEOPLE
at GTV-9.
      But his early days in jour-
nalism included a two-year stint
in the United Kingdom.
      "I bummed around gener-
ally, worked on the Poole and
Dorset Herald, the North-
ampton Chronicle and ended
up in the British merchant ma-
rine service," he told the
Melbourne Observer in 1972.
     "No, not a deck hand, a jun-
ior officer - a deck hand got
more dough.                                                                                              ● Brian Blackwell: Ex-
                                                                                                         tremely talented former
     “It was a British tramp ship                                                                        Editor of the Observer.
and, after a couple of voyages                                                                           Had years of newspaper
across the Atlantic, it suddenly                                                                         experience in Hong
got diverted to Geelong.                                                                                 Kong and New Zealand.
     "I thought it was the place                                                                         Based in Brisbane, he
to get off and went up Collins                                                                           indulges his interest in
Street to see Harold Austin                                                                              thoroughbred racing and
at The Age."                                                                                             now writes for Practical
     At that time, the famed Age                                                                         Punting Monthly.
Editor-to-be Graham Perkin,
was in Sorell's words, "the             ● John Gorton: provided a scoop for John Sorell
bumptious boy around the                                            got through to him."
place; he'd just moved into fea-                                        "Anyway I rang him up and
tures, that was a big move on                                       he said, "Come around now if
The Age".                                                           you like".
     Sorell started as a D-grade                                        "I thought about it and de-
reporter, did a lot of sub-edit-                                    cided if I went around we'd both
ing, and then was sent to                                           get on the grog and next morn-
Canberra, where he was                                              ing neither of us would remem-
'chilled off' by the winter                                         ber anything about it, and he'd
weather in the national capital.                                    ring me up and say he'd              ● Alan Armsden: One of
                                                                                                         the real newspaper
      The Melbourne Herald                                          changed his mind, and anyway,        characters of Australia.
made him an offer, and he                                           I was tired.                         As well as his stint as
eventually pioneered the On                                             "So I'd said I'd come over       Observer Editor for both
The Spot column which won                                           at 8.30 in the morning and he        Maxwell Newton and
him a huge personal readership.                                     said "I never get out of bed until   Peter         Isaacson,
    "Anyone given the same                                          nine' But if you ring me at          Armsden has been Edi-
break would have won the            ● Alan Stewart: Journey-        8.30am, you'll probably wake         tor of newspapers in the
                                    man journalist who wrote        me up and you can come               UK, Hong Kong and the
award."                             evrything from general news
   Likewise, he explains his                                        around at nine."                     Middle East. He became
                                    to sports reports for the                                            CEO of the prestigious
award-winning interview with        Observer ... even refusing to       The interview was held be-       Pacific Area Newspapers
PM John Gorton: "Seems that         pay parking fines so he         side the pool at The Lodge,          Publishers Association,
nobody could get to him. I just     could report what it was like   and beat all the competitors by      and lives in Queensland.
rang him up at The Lodge and        to be in jail.                  a day.
Page 16 - Melbourne Observer Magazine - Wednesday, September 13, 2006

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