The Bulletin

From Academic Kids

The Bulletin is a weekly magazine, which has been published in Sydney, Australia since 1880. It was immensely influential in Australian culture and politics from about 1890 until World War I, the period when it was identified with the "Bulletin school" of Australian literature. Its influence thereafter declined steadily. In the 1960s it was revived as a modern newsmagazine, and still occupies a modestly important place in Australian publishing.

The Bulletin was founded by two Sydney journalists, J.F. Archibald and John Haynes, and the first edition appeared on 31 January, 1880. It was intended to be a journal of political and business commentary, with some literary content. Its politics were nationalist, anti-imperialist, protectionist, insular, racist, republican, anti-clerical and masculinist - but not socialist. It mercilessly ridiculed colonial governors, capitalists, snobs and social climbers, the clergy, feminists and prohibitionists. It upheld trade unionism, Australian independence, advanced democracy and White Australia. It ran savagely racist cartoons attacking Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Jews, and mocking the Aboriginal people. The paper's masthead slogan, "Australia for the White Man," became a national political credo.

This mix of radicalism and xenophobia was immensely popular in the raw male-dominated frontier districts of late 19th century Australia, and The Bulletin soon became known as "the bushman's bible," with a circulation reaching 80,000 by 1900. Archibald's masterstroke was to open The Bulletin 's pages to contributions from its readers in 1886, running pages of poetry, short stories and cartoons contributed by miners, shearers and timber-workers from all over Australia. Some of this material was of high quality, and over the years many of Australia's leading literary lights had their start in The Bulletin 's pages. At the same time, The Bulletin ran well-informed political and business news.

The Bulletin 's literary editor, A.G. Stephens, was the main inspiration for the "Bulletin school." Among the better-known contributors were the writers Henry Lawson, Banjo Paterson, Bernard O'Dowd, Joseph Furphy, Miles Franklin and Vance and Nettie Palmer, the cartoonist Livingston Hopkins ("Hop") and the illustrator and novelist Norman Lindsay.

Archibald retired in 1907, and thereafter The Bulletin became steadily more conservative, and by World War I had become openly Empire-loyalist. This marked its break with the political left and the end of its real influence, although it retained its place in Australian literary life well into the 1920s. In 1927 The Bulletin was bought by the Prior family, who ran it as a private hobby. Thereafter it gradually declined, losing circulation steadily. Its pre-war attitudes came to seem increasingly reactionary, and its cult of the bushman increasingly anachronistic in what was already an urbanised country. By the 1940s The Bulletin was regarded as a sad relic, filled with racist and anti-Semitic bile, and with political commentary so right-wing as to seem almost comic.

In 1961 The Bulletin was sold to the press magnate Sir Frank Packer, who installed Donald Horne as editor. The paper was radically modernised, most of the old hands were sacked, and "Australia for the White Man" disappeared from the masthead. Under the Packer family The Bulletin remained politically conservative, but rejoined the political and journalistic mainstream, as a well-edited magazine (modelled on Time) of political and business news and commentary, with occasional forays into literature as a gesture to its great past. The Packer family company, PBL, still owns The Bulletin and tolerates its loss-making habits for the prestige of publishing Australia's oldest magazine.

The Bulletin is nowadays published "in conjunction with" Newsweek, which is usually found as a separate section within The Bulletin in Australia and neighbouring countries such as New Zealand.

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