Printer's Progress: A New Zealand Newspaper Story 1840-2014
New Zealand's first newspaper, the New Zealand Gazette, began in 1840 on a beach near what today is Wellington. James Muir happened along the beach at a propitious time; a qualified printer from Edinburgh, who had much adventuring along the way, he not only repaired the newly arrived press but pulled the first damp sheet.
Most early New Zealand newspapers found the economic soil too tough and life for the printers was uncertain. In 1848 Muir and four other printers established the very successful Wellington Independent. They raced for the news in boats, worked a roster system as times, took produce as payment, and went against the fashion by illustrating their newspaper with woodblock prints.
Printer's ink runs through six generations of the Muir family. James' son, Allen Muir, moved to Gisborne on New Zealand's North Island, where he bought the long-running Poverty Bay (Gisborne) Herald. It remains an independent daily newspaper to this day. But this is not just a story of a family, as it peers behind the scenes of New Zealand's newspaper world. It is a social history from the shop floor.
Extraordinary changes have occurred in the world of printing and communication during this 175-year period and this story follows these changes, and with them the evolving communities of Wellington and in particular the East Coast area of Gisborne and its surrounds.
Margaret Rees-Jones has lived in London, Hong Kong, France and Melbourne, but remains a New Zealander at heart. Newspapers and news were very much part of her early years in Gisborne, but it was not until her two daughters were in their teens that she undertook a journalism degree at RMIT University. This New Zealand newspaper story is a vast extension and unpicking of her PhD. Rees-Jones has also written for RMIT's Applied Physics Department and several Australian trade journals, but it is her deep interest in history and newspapers that shines through here.