One hundred and seventy years ago last Saturday, Arthur Sydney Lyon and James Swan launched Queensland’s first newspaper. There were only four pages in the first edition of Moreton Bay Courier, as it was known then, and only 200 copies were initially printed of the weekly publication.
An editorial in the paper’s inaugural edition boldly laid out its vision for serving the community, rousing the apathetic, encouraging enterprise that would benefit colonial Brisbane “and in general to advance its interests and promote its prosperity”.
As The Courier-Mail celebrates its 170th anniversary this week, current editor Lachlan Heywood said the longevity of the paper is testament to its deep connection with readers – a connection that stems from trust.
“Our readers trust us to report the stories that matter to them, as well as stand up for them, hold authorities to account and champion their state’s development and prosperity,” Mr Heywood said.
The Courier-Mail commemorated its anniversary in print with a 12-page wrap on Monday, followed by historic front pages, archival photographs and a serialised list of 170 great Queenslanders published in the paper throughout the week.
Online, The Courier-Mail published an interactive photo gallery where readers can compare Brisbane in the past and present.
Staff were also treated to a celebratory lunch and a photo exhibition was displayed in the foyer of the paper’s Bowen Hills office.
The Courier-Mail has long been an influential voice in politics and business in Queensland.
One of its early triumphs was in 1859 when Queensland was established as a separate colony to NSW, fulfilling one of the original objectives Lyons and Swan had in setting up the Moreton Bay Courier.
Arguably, The Courier-Mail’s finest hour was in the 1980s when the paper exposed the dark underbelly of Queensland – journalism that led to the landmark Fitzgerald corruption inquiry.
Just last week, the paper’s advocacy led to the Australian government announcing $55 million in funding for community blood tests, counselling and further investigations into chemical contamination of town water supplies, including Oakey, from nearby defence sites,
“The future of The Courier-Mail is bright,” Mr Heywood said.
“The reality is the reach of The Courier-Mail across our various platforms has never been greater. But the key to The Courier-Mail’s future success will be staying relevant by standing up for our readers and covering the issues that matter to them. No matter how long you’ve been around, you cannot take readers for granted.”
A number of influential people congratulated The Courier-Mail on its anniversary, including News Corp executive chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Mr Murdoch said there had a great sense of pride and responsibility that came with publishing papers that had been part of their communities for as long as The Courier-Mail.
“For the last 29 years, The Courier-Mail has been an important part of our Australian operations. But much more significant than that is the role the paper has played in Queensland’s life for the better part of two centuries,” Mr Murdoch said.
“Both its history and its future rest on the foundation of advocacy and fearless journalism and while I am proud of its past I am much more excited by its future.”
Others from politics to sport also praised the paper, including Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Governor General Peter Cosgrove, rugby league legend Darren Lockyer and Daniel Keighran VC.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described the paper as a mainstay of life in the sunshine state.
“The celebrated story of our great state – our triumphs and our tragedies – have been chronicled in its pages,” she said.
Former premier Peter Beattie said the paper could be proud of its record.
“A free, active media is a crucial foundation of our democracy in keeping all the powerful bastards honest,” he said.
Nowadays, The Courier-Mail boasts a monthly audience of more than 3 million, according to the latest emma data, and has proliferated into the digital space.
The paper started in 1846 as the weekly Moreton Bay Courier.
In 1861 it became a daily newspaper and in 1864 was renamed the Brisbane Courier.
One of the paper’s many competitors over the years, The Daily Mail was launched in Brisbane in 1903. It did not remain a competitor for long; in 1933 The Courier-Mail was formed through the merger of The Courier and The Daily Mail, and Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd was born.
In 1987, News Corp acquired Queensland Newspapers.
The Courier-Mail website was launched in 1998 and in 2006 the paper moved from a broadsheet to compact format.
The paper’s online and print operations merged in 2008.
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