Although newspapers did not pioneer printing in New Zealand, they have always been closely and vitally linked with it. The Bay of Islands had seen printing 10 years before it saw a newspaper. On 31 July 1830 the schooner Active arrived at the bay from Sydney. Aboard were the Rev. W. Yate, a James Smith, a 15-year-old printer, and a press. Yate wrote in September 1831: “employed with James Smith in printing off a few hymns in the native language. We succeeded beyond our most sanguine expectations”. Several copies of work done by Yate and Smith are believed to be among the records of the Church Missionary Society in England.
The New Zealand press was founded by Samuel Revans “of rough exterior, careless in dress (who) wore a conspicuously large Panama hat. His eyes were dark, penetrating, and deeply set, surmounted by thick, bushy eyebrows. His manner was restless, and his speech, though intelligent, often coarse”. After arriving back in London from a stormy experience in the Canadian colony, he was engaged by E. G. Wakefield to produce a journal for the New Zealand Company's expedition then fitting out to colonise in the antipodes. Before the expedition left England, Revans had used type and a Columbia press to produce, on 21 August 1839, the first issue of the New Zealand Gazette. The second issue (four pages for 1s.) appeared from a whare on the banks of the Hutt River eight months later; and this latter, of 18 April 1840, was the first newspaper to be printed in New Zealand.
On 18 April 1840, soon after the arrival of the sailing ship Adelaide at Port Nicholson, Wellington, Samuel Revans set up his plant ashore and produced the first newspaper. After 20 issues this New Zealand Gazette added the words and Britannia Spectator to its title, to include the proposed name for Wellington City. The Gazette waged war against the Government in Auckland and warmly defended the New Zealand Company against its enemies; its unyielding policies were its ruin. Its successor in 1844 was the New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Straits Guardian, which appeared at the instigation of a committee of six settlers but with the same printers who had been employed on the Gazette. One day, six months later, a printer inserted in one issue an advertisement, and, in the issue following, a “scandalous” rejoinder. The five printers were dismissed; but they banded together and produced the Wellington Independent. The Spectator committee reacted by slyly purchasing the printers' rented plant, but four months later the printers had got new machinery from Sydney. They did well enough to absorb the Spectator in August 1865. The Independent continued until 1874, when it was incorporated with a new paper, the New Zealand Times, which continued until 1927 when it was itself bought out by the Dominion proprietary and then closed down.
The New Zealand Advertiser and Bay of Islands Gazette began in 1840 two months after Revans had produced a paper at Port Nicholson. Published at Kororareka, its contents included the first official notices and proclamations, for Wellington had not then become the seat of government. Moderate suggestions for reform by its editor, the Rev. B. Quaife, excited official rebuke and, after threats from no less a person than the Colonial Secretary, Lieutenant Willoughby Shortland, the paper closed. In December 1840 it was succeeded by an official publication, the New Zealand Government Gazette, the forerunner of the official organ now issued each Thursday from the Government Printer's Office in Wellington.
The first Auckland paper appeared on 10 July 1841; but the enduring journal was not printed until 1863. This was the New Zealand Herald and it was distinctive because it began life as a business enterprise and not as a political mouthpiece. Its founder was a Scot, W. C. Wilson, whose sons, William and Joseph, joined forces with A. G. Horton, owner of a potentially powerful rival, the Southern Cross. Wilson and Horton Ltd. is now the biggest newspaper publisher in New Zealand.