Character of the Pioneer Press
Powerful writing, some of it irresponsible and vituperative, but most of it couched in a forceful, often dogmatic vein almost unknown today, produced explosive reactions among the more volatile settlers who read their early papers as much to see what persons they knew were writing as for the views the writers were expressing. There was a sanguine business in the early existence of the New Zealand Herald and Auckland Gazette (1842), whose editor was a Dr Martin, “a medical man of considerable literary ability, forcible utterances, and powerful frame”. Martin wrote with an iron pen and laid about him so fiercely that before two months had elapsed he had been threatened with two or three actions for libel. One day a Government official entered the paper office and seized some of the editor's manuscripts. Martin was furious and challenged the official to a duel and, when the latter refused, posted him in the town as a blackguard and a coward. The paper, after running for only 10 months, collapsed in tumult.
The New Zealander, begun on 3 April 1865 as the first morning penny paper, published an article on Hone Heke's war. The article offended naval men, who considered that it slurred their honour. Armed with a hawser, a large number of sailors from warships in Auckland Harbour came to the door of the New Zealander office in Shortland Crescent, passed their rope through to the back and then over the roof. A full retraction – or the building would be overturned, they said. The proprietors, John Williamson and W. C. Wilson, yielded the point.