High Casualty Rate
About 500 different newspapers have appeared since 1840, but most have failed to survive. For example, one Irishman, Joseph Ivess, founded no fewer than 26 papers in New Zealand, in addition to five which he had started in Australia. The Greymouth Evening Star and the Akaroa Mail remain as reminders of his compulsive excursions. He died in 1919, in his seventy-sixth year. James Henry Claridge, who died in 1946 aged 84, did better. He began 11 papers in the 22 years before 1920 and five of them are still publishing. They are the Eltham Argus, Martinborough Star, Taumarunui Press, Huntly Press, and Morrinsville Star. By world standards, however, New Zealand has a very large number of newspapers, owing mainly to the difficulties (geography and scattered centres of population) of building a daily national circulation such as exists in Britain or even in New South Wales.
The greatest number of newspapers published in New Zealand at one time was 193, including 67 dailies. This was in 1910, but by that time big advances in production machinery were taking place and only those papers able to lay out the capital for improved plant to meet or beat their competitors, and with assets and patronage sturdy enough to tide them over several periods of economic recession and of wartime austerity, were able to survive.
During the present century attempts to start new papers have generally failed. There were 79 new papers up to 1920; few have lasted. The Wellington Dominion is an outstanding example of success. It was begun as a morning paper in 1907 with the aim of filling a need for a newspaper to support Conservative political interests. But the Labour Party was not so successful in its attempt to set up newspapers. The Maoriland Worker was begun as a monthly in 1910 in Wellington; it finished its life as the Standard, a weekly, in 1960. An attempt to float the Times Newspaper Co. to publish a daily following the 1935 General Election, which returned a Labour Government with a large majority, failed to get support. The Southern Cross, a Wellington-based daily, lasted only five years from 1946. Labour interests still have one daily paper of their own, the Grey River Argus, Greymouth. The Argus was founded in 1865 and taken over as a politically controlled organ in 1919.
The independent Sun newspapers in Christchurch and Auckland caused much excitement during a stormy existence which roused competitors to action strong enough to finally extinguish them. These papers were founded by Edward Chalmers Huie, an Australian, who had been editor of the Evening News, in Christchurch. First, in 1914, he began the Sun in competition with the Christchurch Star and Evening News; and its success was assured. But Huie sought other fields to conquer.
In 1927 he went to Auckland and founded a second Sun to compete with the Auckland Star, conducted by the Brett Printing and Publishing Co. in which Sir Cecil Leys was a majority shareholder. Leys and the proprietors of the New Zealand Herald bought out the Auckland Sun three years later. In the meantime, Leys had taken over the Lyttelton Times Co., which published the Christchurch Star in competition with the Sun, and merged it with his own interests under the name of New Zealand Newspapers Ltd. A combination of depression, advertising-rate cutting, and price reductions killed the Christchurch Sun. When this afternoon paper was finally extinguished in 1935 the price of the deal with its company and publishers of the Christchurch Press was the cessation of a pioneer journal, the Christchurch Times, originally the Lyttelton Times. After the end of the Suns, Huie became the moving spirit behind the attempt to establish the Labour Times Newspaper Co.; in 1940 he took over the Hawkes Bay Daily Mail (like the Suns, modelled on the London namesake), which had begun to publish in 1938. But this failed in 1941. It was not alone; in the previous 10 years 48 New Zealand papers had folded up.