The aptly named South Australian Magazine appeared in 1841, and was the first magazine to concentrate on local content. Although of a high standard, it survived for only a handful of issues. Like its descendants, through the rest of the nineteenth century it was squeezed out of the market by cheaply produced European and American magazines with such notable contributors as Charles Dickens. Locally, newspaper proprietors provided stiff competition as, struggling to survive, they filled their pages with the literary, home and garden columns usually associated with journals and magazines.

Nineteenth Century Magazines

WA Cawthorne's Illustrated Adelaide Post (1867-74) was the first of many lithographically illustrated magazines published in newspaper format (which allowed postage anywhere in the world for the price of one penny). It was followed by the publications of South Australia’s Samuel and Septimus Frearson. Their Pictorial Australian produced illustrations of new city buildings and developing country towns around Australia, as well as local notables and special events. Observer Miscellany (1875–79), produced as a literary side-line by the Observer newspaper, contributed to the growing literary preoccupation with ‘the bush’, romanticising the landscape in words, as the illustrated journals did in pictures.

South Australia’s lively politics helped ensure that political discussion and satire would always sell well. Theatre was apparently another South Australian preoccupation, and together with politics and humour constituted a winning formula for three of the longest running local magazines of the nineteenth century. Adelaide Punch (1868–69, 1878–84), Lantern (1874–90) and Quiz (1889–1930) all filled their pages with articles on these topics, and cartoons by local artists. Quiz strongly advocated Australian nationalism, questioning British governance. Federation and the Boer War turned much of this debate into jingoistic patriotism at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Twentieth Century Magazines

From the 1920s, the distinction between newspapers and magazines became more clearly delineated. In content there was now a determined breaking away from the colonial past, and a greater concentration on local issues and thought. In literary circles this was the era of the ‘little magazines’, such as Phoenix and Chapbook. These ‘ultra-literary’ publications were the work of a set of mostly young, outspoken radicals examining what it was to be a contemporary Australian. Angry Penguins (1940–46) was the principal of these and the centre of the Ern Malley hoax. Besides printing reviews of art, literature and the theatre, they followed the work of their nineteenth century predecessors in focusing on the dominance of the Australian landscape, drawing attention to environmental issues and the plight of Aboriginal peoples.

As the century progressed, magazines proliferated, principally due to the advent of cheap printing and copying processes. Universities, schools, religious and sporting bodies, and associations of every ilk produced newsletters and magazines covering every conceivable topic; from women’s spirituality, to more pragmatic topics, and through every facet of the continuing preoccupation with ‘the bush’ whether in terms of agricultural research, environmental issues, or native title.

New Technology

Although no longer dominated by overseas productions, South Australian publishing was unable to compete with the publishing houses of the eastern states. The advance of technology not only increased the publishing output, but saw publishing related to new technologies. When television was launched in Australia in September 1956, Television Week and Television Guide began with guaranteed local audiences. At the same time, South Australian radio stations 5AD and 5KA began producing local music charts. However, by the end of the century, most of these had also given way to publications based interstate.

Street Press

‘Street press’, free newsprint magazines, began appearing in the last decades of the twentieth century. Such titles as dB and Rip It Up focus on reviews and articles relating to contemporary arts. ‘Zines’ such as Onion and DNA are smaller productions dealing specifically with music. To counter increasing globalisation of all media, the Adelaide Review began offering home grown views in 1984. Founded by Mark Jamieson and a team of unemployed contributors, it was taken over by Christopher Pearson, a former arts editor for the Advertiser. The journal became a voice for lively debate about political, social and literary issues. Like the ‘little magazines’, it publishes short stories and poems by local writers as well as reviews. It also debates the environment and Aboriginal people within the context of an increasingly urbanised society. The Adelaide Review remains unique and unashamedly South Australian.

By Anthony Laube

This entry was first published in The Wakefield companion to South Australian history, edited by Wilfrid Prest, Kerrie Round and Carol Fort (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 2001). Edited lightly and references updated. Uploaded 12 June 2015.

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