The Southland Times has been published in Invercargill since 1862. Since 1968 it has been Invercargill’s only daily newspaper.
The Times was set up by Gerard George Fitzgerald, John T. Downes and Charles Reynolds and published its first issue on 12 November 1862 under the title of the Invercargill Times.
The Times was established to oppose the Southern News (later the Southland Daily News), another Invercargill newspaper. The Southern News had begun publication the year before and was regarded as a liberal paper. The Times represented more conservative opinions. 1862 also was a good time to start a newspaper in Invercargill because the town was prospering due to the discovery of gold in the Wakatipu that year. Invercargill was the main supply base for the goldfield.
The history of the paper in the 1860s and 70s is similar to that of other newspapers in New Zealand at the time. The paper experienced financial difficulties, frequent changes of owner and the loss of plant and offices due to fire. The Times ceased publication for several months in 1864 after a fire destroyed its office. When it resumed publication in June that year it was under the new title of the Southland Times.
In 1875 the Times became a daily. In 1878 fire destroyed the newspaper office again. As in 1864, the Times’ rival, the Southland News, helped the paper continue to publish by allowing the Times to use their presses. During this period the Times published a weekly edition for its rural readers; the Weekly Times ran from 1866 to 1933.
In the 1880s the Times achieved stability and prosperity. This was due in large part to the very capable management provided by the paper’s owner, Robert Gilmour. Gilmour, who had assumed control of the paper in 1879, had been involved with the press in Invercargill since 1864. He had briefly owned the Times in 1869, before taking over the Southland News. In the mid-1870s he had moved back to Scotland for several years. Upon returning to Invercargill in 1879 he acquired the Times for a second time.
The Gilmour family owned and managed the paper until 1984, when it was sold to Independent Newspapers Limited.
One of the features of the Times and one of the main reasons that it has endured is that it stayed abreast of developments in newspaper technology. In the 1900s it upgraded its plant twice with the introduction of linotypes and then rotary presses. It was the first newspaper in New Zealand outside of the main centres to employ rotary presses. In the 1970s and 80s the Times was one of the first papers in New Zealand to use computer-driven newspaper technology.
The Times approach to technological change is probably one of the main reasons that it eventually overtook its old rival the Southland Daily News. The Times acquired the News in 1967 and in 1968 replaced it with an evening edition of its own. The Times evening edition ceased in 1976.