John Ballance established the Wanganui Herald in 1867. He was prominent in local and national politics and was leader of the first Liberal government and premier of New Zealand from 1891 until he died in 1893.
Ballance arrived in Wanganui in 1865 where he set up a shop. He was soon drawn into journalism through his interest in local issues. He wrote occasionally for the Wanganui Times, which at that time was the rival of the established newspaper the Wanganui Chronicle.
In 1867 Ballance bought a press and started a daily newspaper called the Evening Herald, using the paper to express his strong political opinions. He was a member of the Wanganui cavalry troop but was particularly critical of the way military campaigns were conducted against the Māori in the Wanganui area. For this he was arrested and threatened with court martial. Ballance also used the Herald to attack the Chronicle who responded equally strongly. This spirited competition continued until the papers merged in the 1970s.
Despite losing money in its early years, the Wanganui Herald established itself as a viable concern. Between 1869 and 1906 it also published the Weekly Herald (later called the Yeoman). From 1926 it published a children's newspaper as an insert, which was a first for a New Zealand newspaper.
In 1971 the ownership of the Herald and the Chronicle merged. Wanganui, like other New Zealand towns and cities, was unable to sustain two daily newspapers although it managed this for longer than most other places in New Zealand.
The Herald was replaced in 1986 by a community newspaper with the same name leaving its great rival, the Chronicle, to continue as Wanganui's only daily newspaper.