In 1863, William Chisholm Wilson, an Auckland printer and businessman, withdrew from his partnership in the influential New Zealander to start a rival daily, the New Zealand Herald. The new daily had a clear editorial policy – a more constructive relationship between the North and South Islands and a combative response to what it termed ‘the native rebellion’ – but Wilson’s main motivation was commercial, seeing a business opportunity as Auckland’s population grew rapidly.
Although the New Zealander closed in 1866, the Daily Southern Cross provided competition for a number of years, and particularly when Julius Vogel acquired a majority shareholding in 1868. In 1876, Alfred Horton, a journalist and printer by training, sold his interest in the Thames Advertiser and bought Vogel’s then-ailing Daily Southern Cross. Shortly afterwards William Wilson died and the next year Horton and Wilson’s two sons merged their interests - the stronger mastheads surviving. The New Zealand Herald absorbed the Daily Southern Cross and its Weekly News incorporated the Weekly Herald.
By the late 1870s the Auckland newspaper scene was dominated by the New Zealand Herald, in the morning, and the Auckland Evening Star (later Auckland Star) at night. The New Zealand Herald was consistently conservative; the Evening Star supported the liberal political movement that was beginning to gain ground.
Alfred Horton’s interest in fast-changing newspaper technology led to Wilson and Horton’s installation of the country’s first rotary press at the New Zealand Herald in 1883. This was followed by a web machine in 1887 and linotypes in 1898. It was also the first local newspaper, in 1909, to run classified advertisements, with products and services sorted in categories.
Horton also played a part in the founding of the NZ Press Association in 1878, which began to share local news among newspaper members and to channel news received from overseas. A year later he assisted in resolving problems with a rival news agency that led to the two joining forces as the United Press Association. The name changed back again to New Zealand Press Association in 1942.
For decades the New Zealand Herald changed little in its appearance and sober, right-of-centre editorial stance; this was epitomised for half a century by the generally conservative cartoons of Gordon Minhinnick. The sobriquet ‘Granny Herald’ was part affection, part frustration.
The New Zealand Herald became a public company in 1925, but a majority shareholding was retained, along with all the directorships, by the Wilson and Horton families. In 1996 the Dublin-based Independent News & Media Group bought the Horton family’s shareholding. The paper is now owned by Australian Provincial Newspapers (APN), a subsidiary of Independent News & Media.
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