The NZ Truth was for many years one of the country’s most colourful, controversial and popular newspapers. The Truth was launched, in Wellington, by the Australian newspaper publisher John Norton in June 1905.
Norton owned a stable of Truth newspapers in Australia, starting with the Sydney Truth in 1896. The Sydney Truth’s mix of radical politics and muck-raking proved very popular and Norton established similar papers in the other states before crossing the Tasman. In New Zealand he stuck with the same formula and achieved the same results. By 1930 the Truth was selling 100,000s of copies each week.
The Truth stood out from the other New Zealand newspapers because it was overtly political and reported the unseemly aspects of life in immoderate prose. Under Robert Hogg, editor from 1913 to 1922, the paper was strongly socialist. It supported the revolutionary Industrial Workers of the World during the 1913 general strike, opposed conscription during the World War One and published letters from pacifist Archibald Baxter.
The Truth’s politics moved right-wards in the 1920s after John Norton’s son Ezra assumed control. Hogg was dismissed and the paper took a more conservative and populist line from which it never deviated, attacking liberal causes with alacrity. However the commitment to investigative journalism and exposing political corruption remained. The paper was responsible for some major scoops in the next few decades. The Truth grew in popularity although not respectability, circulation reaching about 240,000 copies a week in the 1960s.
Ezra Norton sold the Truth to a consortium of local businessmen in 1951. In 1978 Independent Newspapers acquired the paper and in 1982 they moved it to Auckland. Here the paper went into a sharp decline. Tabloid journalism was now the norm and the paper lost the vitality that being at the centre of politics had given it. Weekly sales were down to 12,500 when the paper was sold in 2007.
Note: no issues are known to exist of the first year of the NZ Truth.
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