The first Wairarapa newspapers were published in Greytown. Joseph Payton, a school teacher, was a partner with his father-in-law Richard Wakelin in one of them, the bi-weekly Wairarapa Standard which began publication in 1872. However, when Payton decided Masterton was destined to be the largest town in the valley, he convened a meeting in the more northerly town to discuss beginning a newspaper there. There were several short-lived attempts from the end of 1874, not helped by the premises of two papers being burned to the ground. Subsequently, Joseph Payton, now in partnership with W F Roydhouse and Edward Samuel began, in November 1878, the region’s first daily, the Wairarapa Daily. It absorbed one of the town’s struggling papers.
Initially, Payton was editor, sub-editor and business manager on the four-page evening paper, Roydhouse was general reporter and Samuel supplied articles on a more casual basis. Edward Samuel retired from the enterprise when he was appointed headmaster of the Carterton School in 1880, leaving Messrs Payton and Roydhouse as partners. By 1878 the railway had reached only as far as Featherston, so for the next two years William Roydhouse spent considerable time in the saddle covering events in the lower valley. The railway reached Masterton in 1880, simplifying distribution, previously by relays of horses, and the town grew as Payton had foreseen. The 1878 population of 1,673 had nearly doubled to 3,160 by 1886.
The first printing machine consisted of a large non-stop drum, with one employee feeding in the paper at the top and a boy at the back taking off the printed sheets which were then folded by hand. The power was generated by a flywheel turned by two more boys. About 1903, an Elliott printing press was installed, first driven by a gas engine and later converted to electricity.
In 1892, the paper, now well-established, changed its name to the Wairarapa Daily Times. There was evening competition from the Wairarapa Star for a number of years, one of its editors being Alexander W Hogg, later MP for Masterton and a cabinet minister in 1909. Following changes in ownership, the Star was reborn as a morning daily, the Wairarapa Age, in 1902. Later editors included A H Vile and Guy H Scholefield, who became Parliamentary Librarian in 1926.
Joseph Payton, who kept plant and type up-to-date, ran one of the country’s best produced provincial newspapers until his death in 1910. It also had a reputation for the quality and depth of its local coverage. A private Payton family company then ran the Wairarapa Daily Times until it merged with the Wairarapa Times-Age in 1938. In 2002 the newspaper was bought by Wilson & Horton which was subsequently acquired by APN News & Media.
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