From the Archives, 1957: Melbourne’s Argus newspaper shuts after 110 years

First published in The Age on January 19, 1957

'Argus' to be Closed Down Today; 'Herald' Buys Assets

The "Argus" is published today for the last time. It is closing down because of continuing heavy losses.

Dismissal notices were issued yesterday to 500 employees.

The offices of the Argus in 1858.Credit:State Library of Victoria

The "Argus" has been published as a Melbourne morning newspaper for 110 years.

The following statement was issued last night by the chairman of directors of the Argus and Australasian Ltd. (Mr. D Patience):

"Because of continuing heavy losses the 'Argus' is to cease publication. This will be the last issue.

"The directors have made this decision with very great regret, particularly because of the large number of employees who will be affected. The directors are acting as generously as they can towards the men and, women who have served the paper loyally, many for a very long time.

“The ‘Argus’ was founded in 1846, and for a century has been one of Australia's great institutions: a newspaper on which many great personalities in the Australian newspaper craft have been trained.

"In the seven years since the 'Argus’ came under its present ownership, the directors have spared neither money nor energy in trying to re-establish the paper on a sound business basis.

Rising Costs

"Continuing rising costs, particularly for paper, have outweighed all the improvements the directors have been able to make in revenue. The current losses of operation are too heavy to be carried any longer with no prospect of improvement."

First published in The Age on February 2, 1957

Thoughts on the impermanence of human institutions

That the life of the institutions which the individual creates is equally impermanent is not always so readily recognised despite the overwhelming evidence to that effect scattered throughout history —and not least the history of our own times.

In the heyday of Roman pride and power a member of the august Senate might have been pardoned had he thought, as doubtless some of them did, that finality had been reached in the evolution of instruments of government and that nothing could disturb, let alone destroy, a body consisting of men whose accumulated experience made it the quintessence of wisdom and authority.

But listen to the sonorous voice of the historian Gibbon, writing of a time not so very long afterwards. "The fate of the Roman Senate suggests an awful lesson of the vicissitudes of human affairs… After a period of 13 centuries the institution of Romulus expired and, if the Roman nobles still assumed the title of senators, few subsequent traces can be found of a public council or of constitutional order. Ascend 600 years and contemplate the kings of the earth soliciting an audience as the slaves or freedmen of the Roman Senate!"

One may well wonder whether a Gibbon of the future may not feel moved to write about some aspects of our present day age in much the same terms, though probably sentiment will be considered too dangerous weapon for use by an historian. At this moment anyway there is little temptation to believe in the permanence of human institutions and It is only the rashest of prophets who could commit himself with any confidence to a delineation of things to come.

It Is a very long way from the Roman Senate to a daily newspaper but the passing of the Melbourne 'Argus’ into the limbo of vanished institutions must have moved many to thoughts not unlike mine.

In anything like their present form newspapers are not so very old an accompaniment of our daily lives. But they have become so familiar a part of them that they might have been there for ever and, so far at any rate, it doesn't look as if the combined forces of radio and television were likely to make them any less essential to our happiness.

Affection for a Newspaper

One develops an entirely irrational affection for one's particular paper, not necessarily because one likes or agrees with it but just because one knows where everything is and can find it with no trouble.

How irritating it is when away from home, abroad or in another State, to be compelled to rely upon a stranger who looks different, is dressed differently and talks in a different accent! You start the day feeling all wrong and what a relief it is to get back again to the old rag with all its hideous defects!

I was not myself an "Argus" man of recent years, and even if I had been, I could hardly confess it in these surroundings. But a great many people were and they have my sincere sympathy in the ordeal that confronts them of getting accustomed to some other daily mentor with its comics in an unfamiliar spot, its crossword puzzle in a foreign language and its angle on Grace Kelly obtuse instead of acute. They will survive, no doubt, but there are difficult days in prospect for them.

More seriously, however, it is always sad to see a landmark disappear and the "Argus" has been a landmark in Melbourne since the place was just a village.

It fought many good fights in its day and even those who regretted some of the changes which preceded its latter end will sympathise with those who were driven to the final decision.

The paper has been part of Victorian history, so intimate a part that its disappearance would have seemed an utter impossibility a very few years ago. But it has happened and its directors have told us why in their very objective message of farewell.

I can think of no moral to be drawn from it all. My main feeling is one of sympathy for those who have been so suddenly displaced from their employment. A newspaper staff is a happy combination of commercial, literary and technical excellence and there is generally evoked in a solid nucleus of those who work for it a special feeling of pride and loyalty which is increasingly rare in contemporary life and is reflected In the loyalty of those who read the paper and stick to it through thick and thin. It is not easy for people who feel like that to acquiesce in sudden change and we must all feel sorry for them. The welfare state for all its virtues is not yet capable of prescribing for such disorders of the spirit.

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