The Examiner once published Keats, Hazlitt, Byron, Shelley … and withstood numerous prosecutions by government …
THE Launceston Examiner, where I got my start as a journalist, took its name from the great pioneering English newspaper of the early 19th century edited by the Hunt brothers.
Not only did The Examiner of Georgian times print the best writers of the day – Keats, Hazlitt, Byron, Shelley – the Hunts withstood numerous prosecutions by the government. In 1812, they were imprisoned for two years after describing the 50-year-old Prince Regent, later George IV, as a libertine gambler ”who had just closed half a century without one single claim to the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity”.
I didn’t know of the Launceston Examiner’s distinguished lineage when I worked there, but learnt of it this week reading a fascinating biography of John West, the newspaper’s first editor and later the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. West believed journalists should be ”useful”. Written by Patricia Fitzgerald Ratcliff, the book is titled The Usefulness of John West.
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During its years as a penal colony, Tasmania had a surprisingly brave and spirited press. Where Ratcliff deepened my understanding was by showing the part played by religious dissenters such as John West and John Fairfax, the forebear of the corporation that now owns The Age, in making that spirit flourish.