THE EASTERN PROVINCE HERALD: OLDEST NEWSPAPER IN SOUTH AFRICA
The EP Herald is one of the oldest newspapers in South Africa, outlived only by The Natal Witness. The first edition of the Herald came out on 7th May 1845 and was published in Port Elizabeth every Wednesday morning at a cost of one penny or 1 pound 5 shillings per annum. It was four pages in length. The front page was devoted to advertisements only, with the news inside and it was 93 years before the Herald began publishing news on the front cover on January 4, 1938.
John Paterson, the founder of the newspaper, was a gifted young man of 19 when he came from Scotland in 1841 to become a schoolteacher in Port Elizabeth. With him behind the establishment of the Herald was John Philip, who was the printer. It was a clandestine partnership because Paterson still had a contract with the government as a schoolteacher and he had to do the editorial work secretly. At first they published from premises in Titterton Lane but moved to a Market Square building in 1846.
The two men had a quarrel when Philip opened a rival newspaper, the P.E.Mercury, and Paterson stopped publication of the Herald on 29 June, 1850 for three and a half years. Paterson sold the newspaper in 1857 to his friend, Robert Godlongton, the editor of the Grahamstown Journal and the Herald took over a warehouse, which was called Pleinhuis in Whites Road. By this time in 1861, the paper was being published twice weekly.
Sir Edgar Walton became editor in 1878, and made it into a daily morning paper for the first time. He also expanded the newspaper to make it a printing company as well. This was the birth of E H Walton and Co. In 1890, Sir Edgar became the sole proprietor of the Herald and acquired a suitable new site on the corner of Baakens and Military Road for a four-story building for the Herald. Publication only began in 1903 from the Baakens Street premises which have become a local landmark in Port Elizabeth and still bears the large raised type on the wall: THE EASTERN PROVINCE HERALD: ESTABLISHED 1845.
The Herald was still being printed on a flatbed oscillating machine in 1913 and was capable of only 8 pages. After the 1914-18 War the newspaper was printed on a rotary machine and with that notable change came the era of photographic illustrations.
A few years later, in the early 1920’s, the Herald building was literally on the firing line during an afternoon riot. A large crowd had collected outside the Baakens Street Police Station opposite the newspaper building. Shots were fired and a bullet lodged in the frame of the front door of the Herald.
In the 1940’s a new paper, Saturday Post was established to cover news and sport. It had a trial run on February 8, 1947 and was an immediate success. Later this changed its name to the Weekend Post
The building on the corner of Baakens Street was fundamentally badly designed for a modern newspaper and too small to accommodate both the Herald and the Evening Post, so an adjacent building which was previously a wool store, was bought and a larger Newspaper House was built on the site. It was a happy day in 1952 when the staffs of both newspapers were able to move in to the new premises.
In the new millennium, Johnnic Communications bought the newspaper group from Times media and in 2007 the name was changed to the Avusa Limited.
A new rotary machine bought in 1979 and since improved to be capable of printing 40,000 copies per hour. However it normally runs at a speed of 27,000 copies per hour.
The computer age heralded in revolutionary developments. The introduction of electronic editing replaced typewriters. The old hot metal type-setting machines became redundant and by the end of 1980, the newspapers were fully electronic.
The holding company, South African Associated Newspapers changed its title to Times Media Ltd. in 1987 and Times Media Ltd embraces the EP Herald, Evening and Weekend Post and the Algoa Sun. All these newspapers plus parts of the Sunday Times are printed in Newspaper House, Port Elizabeth.
When John Paterson started the Eastern Province Herald in 1845, the population of Port Elizabeth was 3000. He printed a maximum of a few thousand pages weekly. Paterson could not have imagined in his wildest dreams that 155 years later, Newspaper House would print the following numbers weekly:
6 120 000 broadsheets and 4 618 000 tabloids. This huge print order consumes 63 487 kilograms of newsprint every week! The newspaper might have less than 32 pages but it is part of the almost 11 million news pages per week printed in Newspaper House, Baakens Street, Port Elizabeth.
TEXT: R Hift
PHOTOGRAPHS: Johnnic Communications Library
Port Elizabeth’s City Hall was built between 1858 and 1862 and proclaimed a National Monument in 1973.
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3 October 2012 7:51