GEORGE STEVENSON DOMINATED THE EARLIEST – and liveliest – phase in the history of South Australian newspapers. From the first days of the colony, his Register newspaper would survive, in various guises, through to 1930.
In London, June 1836, Robert Thomas, a law-books seller in Fleet Street, and Stevenson, who worked for the Globe newspaper, owned by Colonel Robert Torrens (chairman of the South Australian Colonisation Commission), published the South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register.
Thomas and Stevenson, with their families, sailed that year for the experimental colony of South Australia with equipment to print the newspaper in the “wilderness”.
The first Register printed in Adelaide in June 1837 started an ongoing controversy. This stemmed from its editor Stevenson also being the private secretary to governor John Hindmarsh.
Stevenson’s fiery articles, backing Hindmarsh, aggravated opposition to the governor. Stevenson was among those against the present capital city site chosen by William Light and he attacked supporters of the resident commissioner James Hurtle Fisher.
It only took the third Register to provoke Fisher, Light and others into planning a second newspaper, to be edited by advocate general Charles Mann and emigration agent John Brown.
Archibald MacDougall was brought over from Hobart as the printer, with a printing press, and in 1838 the Southern Australian was published. In 1839, George Milner Stephen, the crown solicitor (exposed by Stevenson over a questionable land deal), founded a third newspaper, the Adelaide Guardian. By 1846, 10 years after the Europeans’ arrival, there were five newspapers serving the infant colony.