Broadsheets, broadcasts and Botany Bay: history in the Australian media

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The “Australians and the Past” survey in the late 1990s showed that the vast majority of people gained their principal historical understanding from some form of entertainment across their lifetime. For over a century the media has been a key source in the development of Australians’ historical understanding and historical consciousness. This article explores some of the many ways history has been presented by Australian journalists and other media practitioners, focusing on the press and radio, since World War I. The article surveys the coverage of the 1938 sesquicentenary of the British settlement of Australia, history pages in Australian newspapers, and an unusual historical newspaper published in 1948–9. It traces how the emergence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and commercial radio during the interwar years created a new outlet for popular historians led by Frank Clune and distinguished professors such as S. H. Roberts. In doing so, it considers the role of journalism, and the media more generally, in creating a national narrative around Anzac Day; recognising indigenous dispossession; and facilitating the emergence of Australian public historians and intellectuals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-583
Number of pages18
JournalJournalism Practice
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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