This introduction to the collection of articles published in MIA to mark 50 years of The Australian offers a critical assessment of the literature on The Australian. It covers the miracle of the paper's conception, its struggle to survive amid widespread doubts that it could, and the conditions that enabled it to flourish at various times. It discusses the paper's original vision as well as its early reception, some of the market research and the changing profile of its readers. It examines arguments and evidence about The Australian's coverage of elections, notes the contention over its positions on other issues and lists a large number of studies that have explored various aspects of its journalism. It also situates The Australian in relation to other parts of News Limited and scrutinises claims about the paper's influence on other publishers and other media. Finally, it offers an outline of the articles in this theme section - four from industry and three from the academy.