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Print prestations: The social embeddedness of reading publics in colonial Papua

Ryan Schram

A paper presented in the session “Textual ecologies of difference and transformation” at the 2016 meeting of the Australian Anthropological Society, University of Sydney

14 December 2016

All material quoted in this presentation is held under copyright of the original authors, and is used here strictly for personal, noncommercial purposes. These slides may only be viewed on request and will be available at http://anthro.rschram.org/talks/print

Journalism for the villages

The unsigned article entitled “Journalism for the villages: When you are sending news to the editor of the newspaper” was published in Papuan Times on September 28, 1951 (vol. 4, iss. 9, pp. 5-6)

Local news should hold plenty of names because readers like to see what their friends are doing... (p. 5)
You will find plenty of material to write about even in a small village. There are MEETINGS to report, SPORTS EVENTS to record, CROPS, RAINFALLS, MARRIAGES, WOMEN'S ACTIVITIES, VISITS of well-known PEOPLE, TRIBAL FIGHTING, NEW BUILDINGS, SCHOOL ACTIVITIES, etc. (p. 5)
There is no financial reward at present but you will have the satisfaction of helping to put your own village or town 'On the Map'. If you do your job well, you will be welcomed at meetings and will become a person of some influence. (pp. 5-6)

The new flying boat

In the “News of People” section of the April 18, 1952 issue, a letter from Osineru Dickson appears describing a trip on the Sandringham, a passenger seaplane which flew between Samarai and Port Moresby.

PDF transcript of "First trip on new flying boat"

Violeta Basinauro's birthday

In the August 29, 1952 issue, Violeta Basinauro published an account of happenings at her school at Gelemalaia, in Buhutu, on the mainland of eastern Papua.

PDF transcript of "News from Gelemalaia"

Producing Papuan Times

Papuan Times was produced on a shoestring. Readers were routinely asked for various kinds of support:

  • Chronically short of money, supported by gifts
  • First printing machine was salvaged from an Allied dump, as was paper
  • In a 1951 report on the paper, the editor says all that is needed is “the backing of the people” and people “writing their news and sending it in” (February 2, 1951, p. 3).

Notice to readers

A notice printed on June 13, 1952:

The price of paper and ink had gone up a lot lately. We can only keep this paper going if all help by sending their subscriptions regularly. PLEASE HELP US TO HELP YOU. (p. 7)

A filler on January 9, 1953, front page:

Tell your friends about the PAPUAN TIMES. We want more people to know about it and more people to read it, and more people to write for it this year. Ed. (p. 1)

To our readers

A editor's note from February 18, 1954, a poorly printed issue:

To Our Readers
We are having great difficulty with our machine, trying to learn the ways of a new one and at the same time keep the paer [sic] going out to you every week.
Please be patient with these dirty copies. We are sorry about them. (p. 4)

September 2, 1954: The last issue of Papuan Times?

From the editorial in the seventh anniversary issue:

When the things that are shaping our country today by-and-by develop we will have a big part in the plan and it will be important that we can say "As we are so is our country." We will begin then to see the importance of this paper. At present it is the only independent Papuan Native paper and we ask you all to back it, particularly the Papuans. (September 2, 1954, 4)

No further issues of Papuan Times are known to be held in any library collections.

Papuan Times as a unique colonial counterpublic

  • The editorial in last extant issue again claims that Papuan Times is valuable because its information is accurate.
  • But Papuan Times issues were also a mark of distinction for literate readers, especially those who become writers. Yet for the most part this symbolic capital cannot be converted into a new job or other opportunities in a colonial world.
  • As a counterpublic, Papuan Times and its network of readers and authors forms a bridge with the colonial public sphere of white settlers.


Abel, Phyllis. 1951. “Friends of Papua.” Papuan Times (Kwato), February 2.

Abel, Russell W. 1951. “An Appreciation from a Reader.” Papuan Times (Kwato), July 27.

Basinauro, Violetta. 1952. “News from Gelemalaia.” Papuan Times (Kwato), August 29.

Dickson, Osineru. 1952. “First Trip of New Flying Boat.” Papuan Times (Kwato), April 18.

Editor. 1951a. “‘Papuan Times’ faces New Problems.” Papuan Times, February 2.

———. 1951b. “The ‘Papuan Times’ Review.” Papuan Times (Kwato), July 27.

———. 1951c. “Journalism for the Villages: When You Are Sending News to the Editor of the Newspaper.” Papuan Times (Kwato), September 28.

———. 1952. “Notice to Readers.” Papuan Times (Kwato), June 13.

———. 1953. “Tell Your Friends about the Papuan Times.” Papuan Times (Kwato), January 9.

———. 1954a. “To Our Readers.” Papuan Times (Kwato), February 18.

———. 1954b. “‘Papuan Times’ Fund.” Papuan Times (Kwato), August 5.

———. 1954c. “‘Papuan Times’ Fund.” Papuan Times (Kwato), August 12.

———. 1954d. “Editorial.” Papuan Times (Kwato), September 2.

Tauhsu. 1954. “A Wonderful Thing Is Education.” Papuan Times (Kwato), September 2.

Wedega, Alice. 1951. “To the Papuan Times.” Papuan Times (Kwato), July 27.

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