Frank William Boreham 1871-1959

Frank William Boreham 1871-1959
A photo F W Boreham took of himself in 1911

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Boreham and Editorial Expectations

What Would You Say?
“The leading article for to-morrow’s paper has yet to be written. If you had to write it, what would you say?”[1] This question posed by Otago Daily Times editor, George Fenwick, must have focussed Boreham’s mind every time he sat down to write a lead editorial. Of the things that helped to answer that question, the editorial expectations which will be explored in this section were important factors.

Word Limit
One editorial expectation that influenced Boreham’s subject and style was word limit. The 1,500 word limit that Boreham was given when he started as a lead writer for the Mercury gave scope for developing a theme. By 1930, when his word limit was reduced to 1,000 words, there is evidence of him eliminating illustrative paragraphs to meet the new constraint. In February 1958, when editorials in the Mercury were reduced to 500 words, Boreham’s biographical style was hampered because of the difficulty of introducing and telling a life story within the limitations of space.

Guest editorials
It is difficult to distinguish between the editorial expectations of the newspaper and the personal expectations of Boreham, however, throughout his career there were discernible phases. When Boreham commenced writing for the Otago Daily Times in 1900, he contributed as a guest editorialist. These articles, either requested or submitted, were written at an irregular frequency (about two per month) and consisted mainly of eulogies, anniversaries and articles concerning the visit of prominent people to the city. Occasionally Boreham expressed opinions on current national issues such as compulsory military training,[2] militarism,[3] poverty[4] and education.[5] Already there is evidence of articles devoted to Boreham’s passion for the British Empire.[6] Boreham’s contribution to Melbourne’s Argus of an Easter and a Christmas article most years from 1934 to 1943 represented a later phase as a guest editorialist.[7]

Weekday editorials
The sudden death of the editor of the Mercury in August 1912 was the event that launched Frank Boreham’s editorial career with the leading Tasmanian newspaper. Slipping into the breach, Boreham wrote daily editorials and sometimes two each day from 23 August 1912 until 9 November 1912. In this three-month period Boreham wrote the most topical editorials of his entire career. It was chiefly the news of the day that prompted the ideas for these articles. During this time he discussed many international events including the construction of the Panama Canal,[8] the Titanic disaster,[9] the suicide of a Japanese politician,[10] the upheaval in China[11] and politics in India.[12] He viewed his role as informing readers about world events and interpreting global trends. His attempt to bring the lesser known issues into focus was evident for when writing about the ‘derelict empire of Persia’, Boreham said, “It is never safe to assume that the matters that loom most largely in our columns of cablegrams are of necessity the most important factors on the international horizon”.[13] In addition to his ‘stock in trade’ biographical editorials,[14] during this period Boreham wrote editorials that dealt with national issues such as the economy,[15] “the problem of the [mentally] unfit”,[16] employment[17] and immigration.[18]

Saturday editorials
When a new editor was appointed to the Mercury, the proprietor, Mr C E Davies requested continuing contributions from Boreham, to which he responded by agreeing to write a leader for the Saturday issue. These Saturday articles, which represent the vast majority of Boreham’s editorials, had a different character from the weekday editorials. Discussing this ‘Saturday spirit’ in an article entitled, ‘The end of the week’, Boreham agreed with Norman Lindsay that Saturday was “Australia’s great day”. He continued, “It is certainly the day on which Australia most freely expresses herself” with “paper shops infected by the Saturday spirit”. For Boreham Saturday was “Saturday all the world over”, his inference being that the weekend enabled a consideration of the valuable link that this day gave to Tasmanians with people around the world. “Memories of childhood”, he added, “foster the Saturday spirit”.[19] The Saturday editorial gave a freedom to depart from the weekday, temporal issues that dominated the paper and to address issues that were more reflective, unchanging and universal in nature.

Geoff Pound

Image: This is the cover of the Bibliography that Melbourne University bibliographer, Ian McLaren wrote in which he describes the books of F W Boreham and where the different editions can be found. A technical book, available from Whitley College, but it has some interesting insights within it. Ian got to know FWB when Boreham was pastor at Armadale and staged lectures on books.

[1] F W Boreham, My pilgrimage (London: The Epworth Press, 1940), 150.
[2] F W Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 18 March 1901.
[3] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 28 March 1901.
[4] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 15 June 1901.
[5] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 11 December 1901.
[6] Boreham, Otago Daily Times, 15 June 1900; 7 September 1901; 29 October 1901.
[7] Boreham contributed fifteen editorials to the Argus, seven of which were Easter editorials, seven were Christmas editorials and one took the theme of diary writing.
[8] F W Boreham, Mercury, 28 August 1912.
[9] Boreham, Mercury, 14 September 1912.
[10] Boreham, Mercury, 20 September 1912.
[11] Boreham, Mercury, 7 October 1912.
[12] Boreham, Mercury, 14 October 1912.
[13] Boreham, Mercury, 7 November 1912.
[14] Boreham, Mercury, 7 September 1912; 9 September 1912.
[15] Boreham, Mercury, 23 August 1912.
[16] Boreham, Mercury, 18 September 1912.
[17] Boreham, Mercury, 28 September 1912.
[18] Boreham, Mercury, 10 October 1912.
[19] Boreham, Mercury, 16 September 1933.