Between 1861 and 1901 the population of regional NSW grew from 261,573 to 878,475.
During that same period, the number of provincial newspapers grew from 21 to 193.
By 1900, 127 towns had at least one newspaper, 58 had two or more.
On the New England Tablelands, no less than 14 newspapers were established between 1856 and 1878, four in Inverell, three each in Armidale, Tenterfield and Glen Innes plus one in Uralla.
Many of the new papers had relatively short life spans.
The peripatetic Frank Newton first established the Grafton Herald (1864-65) before coming to Armidale to establish the Armidale Telegraph (1865-1872) and then the Inverell Dispatch and Central New England Advertiser (1873-78).
Newton's moves reflected local politics as well as commercial pressures.
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Both the Armidale and Inverell papers were established to represent squatter interests at a time when their landholdings were under threat.
While many papers had relatively short life spans, there were also titles that we know today, including the Armidale Express (1856), Tenterfield Star (1871), Glen Innes Examiner (1874), Inverell Times (1875) and the Uralla and Walcha Times (1876).
There is a problem here for historians who rely on local newspapers.
As newspaper historian Rod Kirkpatrick remarked, history is written by the winners.
Few copies of these early newspapers have survived.
In the case of the Armidale Telegraph, for example, the only extant copies are pages of one issue found under the floor boards of an Armidale house under renovation.
For most, we know about them primarily from reports in other newspapers.
This means that our views are formed by papers such as the Glen Innes Examiner where copies do survive.
As we have seen with Frank Newton, the papers represented particular interests.
We cannot assume that the views expressed in any one paper are in fact representative.
Regardless of the individual biases of particular papers, they were all intensely parochial, concerned to boost the towns on which their business depended and to attract the services demanded by a growing but still sparsely spread population.
This parochialism supported and fed into rivalry between towns, a rivalry that was played on by politicians and impeded cooperative action.
Now this parochialism was to be tempered by harsh economic realities, forcing the papers to cooperate.
Central to this was the growing dominance of Sydney.
While the NSW regional population still outnumbered that of Sydney by almost two to one, Sydney's share of the NSW population had increased from 26.24 per cent in 1871 to 35.42 per cent in 1901, a trend that was continuing.
Jim Belshaw's email is email@example.com . His New England life blog is http://newenglandaustralia.blogspot.com/: his New England history blog http://newenglandhistory.blogspot.com.au/