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Packer, Robert Clyde (1879–1934)

from Australian Women's Weekly

A great figure in Australian journalism passed away last week with the death of Mr. R. C. [Robert Clyde] Packer, whose son, Mr. Frank Packer, is managing director of The Australian Women's Weekly.

Mr. R. C. Packer died at Marseilles on his way home from England, where he had gone on a health trip. It is a sad circumstance that he was denied the privilege of seeing his own country again. He was an ardent Australian, who always used the power of his papers for the welfare of his country.

In a sense he inspired the founding of the Australian Women's Weekly. The principal executives, in addition to his son, were all directly trained by him; and his methods are stamped on every page of the paper.

Other men and women trained by him are now editing or holding responsible positions on leading papers in this and other States.

No newspaper man in this State has exercised such great influence in journalism as the late Mr. R. C. Packer.

Under his editorship the old "Sunday Times" became a very powerful force in Sydney journalism. The Sydney "Sun," of which he became chief sub-editor, also reaped the benefit of his genius, and he was editing the "Sunday Sun" with conspicuous success prior to becoming one of the founders of Smith's Newspapers Ltd., which established "Smith's Weekly," "The Daily Guardian," and the "Sunday Guardian." The two lastnamed papers were bought by Associated Newspapers, Ltd., but the "Daily Guardian" did not prosper under the new control, despite its previous great popularity. It was eventually closed down.

Soon afterwards Mr. Packer was called in by Associated Newspapers and accepted the position of managing editor. Sweeping changes were made by him, including the amalgamation of the "Sunday Sun" and "Sunday Guardian" into a newspaper which gained the largest circulation of any Sunday paper in the Commonwealth. The editor of the reorganised "Sunday Sun and Guardian" later became the foundation editor of The Australian Women's Weekly.

Mr. Packer's last active work in journalism was done on behalf of Associated Newspapers Ltd. The affairs of this large organisation, which includes the "Sun," "The Sunday Sun and Guardian," the "Telegraph," and other publications, had reached a very critical stage. Under his regime Associated Newspapers Ltd. successfully passed the crisis, but Mr. Packer's health undoubtedly suffered gravely as the result of the strain which this onerous work involved. Eventually ill-health forced him to resign from the managing editorship of these papers. A high sense of the duty of newspapers in guiding the public through a most difficult period kept him at his post for several months after his doctors had advised him it was imperative he should be free from business worries.

Great changes were introduced into Australian newspaper conditions by Mr. Packer. Of particular interest to women is the fact that he was the first to realise the importance of a comprehensive women's section in daily newspapers.

He also introduced a policy of paying the highest possible salaries to brilliant artists and journalists in order that his papers should be equal to any in the world.

Mr. Packer's influence on Australian journalism was as great as that of Lord Northcliffe on the journalism of Great Britain.

Prior to his time, newspaper methods had become stereotyped into heavy records of the day's events, and their appeal was largely limited to the man of affairs.

Mr. Packer's fresh, vital methods of presenting news immensely widened the appeal of the newspaper. He increased the scope of the newspaper field, especially in regard to sport and the inclusion of many service and other features for the benefit of women.

Newspapers throughout the Commonwealth were quick to follow the example he set, with the result that total circulations have been greatly increased. The daily paper has become an immeasurably greater power in the home as a result.

He was a shy and retiring man, and deeply generous.

In politics he was a true democrat. He inaugurated one undying policy—to fight for the removal of the ugly twins of graft and corruption from the public life and business life of Sydney. Another marked feature of his policy was his persistent advocacy of the Diggers' cause.

Mr. Packer enjoyed the confidence of highly-placed public men, who were impressed by his keen insight into Australia's problems, and his determination to oppose tooth and nail all underground forces.

Death overtook him in tragic circumstances. With his wife and his daughter, Kathleen, he was returning to his native sunshine after a severe illness in England.

Mr. Frank Packer had flown to England to his father's bedside, but following a marked improvement in his father's condition he was returning to Australia, via America.

A relapse occurred, and Mr. R. C. Packer died at Marseilles. Mrs. Packer and Miss Packer were with him at the end, but Mr. Frank Packer was in mid Pacific.

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Citation details

'Packer, Robert Clyde (1879–1934)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/packer-robert-clyde-7940/text35627, accessed 27 June 2019.

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