The Southland Times has played a major role in the life of the province since its first edition was published in 1862.
Not only has it been the principal provider of information to generations of Southlanders, it has also over the years been one of the region's largest employers — and continues to be so.
The Southland Times also publishes a daily Central Otago edition for distribution to Queenstown, Wanaka, Cromwell, Alexandra and surrounding areas.
In its early days the paper appeared twice or three times a week, until it became a daily in 1875. Typesetting was done by hand at the start, and the double Demy Columbia press was operated manually as each sheet of each copy was separately printed.
Until its acquisition by Independent Newspapers Limited in 1984, most of the paper's first 122 years were synonymous with the name of Gilmour. Glasgow-born Robert Gilmour began his involvement with the newspaper two years after it started, became a part-owner in 1869-70 and took full charge in 1879, signalling the start of the Gilmour family's long ownership of the paper.
At the turn of the century, The Southland Times was relocated into enlarged premises in Esk Street, and in 1902-03 linotype machines were installed, speeding production and making larger papers possible.
In 1908 the paper moved into an even larger Esk St home. New equipment was brought, including a two-wheel rotary press, the first of its kind to be used outside the main centres.
The Southland Times was to become a technological innovator more than once. In 1972, digital computers and software, phototypesetters and a Japanese APR photopolymer plate were installed at the plant. As a result, The Times had New Zealand's first fully-computerised newspaper production system.
In 1981, The Southland Times commissioned a new offset Goss Urbanite press. At the time, it was the largest offset press in New Zealand and provided the newspaper with full colour capability.
Five years later The Southland Times led the way yet again — this time in the use of advanced computer-driven newspaper technology, whereby reporters typed their articles directly into a computer and sub-editors edited them on screen. At the time, it was regarded as the most modern newspaper production plant in the country.
In 1984, the newspaper was sold to Independent Newspapers Limited.
The Southland Times is parent to seven free community newspapers: The Mirror, which was started in 1987 and covers the Queenstown Lakes District and Central Otago; Newslink, which covers Northern and Eastern Southland, was established in 1991; The Eye, which is delivered weekly to all residents in Invercargill, Bluff, Riverton, Winton and Te Anau; and in July 1998 the company took over South Otago Newspapers, incorporating the Clutha Leader based in Balclutha, the Taieri Herald based in Mosgiel; and the Otago Southland Farmer, which is delivered fortnightly to all rural mailboxes in both Otago and Southland.
In 2008, the company took over D Scene, a relatively new weekly community newspaper for the Dunedin area.
On 1 July, 2003, The Southland Times became a division of Fairfax Media, when Independent Newspapers was bought by Fairfax.
- © Fairfax NZ News