1891-1973 | South Australia & Victoria | Editor & Managing Director
Sir Keith Murdoch chose Dumas to edit the Adelaide Advertiser when his syndicate bought the paper in 1929. Over the next 40 years as editor, managing director or chairman, Dumas forged the strongest and most loyal partnership between a major newspaper and a state government – for mutual benefit. Dumas backed Lionel Hill’s minority Labor government in the 1930s. From 1938, he backed the Liberal and Country League Playford government. The Labor Opposition described the Advertiser as “the LCL Journal”. But South Australia prospered and by the time Dumas retired in 1967, the paper’s circulation had nearly trebled to 208,000 and staff had increased fivefold.
One of the least bloody-minded of his breed.
One of the least bloody-minded of his breed.
The Story of a Full Life was the apt title Dumas gave to his autobiography, published in 1969. His experience in news and management, which was to underpin such a long and fruitful career, began early. In 1900, while not yet 10, Dumas made the news as an enterprising, community-minded organiser of a charity fair.
The report claimed he could rest “with the satisfaction of having done something in the cause of the Empire.” Dumas’s appreciation of the power of news and its potential to influence politics, as well as a keen commercial sensibility, were there from the start. They were areas he would come to master, and often conflate to profitable effect, over his lifetime.
Connections, of course, helped. The report of 1900 had been published in the Mount Barker Courier and Onkaparinga and Gumeracha Advertiser, the regional newspaper founded and edited by his father Charles. At this time Charles was also a member of the South Australian House of Assembly. For his son, politics and not just ink were mixed in the blood.
Bright and ambitious, Lloyd Dumas set his sights on horizons beyond Mount Barker and his father’s newspaper. His career formally began at 15 when he took up a cadetship at the Adelaide Advertiser. By 1911 Dumas was a founding member of the State branch of the Australian Journalists' Association. Having excelled as a sports and parliamentary reporter, in 1915 he moved to the Melbourne Argus. There he soon rose to the role of Federal political roundsman.
Dumas joined Prime Minister William Hughes’ staff for the second conscription campaign in 1917, and accompanied Hughes, as his publicity officer, to the Imperial Conference in London in 1918. Peacetime saw his return to the Argus where he was appointed its youngest ever chief of staff in 1921.
In 1924 he took on the role of editor of the Melbourne’s new morning challenger, the Sun News-Pictorial. A year later, he received a new boss when Hugh Denison capitulated in the fraught newspaper battle and sold the title to Keith Murdoch’s Herald & Weekly Times group.
In 1927 Dumas left for London on a three-year posting as editor and manager of the United Cable Service, the same role Murdoch had performed during the War. Having proved his mettle as a manager, Dumas was enticed home to Adelaide to serve as managing editor of Advertiser Newspapers Ltd, the company having been purchased by a syndicate headed by Murdoch who was in an expansionary mood.
As the Depression bit, both men were to revel in the strategising that would lead to Adelaide’s morning press falling under their monopoly control. The promotion of Joseph Lyons for Prime Minister in 1932, also employing Advertiser Newspapers Ltd’s newly established radio station 5AD, was just one example of their politicking. Murdoch would later write to Dumas describing Lyons as the man “whom we chose and made”.
More personally, Dumas was to become associated with Sir Thomas Playford’s government in South Australia; his influence a key factor in helping Playford retain office for so long. The Labor Opposition nicknamed the Adelaide Advertiser “the L.C.L. House Journal”.
Dumas’ outlook was conservative and he sought to uphold the traditional structures of the day: the government, the law, the churches, the family and the Returned Services League. Under his lead, the Advertiser had, in the words of the former Chief Justice of South Australia, Dr. John Bray, a lingering “aura of the nineteenth century provincial organ, the note of ponderous respectability, but also of ponderous responsibility”.
Dumas had been elevated to the board of Advertiser Newspapers Ltd in 1931, going on to become managing director in 1938 and chairman in 1942. He was knighted in 1946 and served as the first president of the Australian Newspapers Council on its formation in 1948
As well as radio, Dumas’ era would see Advertiser Newspapers Ltd embrace television with the launch of ADS7 in 1959. The Advertiser Newspapers Ltd’s small job-printing was developed into the Griffin Press, one of Australia’s largest printing-houses.
Mirroring Sir Keith Murdoch’s interest in the elevating power of art, Dumas served as chairman of the Art Gallery of South Australia from 1955-1963. He was also one of the foremost advocates of the Adelaide Festival of Arts, proving instrumental in its 1960 foundation and subsequent success.
Dumas retired from his position as chairman of Advertiser Newspapers Ltd in 1967. His remarkably full career had also seen him serve on the boards of the Herald & Weekly Times (1946-67), Australian Newsprint Mills Pty Ltd (1938-67), the AAP (1941-1962, chairman 1949-1951) and as chairman of directors of Reuters News Agency, London (1950-53).
His personal success was mirrored by that of Advertiser Newspapers Ltd itself. When Dumas retired as chairman in 1967, its issued capital had risen to £12 million, circulation to 208,000 and the staff totalled 1500.
He was regarded as a good and fair employer, avoiding the ruthless treatment meted out by some of his fellow newspaper managers. Reflecting this, the AJA gave an honorary dinner on his retirement and readmitted him to life membership, its State president stressing Dumas had “always been a journalist at heart and an unwavering friend of the AJA”. As the author of Dumas’ entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography observes, these sentiments support Sir Robert Menzies comment that the newspaperman from South Australia who had led such a full life was “one of the least bloody-minded of his breed”.
Tom Roberts is a media historian and author of the prize-winning biography Before Rupert: Keith Murdoch and the Birth of a Dynasty.
The Story of a Full Life, Sir Lloyd Dumas, Sun Books, 1969
‘Dumas, Sir Frederick Lloyd (1891–1973)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, S. Cockburn, Australian National University, 1996.
‘Lloyd Dumas papers’, National Library of Australia