BELL - GEORGE - OTAGO - NZ - 1873 -- 1899
edmondsallan -Hello - Dunedin, lacked the scope of the Otago Daily Times. It was essentially middle-brow, owned by a man who took no part in public life, and it lacked writers of national reputation. But by focusing his energies, Bell became one of New Zealand's first full-time city newspaper proprietors. He covered local events so competently that the Star quickly dominated its rivals, challenging the Times in city sales. The issue of 8 September 1879, covering a spectacular fire, sold 8,300 copies, then considered 'the largest number ever sent out by a daily paper in this Colony.' Working conditions were good, technology up to date and staff relationships excellent.
Photographs show Bell as a man of alert appearance and upright bearing, balding, with a high-domed forehead and white mutton-chop whiskers. The vigorous editorials which he wrote well into his 70s were of a kind with his character: not stylish in manner, but forceful and sensible, always ready to attack hypocrisy, incompetence or self-interest. In June 1873 he published (and pointedly commented on) a document which reflected badly on the Dunedin lawyer James Macassey, and in a famous £10,000 libel case the jury found in favour of Bell. He won a similar case over sharp editorial remarks about Catholic clergy.
Bell was active in several charitable and private organisations. After leaving the Congregationalists he joined the Anglican communion, becoming treasurer of All Saints' Church parochial guild and a churchwarden. He joined an Oddfellows lodge, presided over the New Zealand Institute of Journalists and was a fine violinist. He was active in the Press Club, and was gazetted as a justice of the peace in 1881. He was described as 'high-souled', 'a benevolent patriarch' and a man of considerable candour. He retained into his 80s sole control of the newspaper he had created, and finally passed the business to his family on 1 January 1895, Mark Cohen succeeding him as editor. Bell died at Dunedin on 4 February 1899, aged 90; Abigail Bell had died in 1892.
George Bell was an important figure in the newspaper world of his day and created something of a dynasty: his son, George, was temporary managing director of the Evening Star from 1902 to 1904, and the families of his daughters, Louisa Clapperton and Hannah Smith, also held positions on the paper for many years. The paper ultimately became vested in the Smith family, which took over the Otago Daily Times and in 1975 created the Allied Press in the late twentieth century one of New Zealand's rare surviving independent family newspaper companies. The Evening Star ceased publication in 1979.
Till we meet again - Regards - edmondsallan