Morry Schwartz inducted into Australian Magazine Awards Hall of Fame

Founder of Schwartz Media Morry Schwartz
Morry Schwartz at the Australian Magazine Awards

Morry Schwartz uses just one word to describe the current media landscape: fraught. It’s a surprisingly honest comment from the publishing tycoon who founded – and still operates – his own media company, Schwartz Media.

Other publishing bosses will tell you there’s life still le in print and the fragmented landscape brings more opportunities – statements that Schwartz would probably agree with – but he’s a realist when it comes to the industry’s hardships.

A Hungarian immigrant brought to Australia in the years after World War Two, Schwartz, at 21, intended to be a lmmaker. “Personal tragedy” ended that career path and in 1973, aged 25, he and three friends founded Outback Press, one of Australia’s first independent book publishers.

“You could say that we were part of the counter-cultural movement which started in the late 60s. We used to drink at the Albion Hotel in Carlton, a place full of young writers with no publishers. ere weren’t many Australian-owned book publishing houses around at that time, and Australian writers weren’t well served, so we decided to change that,” Schwartz explained.

By the late 70s, Outback Press had made a lot of noise, publishing across all subject matters, including Australian politics, an area that would become central to Schwartz’ periodical publishing much later.

whitlam-deanne-wells-morry.jpgMorry Schwartz and Dean Wells at the launch of Wells' book The Wit of Whitlam

The company ran successfully for four years until a defamation case against the Australian Cricket Board bankrupted Outback Press. Outback Press won the case, but collapsed shortly after. The day after Outback Press folded, in the 1980s, Schwartz founded Schwartz Publishing and continued to publish books – something he still does today under Black Inc.

During this time, Schwartz began his other business venture – one that would go on to support his publishing portfolio when it fell on hard times – property development. Property development has made Schwartz rich but he makes it clear that publishing is his occupation.

In 2001 and after 25 years of book publishing, Schwartz made the career-defining move to add periodicals to the list in the form of Quarterly Essay. The title, which comes out in book form, carries long essays by Australia’s leading writers on topics of current concern. It was a bullish move from Schwartz and one that marked his unconventional approach to publishing.

Then, in 2005, came The Monthly, which Schwartz said operates in a category of its own following the closure of current affairs magazine The Bulletin in 2008.

The Monthly occupies an important position in Australian intellectual and political life. Ex-prime minister, Kevin Rudd, wrote essays for The Monthly that helped define him in the public mind. There have also been illuminating profiles on other political leaders, such as Tony Abbott, and the exploration of sensitive topics such as the stolen generation.

“It is the only serious current a airs magazine in the country,” the 70-year-old said. In 2014, Schwartz made the decision to launch a printed newspaper that bucked the rampant trend towards digital and le his competitors scratching their heads.

One of Australia’s other notable independent news media publishers and a friend of Schwartz, Eric Beecher, recommended he saw a psychiatrist when he revealed his plans to invest in print. Schwartz ignored the criticism.“I thought there was life left in print, and there still is. A large proportion of our income is still from print advertising, and I expect that to last me out.”

img-181102142400-0007.jpgSome of Outback Press' publications

Schwartz’ most recent launch came in 2017 with the launch of Australian Foreign Affairs, which aimed to overcome the lack of accessible, informative, analytic and provocative writing about foreign affairs in Australia. “ There has never been a more critical time for Australia to contemplate its place in the world,” Schwartz said.

The Saturday Paper, The Monthly, Australian Foreign Affairs and the Quarterly Essay rely on a mix of advertising and a subscription model. Schwartz believes the only way that serious press will survive is if people are prepared to pay for content. He also insists that his print portfolio makes money, although he admits he propped up The Monthly and the Quarterly Essay from the property development part of his business during the economic downturn of 2007-08.

In a career spanning 40 years, Schwartz has built a reputation for publishing the highest quality journalism in the country, which has earned him a place in the Australian Magazine Award’s Hall of Fame.

An impressive publishing and property portfolio aside, when asked what he is most proud of, Schwartz responded: never underestimating the intelligence of his readers. As for the future of print media, Schwartz predicts there will be very few printed newspapers, more magazines might survive in print, and books will continue to hold on despite cheaper e-books being available.

“I am still a book publisher at heart, and expect that I always will be,” he said.

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