The Truth was first published as a satirical weekly newspaper. It was founded as the Vagabond on 7 February 1884, in defiance of threatened legal action by journalist John Stanley James (Julian Thomas), who wrote under the pseudonym of 'The Vagabond'. Published by proprietor William Watkins, it became the Melbourne Truth on 14 February, continuing until 24 May 1884. This paper contained short pieces of social and political comment, serial and short stories, a series of biographical sketches, poetry, and social and theatrical notes.
The later and better-known Melbourne Truth was the Victorian edition of the Sydney Truth (1890-1958), published in Melbourne from 12 July 1902 until 15 May 1993. Owned and edited from 1897 to 1916 by the notorious John Norton, it was a sensational weekly paper with a large circulation, delighting while shocking its readers with its frequent exposure of personal scandal and social injustice. Detailed police and court reports, illustrated by drawings and photographs of prosecutors and defendants, were an important feature. Truth also crusaded against anything its editors considered to be oppressive of ordinary people. Since some of this material was potentially libellous, defamation suits were not uncommon, especially during Norton's time. Later editors were more circumspect, though still inclined to err on the side of sensation, provoking those with more sober taste to refuse to have it in their homes.