Former GT editor reflects on wins big and small
TODAY is the end of the road for many of my newspaper colleagues whose print editions will cease to exist.
The decision by News Corp a month ago to close these regional papers was met with grief and, ironically, the sharing of memories on Facebook - one of newspapers’ biggest competitors.
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Reading through the many hundreds of photos and comments, one in particular caught my eye. It was an old paper clipping of three reporters in a vox pop asking what they loved most about being a journalist.
Rough and ready former Sunshine Coast Daily journalist Steve Zemek was one of the lucky punters.
“Cake, there’s always cake. The money is ordinary and the hours are long but there’s plenty of cake.”
The answer of course was a joke but it struck a chord with me.
Mainly because in my time as The Gympie Times editor I ran the newsroom on cake (now it’s the newfangled vegan variety) and the occasional beer, but also because what Steve said was so true.
Journalists in the four newsrooms I have worked in, Gympie, Bundaberg, Sunshine Coast and Townsville, are going above and beyond for not much monetary reward.
Factor in the hours worked to get that weekly pay packet and it shows the dedication of journalists right across regional Queensland.
For me, I will be saddest to see The Gympie Times print edition go.
Born in Gympie, the paper has always been in my life. My first photo in the GT, that I can remember, was shopping with mum to get school books when I was about nine.
The clipping had pride of place on our fridge for years. The paper was always around, I remember as a child trawling over the sport pages to see if my name was included in the hockey notes after scoring a goal.
Little did I know that one day I would get to work at such an amazing place.
I still remember how lucky I felt on my first day on the job.
It was the winter of 1998 watching my first photo come to life in the darkroom. The image was simple, horses rounding the first bend at the Gympie Turf Club, but it is one of my clearest memories of my 22-year career.
Later came my first front page story, an expose on the number of people running red lights at the Caltex Big Pineapple intersection.
But what I am most proud of is the good things the paper helped achieve.
Under the leadership of Michael Roser and Neville McHarg the paper helped stopped a dam, we saved the Mary River.
We also rerouted highways saving homes, and won upgrades of a killer stretch of road saving many hundreds of local lives.
It’s those wins that are the cake.
Even the little wins, celebrations along the way when reporters break news, get that exclusive or help give people in need a voice, it’s what keeps them going.
Just this week my Townsville team helped a bloke in North Queensland get his NBN fixed. Last month they helped change laws on youth justice and held politicians to account. They are now helping a city fight back after the coronavirus pandemic.
The team at the Gympie Times are doing that too everyday, holding our politicians to account and lifting the lid on stories that people don’t want to come to light.
The good thing is, none of that will change.
Yes, there is no longer a paper, but there will still be one of the most talented and passionate groups of journalists on the ground working for Gympie.
The only difference, their stories will be online.
But don’t doubt them, they will go above and beyond... and there will be cake.