Becoming The Goulburn Post's first female editor was not uppermost on Maryann Weston's mind on the day she was appointed.
That was back in 1999 when editor John Thistleton moved into a group management role. As deputy editor her role was extremely busy anyway and regional manager Sandra Chambers saw the opportunity to appoint an accomplished journalist who just happened to be a woman.
"That ended a very long tradition (129 years) of male editors," Mrs Weston said.
"I didn't reflect too much on it at the time because it was about excelling in the job. I wasn't competing against anyone else but against myself to raise the benchmark.
"But as time went on I reflected on the fact there weren't many females at the top of managerial roles. While we got to the 'glass ceiling,' we didn't quite break it."
The keen political and social observer says the income disparity between men and women still exists. Moreover, she believes women still have to work harder than men to prove themselves, often juggling families at the same time. She is pleased to see greater flexibility in the workplace.
Her appointment set the tone; two females have held the editorship since Mrs Weston's departure in 2003 - Ainsleigh Sheridan in 2015 and Jackie Meyers in 2020.
Growing up at Young, writing was in Maryann Rogers' blood. Following a journalism degree at Bathurst's Mitchell CAE, three opportunities arose at West Wyalong, Henty and Goulburn. The latter, as a regional daily and an experienced newsroom appealed. The late Ray Leeson interviewed her and soon she was "cutting her teeth" as a cadet on a round.
"The moment I set foot in the Goulburn Post I felt at home," Mrs Weston said.
"...The mentorship I received from senior journalists...was absolutely wonderful. We all had the journalists' code of ethics pinned on our partitions and we abided by that. It was part of our training to know the code of ethics off by heart."
The "ambitious" cadet took on everything from council to court, police, health and much more. She worked her way up to sub-editor, met and married Goulburn man Eric Weston, and was back and forth from The Post in ensuing years as three sons came along.
At work, the editorial team, which included Charles Thurston, enjoyed camaraderie, "worked hard and played hard."
All the while, "Mr Leeson" was an enduring and influential presence. He aimed to give people a wealth of community information, right down to country show results. But he also confronted the big issues and gave his journalists good life advice.
"Ray, in my mind, remains a good journalist, a good editor, a good community newspaperman. There's a lot to be admired about the way he edited The Goulburn Post," Mrs Weston said.
Similarly, campaigns for services was a hallmark of Mr Thistleton's editorship but one in particular was close to Mrs Weston's heart.
Pregnant at the time with her first child, she fully understood the impact of losing Goulburn Base Hospital obstetrician Dr Noel Docker from the city. The Health Service had moved to downgrade the facility from Base to District status. The former required a certain amount of specialists.
"It would have been a game changer," Mrs Weston said.
"We (the newspaper) kicked up a real storm and it got the Premier's attention...I worked on the campaign with Labor candidate Ken Sullivan who did a lot of digging around and got results.
"Noel Docker left but they did get a locum obstetrician in who was at least there during the week."
Eventually the state government did fund a full time obstetrician in the form of long-serving Dr Sujon Purkayastha. In the meantime, she had her first child in Bowral Hospital, following a "hair raising trip up the Hume Highway. She later wrote about her experience for The Post.
The ordeal affirmed her belief that once lost, services were gone forever and the newspaper and community had to "draw a line in the sand."
The campaigns continued as editor. She said her team was hard working, covering stories like the state government's controversial sale of Kenmore Hospital to a developer for $3 million. The Post campaigned heavily for transparency and assurances that the site wouldn't be carved up and its heritage fall into disrepair. Mrs Weston laments its state today but not the newspaper's efforts.
Heritage again collided with development when a developer proposed to demolish a CBD building.
"I was proud of the team's efforts to keep main street heritage when we started to lose building after building...We asked the question on the front page - 'Who cares?'" Mrs Weston said.
"We campaigned hard and got the council to put a heritage order on it.
"...They were hard but fun times and we broke stories often picked up by Sydney journalists."
Her EC Sommerlad award from the NSW Country Press Association for editorial writing in 2001/02 remains one of her proudest. But so too were the newspaper's Sommerlad awards for Editorial Leadership and Community Involvement in 2000/01 and 2002/03.
The mentorship I received from senior journalists...was absolutely wonderful. We all had the journalists' code of ethics pinned on our partitions and we abided by that.Maryann Weston
Mrs Weston finally left The Post in 2003 and worked as a senior policy officer at the federal agriculture department, then public relations head at Vibe Australia, also editing its magazine and digital publications, and later a consultant working on campaigns for government funding of indigenous programs. She has written several books, articles for RiotAct and started her own publishing business.
Reflecting on today's media, she said coronavirus had proven there was still a role for community newspapers.
"When publishers are prepared to put in and not strip out, you can have a really good product that the community is prepared to support," Mrs Weston said.
As for Goulburn, she recalled that the late City mayor Ernie McDermott once described it as a "boom or bust town." She believed that had changed, the city was growing and services were expanding.
"We have good aged care and a new hospital is being built. We have good services and that's why we fought so hard for them," she said.
"I think the council has also realised what it takes to keep heritage while balancing development."
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