I worked for 24 of the 150 years of the Goulburn Post as a reporter, editor and managing editor. My predecessor Ray Leeson worked there for 47 years, including an astonishing 36 as editor. Contemplating retirement in 1988 troubled him. A safe pair of hands for all those years, now he had to let go.
The night before the paper's manager was to reveal the changeover, Ray and his wife Pat called at our home to surprise me and my wife Franki with the news. His predecessor, Marmion Dart, who had worked at The Post for 25 years, had done the same thing all those years earlier.
I was lucky. I had experienced staff and had learned from previous colleagues on my arrival in 1980, including John Avery, Peter Brown and Ian Frazer. I began as editor alongside veteran radio broadcaster Ray Williams, Maryann Weston, who later became an editor when The Post was a community-centred tri-weekly. Canadian Charles Thurston gave us a point of difference with a creative flair.
Long-serving photographer Leon Oberg switched to editing Town and Country Magazine, and continued his outstanding photography, especially if a train was involved. Darryl Fernance, a former contributing photographer, joined us and became long-serving and multi-skilled as the paper evolved. In later years Louise Thrower arrived, became a tenacious reporter and continues to excel. Reporter David Cole connected strongly with the arts community as did Chris Gordon in sport and the arts.
Indeed, many exceptional people have served The Post in their fields. Production manager Kevin Tozer and pre-press staff Danny Eldridge and Chris Ottaway and typesetter Jenny Sullivan were the backbone of our team. Out of the blue a letter arrived from a Russian artist who asked me for a job. She was the highly creative Ekaterina Mortensen, who continues enthralling audiences with her art.
Our front officer staffers Sue Clements and Helen Evans grew to know news intimately, tipping me off with important classified advertising notices, and warning me of hostile readers storming up the stairs to vent their anger. Sales manager Helen Esson, who later became the paper's manager, and Greg O'Keeffe were invaluable for beating their advertising revenue targets which paid our way.
The Post struck up a partnership with Goulburn Rostrum to host debates on the eve of local government, state and federal elections. This stemmed from my enduring friendship with dentist Brian Keating. His extraordinary background had parallels with Leeson's during World War Two. Flying Lancaster bombers, Keating narrowly escaped death on a mission over Germany in January, 1945. A wireless operator/air gunner, Leeson survived a crash in a snow storm, which killed the five other crewmen of his Wellington bomber.
After the war, the two men were prominent in the 1962 Catholic schools strike in Goulburn. Keating was one of the instigators, and Leeson was about the only reporter in the country to record it accurately. The Australian Government has been contributing money to Catholic schools ever since.
Planes fell from the skies above Goulburn too during my time, trains left their rails and coaches careered off the highway, causing multiple fatalities. A Turkish restaurant exploded in the main street. Covering the aftermath in coroner's hearings and compensation cases in the District Court, and hearing from solicitors and barristers in all the courts added to my preparations for the editor's role.
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The Goulburn Post put a heated pool on the community's agenda, after a suggestion from my GP, Dr Bruce Gerard. I wrote an editorial on why a heated pool would benefit the health of our community. To help raise money for the project The Post re-launched the annual sports awards, hired Australian netballer Anne Sargeant as guest speaker and donated $10,000. We never stopped lobbying until the $1 million project was completed.
I left The Post to join The Canberra Times in 2004. About a month later Singapore Airlines which was lobbying for freedom of the skies out of Australia, flew me business class to and from Paris and Toulouse for the launch of the A380 aircraft. Returning home, looking down over the Swiss Alps, I thanked my lucky stars for the opportunities and excitement newspapers offered.
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