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Samantha Turnbull Writer, mother, anti-princess

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Newspapers and keeping traditions

I used to work in newspapers.

I can imagine repeating those words to my grandchildren decades from now and being met with incredulous looks.

“Newspapers!” they’ll exclaim. “You must be SO old.”

Because, by then, newspapers will be akin to papyrus scrolls.

And that kills me.

I loved working in newspapers.

I loved dashing off to breaking stories with a notepad and handbag full of plastic biros. I loved the stress of 6pm when weathered, grumpy sub editors would curse across the room about misplaced apostrophes and misspelt place names. I loved working into the night and sometimes sleeping in the office sick bay because I was too full of adrenalin to want to ever go home. Ever.

And I loved newspapers themselves.

I loved the smell. I loved the black smudges that would be left on my fingers. I loved buying a Saturday edition that was so thick you could hardly wrap your hand around it. I always measured a product’s worth by its weight.

I don’t work in newspapers anymore.

I got out just before they stopped teaching shorthand and the notepads were replaced by dictaphones. I got out just before the majority of those subeditors were made redundant. I got out before the price of the paper rose another 20 cents. My local newspapers are more expensive than ever yet weigh less than the weekend junk mail in my letter box.

I don’t want newspapers to die.

Industry mouthpieces will tell us they’re technically not dying. They’re ‘evolving’.

Newspapers will still exist, just not as we know them.

I want to help keep newspapers alive. As we know them now. Maybe one day they will even be restored to their former glory.

And, so, my husband and I continue to buy classified ads when the occasion calls. We started what we hoped would become a tradition of placing Fathers and Mothers day notices for each other when our first child was born.

Each year we’ve paid around $50 for a few centimetres of text that we cut out and stick in a scrapbook.

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This year, the price has gone up.

I just paid $180 to publish nine words. This is a country newspaper by the way, not a metro.

I don’t know who can afford that sort of money. I certainly can’t.

I’ll buy a few extra copies of the paper this weekend so I can snip out that overpriced box of text and glue it down for posterity. But that will be the last time.

Our tradition has come to an end. Sorry.

4 responses to “Newspapers and keeping traditions”

  1. darren coyne says:

    Great blog Sam. It made me slightly nostalgic because I too have slept in that same sick bay, and felt the same rush of adrenaline as a police scanner went off, or a contact called with a hot tip. I have worked around the clock and once even had the opportunity to call ‘Stop the press’ (although on that occasion it was because I wrote guilty instead of not guilty and only realised as I dozed off to sleep around midnight.) I got out of daily regional newspapers because they have gone too far to the dark side. Instead of engaging their community and making themselves relevant, they have continued with a 1980’s ‘Greed is Good and Technology will solve everything’ corporate mentality. Of course I still work in newspapers, but like to think that the Koori Mail is a different beast. Community owned and community focussed! Like others it is struggling to deal with tough financial conditions and the onslaught of digital news, but there are still people taking up subscriptions, and the paper is passed around to an average of 20 or more people. I reckon it’s because we still do it the old fashioned way … writers, contributors, sub-editors and even a proof reader, because it is important to make every possible effort to get the information that we present to our community right. Wherever possible we travel to stories, and also to meet advertisers face to face. Old fashioned? Yep! Does it work? Yep. Will it continue into the future? I bloody well hope so. You can’t pin a picture from your child’s birthday on the fridge in jpg format. Chances are Grandma may not have a facebook account but it makes her day when she receives a clipping of little Johnny’s graduation. … and let’s face it, when you spend a couple of grand on a decent laptop you’re loathe to line the budgie cage with it, or use it to start a fire or mulch a garden! So I’m with you and Bruce … I’m hoping that newspapers last well into the future …. but if not … how about putting in a good word for me at the ABC (although given the likely result of the upcoming election, I’m not sure the future there would be too bright anyway. Might have to learn how to dig ditches for my next career. Holes will never go out of fashion!

    • Samantha says:

      Thanks for the comment Darren. I love the Koori Mail. And, yes, the ABC is an awesome place to work too. As much as I miss the old newspaper days I think we’re both in better places – hopefully for the long haul.

  2. Scully says:

    I love newspapers too, used to work at one, and I feel the same way. Just reading Saturday’s now, on an iPad, for which I paid $4.50 a week to have it delivered. The business model is changing, and if you like the product you should pay for at least one subscription.

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