Friday, October 29, 2021

Paper put on pandemic pause

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Bob Mills, President, Richmond River Independent Community Association

Within two weeks of the launch of the Richmond River Independent it was clear this was something our region needed.

The community welcomed it.

Richmond River Independent team
First born: Holding the first edition of the Independent when it was delivered to Days Machinery were committee members Graeme Gibson, Meg Bishop, Andrew Johnston and Bob Mills with editor Susanna Freymark in the middle. Photo: contributed.

Cafes and shops and service stations we’d left off our initial list asked for copies.

So did hospitals, retirement villages, campgrounds, pubs and bakeries.

The newspaper looked terrific. It was professional and real. It captured people’s feelings and thoughts.

It reflected who we are, and it reflected the enthusiasm of the team who put it together.

By early this year, after a lot of effort and backing from the community, our future was looking good.

By mid-year we were in surplus and hoping to expand our services and reach.

Then came lockdown and it knocked the stuffing out of businesses across the region.

That pushed the Independent into losses we can’t sustain.

Every option the management committee considered only led to further losses and every report we got said there was no quick end in sight.

All we can do now is put the paper into recess, pay all our bills and reconsider our future.

So now when we have to put it to bed, at least for a time, let me on behalf of the community association as the publisher, say thank you to the people who made this possible.

Editor Susanna Freymark has been a dynamo.

In three weeks, she pulled together an extraordinary team of professional newspaper people, signed up printers, local contributors, sales staff and donations of office space and publicity. Kevin McDonald designed “the book”, the way the paper fitted together and has kept it running ever since with Brett Bambling’s help – and used the depth of his experience to cajole the printers to get the ink flows and colours right.

Michael Burlace subbed the copy and coordinated all the bits that go together to make a paper “work”, meticulous, tireless and remarkably skilful.

The extraordinary Jasmine Phillips volunteered our masthead and logos, John and Narelle Oomen office space and Days Machinery use of their forklift to unload pallets of papers and space for storage.

Critically too, a group of local businesses signed up for solid advertising backing. Days Machinery was one and still graces our back page. Community-based businesses were also very important – Casino’s RSM Club and Golf Club among them.

Our advertising sales staff kept the presses rolling. Initially Katie Gourlay, then Carol Tomek, now Alison Martin and Simon Wilkinson. Our numerous contributors put pizzaz, colour and lots of laughs into the pages.

Jackie Munro and Claire Rankin added their journalistic talents.

A long list of volunteers turned out week after week to grab their bundles and deliver the paper up and down the region.

I will shortly be taking much pleasure in hosting them all for a thank you celebration.

Last, I turn to the members of the management committee who signed up and decided to give this project a go. Tony Hennessy drew up our initial and remarkably accurate business plan and brought Geoff Austen, with all his accrued knowledge on board. Graeme Gibson took on the role of secretary and Meg Bishop our treasurer until Faith Denny took on the responsibilities.

Andrew Johnston contributed his wisdom and enthusiasm and Maggie May her critical analysis and HR knowledge.

The readers made the Richmond River Independent work. They are the only reason for doing the paper – they and the advertisers who paid for it and used it to reach potential customers.

To all of you, thank you. Right now, the lockdown and its aftermath have shut us down.

But that may not be the end of the Independent. That is ultimately up to the community we have tried to serve.

If you want it, the association is still here and that’s a structure that could work again in better circumstances.

For now.

Bob Mills
– and it has been a privilege to be president of the
Richmond River Independent Community Association

Richmond River Independent 29 September 2021

This article appeared in the Richmond River Independent, 29 September 2021.

Related stories: I had a dream. It changed. And now I have a new Dream; Meet the Richmond River Independent.

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