The story of Ron and Judy Wilson, who brave the elements most winter mornings to keep Riverbank Park and Yass River clear of rubbish, is one that shows what community media is about.
Sometimes, it’s the quiet-achieving stories that resonate loudly with readers, as evidenced by acclaim for the Wilsons on the Tribune’s Facebook page.
Within 24 hours of posting it – and at the time of writing this piece – it has reached nearly 11,000 people and garnered 282 likes.
It has been one of our highest-performing posts in recent memory. This is particularly significant for a page that has just a little more than 7000 likes.
The story garnered huge public praise for the humble pair, who told me they simply clean up to help keep Yass looking good for residents and tourists.
As a former public servant and a former nurse, their instinct to serve the greater good is an initiative that cannot be extinguished.
The story of Ron and Judy shows that while the media should and does focus on grander topics of national and global importance, sometimes readers crave the personal stories that have no palpable conflict and are simply inspiring, and so in their own way just as much in the public interest.
It is a balance between big-picture topics and human-interest tales; telling you what you need to know and what you didn’t know you need to know.
The story came about after a chance sighting of the Wilsons cleaning the riverbank during one of my morning running sessions along the river.
My first thought was that it may have been a one-off and while I said hello to them at the time, a story was not at the forefront of my mind.
Then, of course, I saw them a second, third and fourth time, around 6-7am in sometimes foggy and sub-zero temperatures.
Judy would always have both arms around Ron’s left arm, who wielded his hand rubbish picker like a tool of power, which it was – no doubt about that.
Finally, after hearing about Plastic Free July, the story idea of showing these two guardians to Yass began to incubate.
On Monday, July 10, on another morning run, I had hoped to run into the pair for an interview and photo.
And of course, there they were, looping around the river clearing bits and pieces.