Yass Tribune vacates 100 Meehan Street from October 18

THE TRIBUNE-COURIER TEAM: Stood outside the Lead Street office when it first opened in July, 1955. Captioned in the paper at the time as 'the people who produce your bi-weekly paper'. Photo: FILE
THE TRIBUNE-COURIER TEAM: Stood outside the Lead Street office when it first opened in July, 1955. Captioned in the paper at the time as 'the people who produce your bi-weekly paper'. Photo: FILE

The way the Yass Tribune has been produced over the past 162 years may have changed, but its connection to the community has stayed the same.

We will leave our home of more than six years at 100 Meehan Street, Yass on October 18, but will continue to report on the community from various Yass Valley locations.

The paper began renting its current office, with two private offices at the back and an open plan office at the front, from Nic Carmody in September 2013. We've enjoyed being neighbours ever since.

Prior to then, the paper was at 73 Lead Street, Yass, where it was once printed. Reg Wood joined the paper in 1988 and was editor for about 20 years; although the paper was printed at Nowra by then.

"The machinery just sat out the back. The office wasn't much, but we had good times," he said.

There was a large staff, Mr Wood recalled, and stories were written on typewriters and, eventually, computers.

He remembered the paper lobbying politicians for the Barton Highway bypass, diverting trucks and other traffic from the main street of Yass.

"You couldn't cross the street and people were being killed. It was a big achievement of the Tribune. We made one hell of a stink about it!" he said.

The paper was independently run by Bert Mudge and his son (also Bert Mudge) while Mr Wood was editor. The Mudges had previously run the paper from an office on Comur Street, near the Liberty Theatre.

Bert senior's daughter, Betty Howard (nee Mudge), was 14 when the family bought the paper in 1927 and worked there until she was 60.

Yass resident Brian O'Connor would help the Mudges fold the paper for extra income while he worked next door at Commonwealth Bank as a junior clerk.

The Tribune was eventually purchased by Rural Press and later sold to Fairfax Media; now, Australian Community Media.

PRINTING AT LEAD ST: Workers in the Tribune's printing office at Lead Street before printing was moved to Nowra. Photo: FILE

PRINTING AT LEAD ST: Workers in the Tribune's printing office at Lead Street before printing was moved to Nowra. Photo: FILE

Sitting in The Aussie one Friday night, we met Rod Wise, the paper's sports reporter in the '70s and '80s.

"Because of my name, they called the column 'Sports Shorts by Wiseman'. They would go on the back page every week," he said, just like sports stories do today.

Mr Wise would write the columns by hand and drop them into the Lead Street office.

The paper was still run out of Lead Street when Robyn Sykes joined the paper in 2004.

She began as a part-time reporter and took over as editor from Lesley Connor - who had taken over from Mr Wood - about 18 months later.

The sales and editorial teams were both at the office, although the team had shrunk from Mr Wood's time. There was a full-time, part-time and cadet journalist and part-time sports reporter under Mrs Sykes.

The paper also had community correspondents who were paid to cover their expenses.

The reporters would type their stories in Yass, fax them to Goulburn where they were re-typed, laid out and sent to Nowra - and later to Canberra - for printing.

"You didn't see it again, so if there were mistakes - because they didn't copy and paste - you wouldn't see them until they came out!" Mrs Sykes said.

In Mrs Sykes' early days, a courier would travel to collect the photos for the paper the days before going to print, Monday and Wednesday evenings. The paper would go to print on Tuesdays and Thursdays for Wednesday and Friday publication.

"The introduction of digital cameras made a huge difference," she said. "Norm Keogh should get a mention. He took photos for the Tribune on a voluntary basis for about 20 years. It was a God-send."

One of the biggest events in Mrs Sykes' time was the Horton House fire in 2007.

TRIBUNE VISIT: Prue Sidey supervises Yass Primary School students who visited the Tribune's publishing department. L-R: Elizabeth Drake, Sharon Smith, Glenda Merrit and Annette Turton. Photo: FILE

TRIBUNE VISIT: Prue Sidey supervises Yass Primary School students who visited the Tribune's publishing department. L-R: Elizabeth Drake, Sharon Smith, Glenda Merrit and Annette Turton. Photo: FILE

"I heard it on the radio at 6am and was there by 6.15am," she said. "People were still happy to talk to you back then. They knew we had a job to do and the community needed to know when big things happened."

While emptying the current office, we found two awards from 2013: the Mayor's Award for Community Service and E.C. Sommerlad Memorial Award for Editorial Leadership and Community Involvement.

Mrs Sykes said they were awarded to the Tribune's next editor, Karan Gaylard (formerly Gabriel), for her coverage of the Cobbler Road fire.

The fire, which started near Bookham, burnt 14,000 hectares in January 2013, causing significant damage to farming country. Ms Gaylard and her team worked around the clock to provide the community with regular updates.

"We were the main source of information at the time," Ms Gaylard said. "People had the ABC and the Fires Near Me app, but those sources didn't have as much information. I had Peter Dyce from the Rural Fire Service on speed-dial."

Ms Gaylard was hired by Mrs Sykes as a part-time reporter in 2010 after winning a short story competition in summer with her piece on swimming at Yass Pool.

Almost following in one another's footsteps, Ms Gaylard was part-time for about 18 months before she took over from Mrs Sykes as editor.

Ms Gaylard was responsible for finding the office at Meehan Street when Rural Press decided to sell the Lead Street office.

When they moved, there were three journos at the back, Ms Gaylard had the side room and the two sales people and receptionist were in the open plan space at the front.

Ms Gaylard said it was the best job she ever had. "It's still a great newspaper and people should be contributing to it and buying it."

Present editor of three years Ainsleigh Sheridan said changes in the industry had created the opportunity to work remotely, and that the Tribune would continue its focus on the community.

  • See reporter Hannah Sparks at Yass Valley Library on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 0429 076 085 or email hannah.sparks@yasstribune.com.au
  • Sales rep Leah Johnston is in Yass every Wednesday. Call 0447 477 486 or email leah.johnston@austcommunitymedia.com.au

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