Former Gatton Star editor Chilla Johnstone. PHOTO: Supplied.
Former Gatton Star editor Chilla Johnstone. PHOTO: Supplied.

Longest-standing Star editor reflects on newspaper history

"WE all saw it coming!" These were the words of my first mentor Joe Hoffmann in response to the news that across Australia about 160 regional newspapers under various ownerships would cease print production.

Yes, but despite the coronavirus pandemic, we may never have thought it would be so sudden.

Thankfully a number of newspapers have been earmarked to continue in digital form, among them being the Gatton Star where I was editor for about 22 years.

When I first arrived at The Star in August 1985 it had a free saturation circulation of about 7000 to households in the two close-knit shires of Gatton and Laidley.

When I left in May 2007, it had a free (and paid) circulation of about 20,000 serving the towns and rural areas in the shires of Gatton and Laidley plus the towns and surrounding rural areas in Marburg, Rosewood, Fernvale, Lowood and Esk.

 

Former Gatton Star editor Chilla Johnstone.
Former Gatton Star editor Chilla Johnstone.

 

The Star had tremendous support from the business houses and trades plus a wonderful advertising sales staff which so often gave us more than ample editorial space.

I well remember at the Queensland Country Press Awards, the same year as Sydney was awarded the 2000 Olympic Games, when announcing the winner of the best advertising feature the judge invoked the words of Juan Antonio Samaranch (with an attempted Spanish accent): "If Mr Samaranch had read this advertising feature before making his announcement I am sure he would have said 'the winner is Lowood'."

In commenting on newspaper closures the media union reportedly said regional media was the glue that held communities together. Yes, but The Star, like other country papers, has been far more than that. It has been a platform for debate (council elections, major development), the medium for scrutiny (councils and institutions), an Ave for shared joy and pride (sporting, business and education success, an outlet for shared grief and support in times of natural disasters and tragedies and the major medium for the promotion of local businesses and events.

I remember how deeply The Star was involved behind the scene in the effort to save Gatton College, the fight for domestic water and recycled water, the duplication of the Gatton Bypass, and the public spat in which we became involved to have what was known as Mullers Corner upgraded.

Then there was The Star coming out in favour of a radioactive waste storage facility being built in the Esk State Forest. The Star editorial on the subject was quoted word for word in state parliament. The facility has now been there more than 25 years.

And what about those racing dinners and the sportstar dinners - what wonderful nights!

Now, as the Gatton, Lockyer and Brisbane Valley Star moves to a new digital format one trusts those wonderful attributes of its past are embedded in its future and it enjoys the support it deserves.

- Former Gatton Star editor, Chilla Johnston


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