It would be remiss of me not to recognise and pay tribute to the Mackay Daily Mercury and its 154-year history on this, the last day it will be published having been identified as one of 112 titles that will no longer have a printed edition. 154 years is a fantastic achievement and testament to all those who have worked there over the years and the community that has supported it for so long. While it will be available as a digital edition, it’s not going to be quite the same somehow.
Anyone of a certain era probably remembers their grandparents and parents reading a ‘real’ newspaper and along with that image, the smell of the ink (and the messy fingerprints!), the rustle of the paper and the enjoyment of the crosswords and puzzles shared across the generations. It was part of a daily ritual and, in our house once the news had been scanned, Mum would complete The Daily Telegraph cryptic crossword and Dad the general knowledge one while I contributed where I could; I still love crosswords.
Another memory of newspapers is from growing up in London and commuting daily on the Underground, the struggle that would often play out trying to manage the broadsheet newspapers complicated by the juggling of briefcases, handbags, umbrellas, shopping bags and doing your best to stay out of your neighbour’s space, particularly in rush hour! I also recall how relieved I was when someone showed me how to fold the broadsheet into a more compact and less intrusive version. These days on the Underground, some commuters may have a real book or a paper, but most have devices and who knows what they’re looking at…!
When it comes to the small circulation of regional papers, it can be easy to throw rocks and judge from the sidelines and denigrate and ridicule a perceived lack of content, bias or poor journalism, however that approach ignores just what it takes to put a daily publication together in all of its complexities and the people that make it happen.
Since 1605, when the first newspaper appeared in Strasbourg, there have been thousands more established around the world and their production has been evolving since then from hand printing through to typesetting to machine printing to modern day digital and beyond. While working in an antiques warehouse, I remember looking through large, leather bound collections of editions of The Times (first printed in 1785) and recognising that they were historical documents in themselves. We also had the old printing trays filled with carved wooden type-setting blocks and I was in awe at the skill and patience it would have taken to set up one article let alone an entire paper.
Across the world, newspapers have always played a significant role, particularly in regional areas, from births, marriages and deaths to relevant news, local sports, events, satirical cartoons, property sales, editorials, opinion pieces and adverts, they have been a connector that provided daily entertainment and information and documented historical times and milestones. As such they will no doubt be missed by some, particularly the older generation, and for others the appreciation may come later.
But times they are a changing, news is delivered differently, the decision is made and we will all choose our own way to find out what’s happening around us. Right now, our hearts go out to all those affected by the closures and we wish them every success in finding a new opportunity.
Finally, Nick and I feel honoured to have been able to contribute our articles each week to APN’s regional Weekend Magazine and hope that you have enjoyed the various topics and different perspectives they may have brought. This is number 301, with another four to write for Weekend Magazine while it is still in circulation in other regions. So, we hope that this is a see you later rather than a final goodbye; it is our intention to continue to publish weekly articles on our website and our Linked In and Facebook pages and we encourage you to join us there if you feel to but for now we wish you and your family health and happiness always.