This is a story written from the heart.
When editor Greg Best asked for some written thoughts on The Standard's 150th anniversary celebrations, I warned him it would be sentimental and misty-eyed. Indulge me, please, readers.
I have a deep and abiding love for my former workplace and its employees, developed across more than 38 years as a reporter, sports editor and subeditor.
The level of affection is similar for many of the contacts I dealt with on a professional level, especially in the field of community sport.
For a teenager who struggled with career direction, finding your tribe and a sense of belonging is a powerful force.
More than 100 years of newspaper history had already been written when I turned up for the first day of work as a cadet reporter in October, 1976, and pushed through the swinging doors of the editorial entrance.
Picture a tallish young man with long hair, wearing flares, work shirt and tie.
The Standard newspaper was located in Koroit Street, then a familiar landmark in Warrnambool with its familiar exterior, ornate windows and doorways.
It was a sharp right turn from the entrance hallway into the main newsroom and any preconceptions of what a reporting cadetship (learning on the job) may involve were quickly dispelled.
This would be nothing like creative writing in Joy Irvine's class at Warrnambool North Technical School and poetry wasn't an acceptable assignment outcome.
The first lessons were in accuracy, news style, balance and brevity.
These were achieved under the watchful eyes of chief-of-staff Bruce Johnson, senior reporters Frank Beattie, Russell Grimmer and Peter Collins.
Separate offices housed subeditors, editors, photographers' dark room, sports editor Don Burnett and social editor Eileen Horne.
Some other early colleagues included Jacinta Reddan, Debbie Cameron, David Towler, Maureen Doyle, Sue Webster and fellow cadet John McCluskey.
The main newsroom was dotted with wooden desks, battered metal (Army disposal) typewriters, copy paper, ash trays and telephones.
Cigarette smoke had stained a glass wall panel a lovely shade of nicotine, although for many years occupants existed in the blissful ignorance it was tinted.
The hubbub of an open-plan newsroom with clunky typewriters, desk interviews and regular visitors was a constant distraction for creative endeavours but helped teach its occupants to work under daily deadline pressure.
The discipline for cadets came with the lowliest reporting tasks, which included accurately transcribing press releases, sporting results and market reports by phone.
If you were lucky, headphones could be located and were in working order. Weekend footy and cricket results were also taken by phone.
If a cadet needed to be reminded (daily?) of their place in the pecking order, they would be delegated the task of taking and fetching afternoon tea orders from another local institution, Flaherty's milk bar in nearby Kepler Street.
The other important lessons came in professional communication, building trust and cultivating contacts.
This was often achieved through rounds of police, ambulance, fire brigade and local government.
Then when rookie reporters were allowed their tentative first steps towards producing news copy, it was regularly rewritten under supervision from the chief of staff, a collaborative task providing some of the most important and enduring lessons.
This former employee owes an enduring debt of gratitude to Bruce Johnson for his teaching patience and encouragement, as well as another amazing role model, Peter Collins.
'PC', as he was better known, had a remarkable work ethic and in those early days was regularly producing 10 stories or more in a work shift. In a small team, this output was invaluable and attracted the highest respect from his peers.
Across 43 years at The Standard, his daily contribution to getting a news-filled paper on the streets never wavered.
A daily lesson in teamwork came towards the end of shift, when it was all hands on deck for clearing the sports results basket.
Contributed results, often handwritten and occasionally scrawled on the back of drink coasters, had to be typed into paper style and no-one, regardless of seniority, left until the last key was punched.
In later years one of the publicity officers delivering sports results by hand was a young, enthusiastic volleyballer, who is now editor of The Standard. That is some career trajectory Greg Best.
The reward of reporting sport is working with local people, recording their achievements, near misses and failures. Trust and accountability are important and built in the knowledge a face-to-face encounter is never far away and just as likely at a supermarket or café as a sporting environment.
Witnessing and recording history for the community in which reporters live and work creates the drive and passion which has helped power The Standard news team for 150 years.
My small part in that journey ended in July, 2015. It was a memorable and rewarding ride, as I hope it was for all my colleagues.
There is a special bond created by the team spirit required to produce a daily newspaper. Lots of deadline-heavy endeavours from people with different qualities and skills working together for a common cause. Honed by 150 years of practice, the sum of the parts in the process of becoming the whole.
It is important to recognise those who came before and those who continue to produce The Standard. I am in awe of today's reporters, who not only produce the stories but double check their own copy, write headings and place the finished product on a page. You are all inspiring.
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