Wednesday, February 13, 2019

New start for an old friend

The cover of today's issue of the Gazette.
THE Derwent Valley's weekly newspaper returns today after an eight-week break, with a new publisher, new editor and an old name. For the first time since 2000, the paper will abandon its truncated name and will once again appear under its full title, Derwent Valley Gazette.

Speaking at a launch event at the Star and Garter Hotel last night, Derwent Valley mayor Ben Shaw welcomed the recent change in publisher, which saw the production of the Gazette  transferred from News Corp Australia to Hobart-based public relations firm, Font PR.

A former "Gazette boy" paper seller, Councillor Shaw said his feelings about multi-nationals were well known and as such he was very pleased to see the local paper back in Tasmanian hands and away from outside influences.

Font PR managing director Becher Townshend said he and Cr Shaw had something in common, in that they had both started selling papers at eight years of age. In his own case it was the Saturday Evening Mercury and he had worked in and out of the newspaper industry ever since.

"The one thing I learned about, working within the newspaper world, is it's all about community," Mr Townshend said. "So when we were offered the opportunity to take over the Derwent Valley Gazette, we realised that the key to it was to re-engage with the local community, and make sure the local community understood that we got what it was to be part of the community, that we got what it was to run a local paper, and we got how important it is to the fabric of this town and this region to make sure that people felt they had some ownership in the newspaper."

Mr Townshend introduced former Mercury and Tasmanian Country reporter Roger Hanson as the new full-time editor of the Gazette.  "From an editorial point of view, Roger's simple philosophy is to report the people and places of the Derwent Valley and the Highlands and we are very strong about reflecting that."

He said firm had invested in the Gazette and planned to open a local office at a later date. In response to feedback about the price of advertising, he announced a community support program which would see the newspaper partner with local groups and events with discounted advertising.

"We will work hard with the community to try to come up with a competitive offer in terms of advertising," he said. "But unless we get support from business community, the question you all need to ask yourselves is what would this township and what would this region be like if you didn't have a local paper.  I think it's a fairly simple question.

"So we've got to work hard to produce a great paper, we've got to work hard to build your confidence and say 'we want to be part of your community'. What we will be asking you, and particularly those from the business community, is if you want to see that paper continue you need to support us."

First published in 1953, the Derwent Valley Gazette was locally owned until 1981 when it was sold to Davies Brothers, proprietors of the Mercury and other publications. In 1986 it was absorbed into News Limited (now News Corp Australia) along with the Mercury. Today's issue will have a commemorative wrap-around featuring some of the history of the paper.

The New Norfolk Newsagency at 48 High St has been appointed as the agent for classified advertising in the Gazette.

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