150 years of a country newspaper
The Richmond River Express and Tweed Advertiser was Casino’s first newspaper and was published on December 3 in 1870 by Robert Gordon Balmer.
In 1904 the name was changed to The Richmond River Express and Casino Kyogle Advertiser which was shortened to The Richmond River Express in 1929.
The Express was published as a daily from 1929 to 1955 when a fire destroyed the printing plant.
In 1978 the Express merged with The Kyogle Examiner and became The Richmond River Express Examiner.
Eleni Wakely was a Bonalbo correspondent in the 70s.
“Those were the days when births, marriages, people’s holidays and visitors were reported,” Ms Wakely said.
Liz Holyer was Bonalbo correspondent in late 1960s to 1970.
“Lots of Bonalbo news, football and swimming stories. I remember getting paid 2 cents a line for all our stories – loved it when I had lots of swimming results,” Ms Holyer said.
“Still have my Smith-Corona portable typewriter which I used to send in reports.”
In 1997 Wendy Piggot was the Kyogle correspondent and she used an old computer with the large square floppy disk to file her stories.
Editor Rod Spence
Born and educated in Kyogle, Rod started his career in journalism, aged 18, at the Kyogle Examiner in 1971, working as a cadet under respected long-term editor Les White.
Mr Spence had a close association with Casino, working periodically for the Richmond River Express.
He completed his cadetship working as a general news reporter and sub editor at the metropolitan Brisbane Telegraph, which published five editions daily.
He returned to Casino in 1974 working as a sub-editor and senior reporter at the Richmond River Express and was appointed as editor of both the Express and Examiner in 1977.
He presided over the amalgamation of these papers and the subsequent winning, in 1978, of the EC Sommerlad Memorial Award for Journalism as the best provincial newspaper in NSW.
His period of editorship was marked by community crusades and controversy.
A couple of highlights include when the Casino Town Hall was packed when the mayor called a meeting in reaction to a front-page story.
“I thought, to take their chance to have a public crack at the ‘Junior Editor’ the name they had given me when making complaints to management and the two boards I answered to,” Mr Spence said.
“After all, I was only 24, and what right had I to question long-term elected representatives who ran the town as they saw fit.”
An enraged mayor didn’t take long to condemn my story, branding me a liar.
The story stating that Casino had missed securing a badly needed industry due to a secret deal gone wrong was a fabrication, the mayor said.
While use of technology was rare at this time, Mr Spence said, we still used typewriters.
“Publish without fear or favour in the service of your local communities – that’s what I was taught and perhaps, as one of Australia’s youngest editors, I was more determined than most to take on issues,” Mr Spence said.
But there came times when being totally without fear was a challenge.
“A small time dope dealer had just been released from jail and he was very nervous when he called me.”
“A debt he owed to Hells Angels had not been settled prior to his spell in Boggo Road and now they wanted money he didn’t have.”
He figured that by going public with inside information about bikie involvement with drug and prostitution rackets stretching from the Gold Coast into the Northern Rivers, would offer him some protection, Mr Spence said.
Consultations with Casino police and the Northern Star editor preceded a decision to publish Confessions of a convicted pusher.
After a couple of months, a brown paper bag was delivered to the office containing a 12- gauge shotgun cartridge with my name on it., Mr Spence said.
Highlights of Mr Spence’s career included covering the official opening of the Toonumbar Dam in 1971 and the official opening of the Lions Road.
“I also played for the mighty Turkeys rugby league team and had to cover games I played in,” he said.
Editor Janelle McLennan
As a teenager growing up at Mummulgum, Ms McLennan’s ambition was to become a journalist and her dream was be the editor of the local paper, The Richmond River Express Examiner.
“As the editor, I used to hate people calling the RREE the local rag, as I thought it devalued and diminished the paper’s important role in the community,” Ms McLennan said.
“A good community newspaper not only tells the news, it keeps the community informed, gives a voice to the people it serves, campaigns and lobbies on behalf of the community and tells the stories of the people, from all walks of life and backgrounds, who live in a community.”
The RREE did that and more and I loved being the editor of the paper, she said.
“I particularly liked writing profile pieces on local people.
“One of my former editors at The Northern Star once told me that everyone has a story to tell and I loved getting to know the people of the Richmond and Upper Clarence Valleys and recounting their life stories.
“From civic leaders and loveable larrikins to unsung heroes and sporting champions, they all featured in the Express.”
Ms McLennan’s highlights as editor was the people she got to know through the paper.
“The people I worked with (way too many good people to mention here, but there is a special place in my heart for the paper’s long-time photographer the late Val Druce), the people I wrote about, the people who would pop into the office with community news/sporting results or just to have a chat, and the people who read the stories I wrote,” she said.
The drawbacks to being editor of your local paper?
“You soon learn, no matter your good intentions, you can’t please everybody, and you are always, always on the job, even when you are shopping for groceries or watching your kids play sport.,” she said.
Her career included covering the death in a plane crash and subsequent funeral of much-loved Casino mayor Dr Senthil Vasan, writing and producing the 140th anniversary edition of the Richmond River Express Examiner, reporting on the amalgamation of the Casino Council and the Richmond River Shire Councils, running a community campaign to have the Casino Police Station manned 24 hours a day and being part of the Beef Week Committee.
Editor Samantha Elley
Working as the editor of the Richmond River Express Examiner for two years between 2013-2105 was an immense privilege, Ms Elley said.
“I met so many characters, so many interesting people, so many who are the glue to the communities the paper serviced,” Ms Elley said.
“I was able to introduce the paper to the 21st century and establish its Facebook Page,” she said.
“During my time I helped a 100 year old letter finally reach its destination, promote an indigenous runner to make it to the Boston marathon, report on the bat plagues, cover the Bentley Coal Seam Gas protests among all the stories from individuals, schools and community groups, events such as Beef Week, Australia Day, Christmas and so much more stretching from West of the Range, Kyogle and the Richmond Valley,” she said.
“Thank you to those people who entrusted me with their stories back then and to the many who became my good friends.”
The final issue of Richmond River Express Examiner will be on June 24.
If you have never featured in the paper, and would like to, email or call editor Susanna Freymark and she’ll come and take a photo for the final issue.
- Email email@example.com or text 0431 406 054.
Thank you to past editors and staff and to all the advertisers in the past 150 years.