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Panpa Bulletin : February 2006
is multi-skilled: she handles the advertising, helps with typeset- ting, does lots of clerical work and takes some news photographs. She also provides the paper with a continuing link with E.H. Absolon going back 100 years. When Don Davies was in charge, he enhanced the business by upgrading equipment wher- ever he could. In 1973 he added a third Linotype to help ease the pressure of deadlines and he in- stalled a photo-engraver. In 1980, when the Argus was 75 years old, there were eight on the staff, in- cluding journalist Glenys Gmein- er, whom Davies had appointed in 1972 to help relieve his editorial burden. She worked for the Argus until 1982 when she resigned to devote more time to her role as public relations officer for Wagin Woolorama. She was replaced by Veana Scott, who had written for news- papers and periodicals around South Africa and had served as a correspondent for the Albany Advertiser, Great Southern Herald and local publications. Scott is still with the Argus and is the journal- ist/editor. After being printed on a hand- fed Wharfedale for many years, the Argus installed a Heidelberg letterpress automatic press in 1969 (it would print two pages which then had to be turned over and printed on the back). In order to keep pace with new technology a Heidelberg offset press was pur- chased in 1987 and this was up- graded to a Heidelberg MO offset press in 1991. Staff members had to hand-fold the paper, generally 16 pages. Argus in new hands The Wagin Argus became a takeo- ver target in 1993. West Australian Newspaper Holdings Ltd bought Katanning's Great Southern Herald on July 29, 1986, and then bought the Narrogin Observer on October 20, 1993. Suddenly, the Wagin pa- per was piggy in the middle. Rural Press, which had had a press at Collie since mid-1993, was keen to expand its string of WA newspapers, which included the Mails at Collie, Bunbury, Don- nybrook-Bridgetown and Mandu- rah, to build around the core of the state-wide rural weekly, the Farm Weekly. In the second half of 1993, it bought the Esperance Express and the Merredin Wheatbelt Mercury. At Wagin, Don Davies would have liked to wait three or four years to sell, but Rural Press did not want to wait. WAN would also have been keen to buy Wagin. On November 1, 1993, Davies and step-brother Ian Absolon, an Army officer with a minor shareholding in the paper, sold the Wagin Argus to Rural Press. Davies agreed to stay on at the Argus as managing editor for two or three years after the sale to Rural Press, but stayed for six. He retired at the age of 58 on November 1, 1999, after 42 years with the paper. He recalled that when he be- gan at the Argus, they had a pedal printing press for job printing. This was later adapted to be operated by a motor. "Our first big advance was an automatic platen for job printing. In the early days we had hand-fed machines. When the ad- vertisers stopped supplying metal blocks for advertising, we had a mixture, hot metal and nylo plates, in the late 1970s." Davies believes the paper has played a cohesive role in the com- munity. "I think the paper has helped hold the community to- gether." The Argus has been printed on Rural Press's state-of-the-art press at Mandurah since February last year after being printed at Collie since 1994. The Mandurah press prints 15 Rural Press titles in all, in- cluding the Farm Weekly, the Senior Post, Xpress Magazine (a Perth en- tertainment guide), and 12 regional non-daily newspapers. Although the paper was 100 years old last April, the Argus did not produce a 13-page centenary feature until October 13. It was writ- ten by Veana Scott and Coral Dav- ies. Fourteen past and present staff members gathered for a centenary celebration on December 3. Rod Kirkpatrick is Program Director, Journalism, in the School of Journalism and Communica- tion, University of Queensland February 2006 PANPA BULLETIN | 47 HISTORY Wagin Tudhoe St factory Argus office 1905