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Panpa Bulletin : April 2006
46 | PaNPa bUlletiN april 2006 hiStorY typo after you developed the paper strip. "If you stuffed up you retyped it. It was wise to type very slowly and at 100 percent accuracy. We then cut and pasted. I employed a compos- itor in those days. It was very skilful to try and fit everything into the page and for it to look reasonable. It's much, much easier today." The Fardones changed to an Apple Mac computer system in 1989. Today the Katherine Times, with a circulation of 3,468 in the first half of 2005, is the biggest paid-circulation weekly in the Northern Terri- tory and the third biggest paid paper. The paper, generally 40 pages, circulates over a huge area, covering Alice Springs, Darwin and from the Queens- land border to the Western Australian border, including Kununurra. As a member of the South Australian Country Press Association, the Times won the best newspaper award from a field of 27 newspapers in 1991, 1996 and 1998. The Times also won the award for the best editorial campaign in 2000 when it highlighted the biggest problem Katherine faced: anti-social behaviour. Overcoming adversity Massive floods hit Kath- erine on Australia Day 1998. "We had just over three me- tres of water in our building for a total of three days and it was destroyed," said Fardone. "With no flood insurance, like many other businesses in town, we had to start from scratch again. The whole central business district was affected. There was no food, and money had no value." The Katherine Times ap- peared with only four pages the next week, but Mike Reed, the local Member of Parlia- ment at the time, asked the Fardones to issue it twice a week. They did so and made it a free paper for the three weeks or so that it appeared, largely as a community infor- mation sheet, of four to eight pages. Bundles were dropped off in the main street and towns- people would gather to pick up a copy. Tears came to many eyes as people read of the damage and the relief efforts. Fardone said, "The first issue after the flood was greatly as- sisted by Jack Ellis in Darwin and the production people at the NT News." When the Times resumed weekly issues, the first issue was 12 pages and it jumped to 16 for a few issues before set- tling down at 32 pages. It had been a minimum of 40 pages before the flood. How does the Times come together? Every Wednesday morning, ideas for stories and photos to be covered in the next edition are discussed. In most cases editorial staff will initiate stories or contact people after a press release. The Times relies on readers to be its ears and eyes. It has contributors in other centres. The News Ltd owned North- ern Territory News prints the Katherine Times on Tuesday nights. Social times Nola Sweetman, who wrote social news for the Times early in its life, recalled how she would write a page of social news, with a few photos. "I did that for about three years in the 1980s," Sweetman said. "I wrote about the new Stuart Highway to Darwin, about the fact that when the highway was opened you never saw any wildlife any more. The highway was totally devoid of wildlife. When I used to drive before I would see pigs, brum- bies, big kangaroos at Hayes Creek -- you didn't see them any more." Now, presenting a photo album of the week's social activities is the norm. Sweetman said that while there was not always a lot of subject material around town, she found a way to fill the void and still keep people entertained. "Often events were very light on the ground, so I wrote about things that happened in my own family. People loved it and they could hear about nice stories that were actually happening in town." Sweetman had not studied journalism or photography, but she took all her own photos and wrote all her own material (sometimes it interfered with home life) and was well rewarded for her work. She even had a pen and paper beside her bed. "I'd get up quietly during the night and write... it would come together like jigsaw." The advent of the RAAF base triggered significant eco- nomic growth in Katherine. Fardone said the town, for ex- ample, used to have one paint shop and soon there were three, four or five paint shops, and this spilt over to cafes and restaurants and other busi- nesses. The competitive na- ture of business gave a fillip to the Katherine Times as more and more people advertised, allowing the town to carry two papers for as long as it did. Fardone, who is 55, has begun to wonder about the future. His children are not interested in the business. News Limited, owner of the Darwin daily, the Northern Territory News, prints the Katherine Times. Because of this and because of its ownership of the Alice Springs bi-weekly, the Centralian Advocate (launched in 1947), News could be expect to be interested one day in acquir- ing the Katherine paper. As PANPA Bulletin goes to press Katherine is once again dealing with a major food. We wish the Katherine Times well. Rod Kirkpatrick is the Program Director, Journalism, School of Journalism and Communication, University of Queensland. Katherine Times continued Owner-editor Vince Fardone at his makeshift editorial desk 10 days after the food had subsided. There was no phone, no fax, and little else.