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Panpa Bulletin : Oct-Nov-December 2007
22 PANPA Bulletin October-November-December 2007 news Tabloid dawns on Sunraysia By Jack Beverley The management team that had to overcome opposition and push hard for Victoria's regional broadsheet, the Sunraysia Daily, to end 87 years of tradition and adopt the tabloid format took a double bite at the bullet. They proposed, successfully, that the change-over was also the time to take a broader approach than the "local news only" formula that had dictated the editorial philosophy of the six-day Mildura paper. The resultant recent make-over, says industry watcher and historian Victor Isaacs, is that while the Sunraysia Daily "used to give the impression of a tired and struggling news- paper, now it gives the appearance of a com- prehensive, modern, confident newspaper". Isaacs, who was writing in the Australian Newspaper History Group's latest newslet- ter, believes that the completely redesigned and restructured Sunraysia Daily --- the final regional daily in Australia to size down from the broadsheet size --- "now stands proudly amongst 21st century tabloids". What had been added, every day, are four "bonus" pages --- two packed with national and two with international news. Other noticeable improvements include a harder local news approach. While there is still no regular editorial, there is a daily carton by award-winning cartoonist Peter Broelman and a regular letters page. The masthead, which for- merly carried the slogan "Bringing people together", now says: "Serving Mildura and district since 1920". Steering the rejuvenation, which in- volved three months of planning, is new editor Lyall Corless, a veteran metropolitan journalist who has been deputy editor of the Sunday Herald Sun. Lyall is well positioned to direct the sensitive changes. He is a Mildura boy and did his cadetship on the paper which has lured him back because of the challenge it now offers. A guarded glimpse of the intense behind-the-scene debate that preceded the decision by the Lanyon family to re-position their newspaper and appoint the new editor emerged in a message to readers from Bill Lanyon, the chairman of directors of the Elliott Newspaper Group, the publisher. Included in a four-page souvenir wraparound to the first tabloid issue on Saturday, 15 September, the message included this paragraph: "The time has come for a change of format for Sunraysia Daily. Having such a long relationship with the paper, at first I was a little reluctant to agree. However, after considering all the issues, I feel the time is now right." Lanyon reflected on the paper's history and thanked the people who had worked to make the change happen. The final broadsheet issue of the Sunraysia Daily (No 18,789) included a 32-page souvenir, packed with historical articles and flashbacks on important, inter- esting and unusual events. It was written and compiled by Allan Murphy, who was (the editor until recently). The supplement included 25 reproductions of notable front pages. Lyall Corless says the switch to tabloid had been well received and there had been lots of positive feedback from readers, especially about how much easier the paper is to handle. "There's been the odd comment from readers who complain they can't distin- guish the Sunraysia Daily from Melbourne's Herald Sun (Australia's top-selling daily) on the newsstand," Lyall told the PANPA Bulletin. "I take that as a compliment." Main headings of the new tabloid are in Franklin Gothic Heavy, with the serif kickers in Times New Roman. Text setting is Utopia, 8.75 on 9.5. Lyall said that while most readers were happy with the changes including the addi- tional pages, some thought they were being short-changed on local news. "But this is not the case. There's been more local news in the paper since I took over.We're chasing harder news and news harder. "We also provide national sports cover- age, one page each day but two pages on Fridays and Mondays. Even more during the AFL season when we go four pages on Mondays to cover football and other national sport. "We also run eight and 12-page specials for events like Bathurst and the Melbourne Cup. Throughout the election campaign a Saturday page was devoted to the issues." All of these pages are provided by AAP's subsidiary, Pagemasters, which also delivers a daily TV page and an eight-page weekly TV liftout for Wednesdays. "Pagemasters discuss their plans with me each day and we agree on what will be cov- ered," said Lyall. "I will tell them to leave out drought or other stories that apply to the Mildura district and they steer clear of these yarns. This allows me to expand the AAP versions and localise them for up front." The service provided by Pagemasters had been "excellent", adding important weight to the paper as well as freeing up limited local subbing resources. "We're happy with the paper. It's a hungry beast and tests me every day to fill it." Independents & Broadsheets The Sunraysia Daily is one of only three daily newspapers in Australia that remains inde- pendent of large groups. It is the final regional daily to change from broadsheet to tabloid, a reflection of the conserva- tive approach of Bill Lanyon, the chairman of the Elliott Newspaper Group, which publishes the paper. The other independents are the Shepparton News, owned by the McPherson family, and Broken Hill's Barrier Daily Truth, published by the mining town's Industrial Council. The Sunraysia Daily has been owned by the Lanyon family since 1950 when they took over the Elliott Newspaper group after the death of Senator R.D. Elliott. With a weekday cover price of $1.10 and $1.50 on Saturdays, the paper has an average six-day sale of about 7150 copies, the lowest of Victoria's six regional dailies. Australia's remaining daily/ Sunday broadsheet newspapers are: * The Australian, * The Weekend Australian, * Sydney Morning Herald, * The Age, * The Sunday Age, * Canberra Times.
August September 2007