Wimmera Mallee News managing editor David Ward retires after four decades at mastheads – ABC News


Wimmera Mallee News managing editor David Ward retires after four decades at mastheads
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The reins driving Wimmera Mallee News are changing hands following the retirement of its managing editor, David Ward, after decades at the helm.
Mr Ward was an electrician by trade but came to the paper for what was intended to be a few weeks in his early 20s to help his father, whose eyesight was failing.
"I ended up hanging around for 41 and a half years," he said.
Mr Ward said both his grandfather and father passed away aged about 60.
"We don't have a lot of longevity on the Ward family side of things, so being 63 it's probably time to start looking at other things — things I haven't had time to do in the past 40-odd years."
His son Andrew Ward, who spent 15 years at the Horsham Times, a newspaper under their banner will be the fifth generation in the Ward family to take over operations at the press.
Besides the Horsham Times, the news company that runs three other local mastheads — the Warracknabeal Herald, Dimboola Banner and Rainbow-Jeparit Argus — is also bucking the trend of regional newspapers struggling to stay afloat.
"People buy their local paper to read about that town or for that area," Andrew Ward said.
"They don't buy it to read about something in Melbourne that they can read in the big papers that cover the whole state."
"We don't try and pump up our papers by filling up with crap from syndicated sources that aren't relevant to the area," David Ward said.
Andrew Ward has also credited their printing press as being a "bit of a saviour" to their longevity and viability.
"It'd be very difficult if we were printing elsewhere — we'd have to drop our smaller mastheads just because the presses aren't built for shorter print runs," he said.
David Ward said some of his career highlights included seeing his family take an interest in the business, the loyalty of staff members, and watching the reporters he trained over the years.
One of Mr Ward's daughters did a cadetship there, and his other daughter worked in the front office.
Andrew Ward began collating newspapers when he was eight and then accompanied his father to the country press conferences and to pick up paper supplies in Melbourne.
"I would sit in the car while [Dad] was doing his work," Andrew said.
Like his father, Andrew  Ward was also interested in the trades that complemented running a printing press.
"I always thought I'd be a mechanic or end up in the field," he said.
After he finished school, a position became available at the business.
"I thought I'd do that for a small amount of time and then go off and do something else, but [I] got stuck here and [have] done nearly everything in the business since then," he said.
"As a family business, we have to be a jack of all trades."
David Ward said he had also witnessed tragedies such as fires, car crashes, murders, and the local townsfolk he spent all his life working with pass away, which he didn't want to dwell on.
"Those people have a wealth of knowledge that is lost, which is sad," he said.
"Fortunately, the newspaper is the only true record of what a community does."
Running a local paper where everyone knew everyone in town meant that difficult editorial decisions had to be made.
This led Mr Ward to prioritise bringing the community together over being divisive.
He said his father, who worked at newspapers in Melbourne and overseas, had a philosophy of "publish and be damned."
"But I've moulded that a little bit to 'publish in the interest of the community'," he said.
"Yes, news is news, and we publish the news, but sometimes some of the little things that go on behind the scenes don't need to be reported because they're not in the interests of the community."
Looking ahead, Andrew Ward said he did not expect the business to change much but finding journalists with local knowledge who lived and breathed the town was getting harder.
"We used to source a lot of our cadets and apprentices out of our local schools but the schools seem to be pointing these students on to tertiary studies so once they go to Melbourne or Adelaide they rarely return to the community," David Ward said.
But he said he was looking forward to leaving the 12-hour days, seven days a week, behind.
He said he had 10 years of jobs he had not had time to do, including replacing the "A" on their masthead sign, renovating his house, and a race car he would like to maintain.
"I'll start making a list and ticking a few of those jobs off and keep my very, very patient wife happy."
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