It is an exciting time for Whyalla’s local newspaper, as it celebrates 75 years of servicing the community.
Whyalla News came from humble beginnings when Walter John Cumming Willson, better known as Jock, started the paper, building it from the ground up.
Jock migrated to South Australia from Edinburgh, Scotland in 1936 and began working as a printer of the Murray Pioneer for the Taylor family.
Finding his feet in the printing business, Jock soon secured a business opportunity and began a printing business in a wood and iron shed at the rear of a building in Patterson Street, sharing his love of newspapers with then business partner Jack Edwards.
As the business began to grow, so did Jock’s love for the newspaper industry, and, a larger premises on Randall Street was developed to service the business’ needs, the first issue of the Whyalla News was printed on April 5, 1940 and was printed in Port Augusta until July, 1940.
Jock’s three sons, Richard, Donald and Craig, joined him in the business, each having their part to play in the overall running of the Whyalla News.
Richard was a journalist and involved in the editorial side of the business, and was the first cadet reporter for the Whyalla News.
Donald became involved in production, playing a large part in putting the paper together, while Craig took on a role in advertising and marketing.
In November 1960 Whyalla News became a biweekly newspaper, before it became a triweekly in October 1968, these decisions greatly based around the operations at BHP and its steelworks.
Trading as Northern Newspapers, the Willsons were a well-known family throughout South Australia, acquiring many newspapers throughout the state, including the Transcontinental, Spencer Gulf Pictorial, the Recorder, the Flinders News, Eyre Peninsula Tribune, the Barossa News and the Times at Victor Harbour as well as a printing company.
Jock died in December 1971, and his sons went on to continue running the papers until 1991 when they decided to sell the business to Rural Press.
Throughout the years, the Willsons had many faithful, long-term employees, including Fred Ogg, who began his newspaper career as a ‘printer’s devil’ before eventually becoming company director.
Another dedicated Whyalla News employee was Don Winton, who became Whyalla News’ editor in 1956.
Jock’s eldest son Richard said he was surprised the time had passed so quickly and recalled many pleasant memories from the Whyalla News’ infant days.
“Seeing the growth of the newspaper in the 1960s and ‘70s is particularly memorable,” Mr Willson said.
“We’re proud to say that in those days the Whyalla News was, in many people’s minds, the leading country newspaper in South Australia, both in the newspaper product and in the progressive approach in newspaper design and in adopting new technology.”
Mr Willson said he particularly remembered man landing on the moon and local coverage that Whyalla News provided.
“I recall when Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969, that was not long before we went to press for the Monday afternoon newspaper, we installed a television set in the reporters’ room and the photographer photographed it from the television set,” he said.
“Within two or three hours it was on the front page of the paper, that was pretty good.”
Locally Mr Willson said his most memorable news story during his time had been a ship fire that occured at the steelworks.
“I remember the rather disastrous fire at the shipyards on the Amanda Miller, which caught fire one Saturday in 1970,” he said.
“It was a big event for a small newspaper with relatively limited resources.”
Mr Willson said an aircraft was chartered to Adelaide to have photographs of the fire processed and ready for printing in the next edition of the newspaper.
Mr Willson said over the many years that his family had run the Whyalla News, he had met and worked with some wonderful people.
“In the many years that the family was involved in the Whyalla News, the production of newspapers was a real team effort and we had some wonderful people working with us,” he said.