Time catches up with NSW’s living museum of a newspaper

Jul 11, 2023 at 08:19 pm by admin

In the end it was a recurring mechanical fault that sealed the fate of The Don Dorrigo Gazette… though had social media not destroyed his business model, Michael English might have been inclined to repair it.

Might have been able to afford the parts to repair it, perhaps. Quietly at the beginning of this month, Australia’s last remaining letterpress-printed newspaper had ceased to exist.

English says the problem meant pages in the final issue went uncorrected, and at the end of a long week and after a second frustrating technical problem, he “walked away”.

An anachronism in a world in which printed newspapers were becoming rarer, let alone letterpress-printed newspapers, the Gazette had already won one stay of execution. Parts, paper and other materials were harder and more expensive to source; its lifeblood of advertising more scarce.

Established in the New South Wales north coast town in 1910 by two brothers by the name of Vincent, “the only paper printed in Don Dorrigo” was also, to give its full title, the ‘Guy Fawkes Advocate’. Not directly for the British rebel who placed barrels of gunpowder beneath the Houses of Parliament and is still celebrated there on November 5, but for the local forest named for him.

In its first edition – of which a curious five pages are digitized on the National Library’s Trove resource – the founding publisher commits the paper to “advocate and agitate”… albeit not to the extent espoused by Fawkes.

English came into it in 2006 to help his father, whose health was deteriorating rapidly, and soon found himself handling every stage of production, including typesetting, page composition, and printing on the 1940s Heidelberg cylinder which had replaced an earlier Wharfedale. Even with most of the content contributed and with the help of English’s wife Jade, it’s hard to believe the process was completed in the 90 hours quoted in a flyer produced by the paper.

Over the years, between 300 and 1000 copies have been produced, and editions have varied in size; English says many of the subscribers have been with the paper as long as he has.

Now arrangements have been made for the old Heidelberg to have a place at the Penrith Museum of Printing in Sydney; hopefully someone will also find a home for the elderly Intertype linecaster, one of two used by the paper in its heyday.

There’s a feeling that this is not just another print newspaper biting the dust, but a live newspaper museum closing down. English is unapologetic for not moving with the times into offset and digital, and an appreciative but dwindling audience have understood this.

We wish Michael and Jade a restful and long-overdue retirement.

Peter Coleman

See the ABC News report here, from which our picture is taken


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