Tweed Daily News farewells Jeff after 37 years
FRIDAY marked the end of an era for the Tweed Daily News as the last member of the paper's production department signed off for the final time.
Jeff Walters came to the Daily straight from school - leaving school on a Friday and starting work on the Monday.
Little did he know it was the start of a 37-year career and a welcome into the at-times dysfunctional but much-loved family which was the Daily News.
It was May 1978, and Jeff left Murwillumbah High School to begin an apprenticeship as a compositor at the Murwillumbah press.
Years later, he was the first to use a computer for the newspaper production when the company switched from hot metal to a computerised printing system.
"It was on a big green screen and it used to punch out paper tape and we used to feed the paper tape into a big Compugraphic machine," Jeff said.
"It would print our hard copy which we would paste at the back with wax, and stick on the pages."
Back then the newspaper was printed daily, six days a week, had a circulation of 15,000 on Saturdays and received international wire for its front page news.
"The Daily News was an institution, and the centre of everything," Jeff said.
"Every business advertised in it, all the funeral notices were in it. It was the only paper to be in."
The 80s brought a hive of activity. Tweed was just an emerging centre compared to Murwillumbah, which was bustling with business and an XPT rail service to Sydney. Technology changes like the internet followed. Some work moved off-site while journalism increased in pace. Stories like the Balaclava Murders and the regular floods were highlights for Jeff.
"Trying to put a paper out during the floods, that was interesting," he said.
On his last day on Friday, Jeff said he would miss his colleagues, whom he likened to extended family.
"I got head-hunted a few times. I thought about quitting a lot of times but, when the paper was doing it really tough, five years ago, I felt like I needed to be here. It's a funny feeling."
He said that over the past two years the paper had revived, but warned that it needed community support. If it was lost, he said, the community would miss out on fair representation.
Sub-editor Conal Healy worked with Jeff for about 25 years. He said Jeff would be best remembered as "Mr Reliable".
"It's the end of an era," Conal said. "He was the last member of the Daily News production department which traces its origins back 125 years.
"He was one of the Daily News' quiet achievers.
"He didn't just do his job. He was always a happy, cheery guy.
"We haven't missed a print date in 100 years.
"We've had floods and storms, lost computers and faxes and we still got the paper out, thanks to people like Jeff."