A strong Voice for 20 years 

YOU’RE reading edition 1000 of the Perth Voice, still going strong after the first paper hit your letterbox 20 years ago on June 5, 1997.

At that point the paper was still under the dual mastheads “Vincent Voice” and “Lawley Voice”, but a few years later it became The Perth Voice and adopted the iconic Chook logo.

In a dusty vault at Voice HQ—think the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark—we dug out the oldest copy of the paper we have in storage: edition 148 which marked the day when Voice founder John Arthur sold it to current owner Andrew Smith, who added it to his Fremantle Herald imprint.

At the time then-editor Brian Mitchell (now retired to a quieter life as the federal MP for Lyons in Tasmania) said “we had exciting, challenging days ahead” and even back then there was talk of how tough it’d be for a small print publication to survive in a changing media market.

“It is no mean feat to run an independent newspaper in one of the most concentrated media markets in Australia,” Mr Smith said in his first edition as owner.

• Our October 27 2001 edition sparked a storm of controversy when we interviewed five young Perth Muslim men who supported the Taliban, shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks. Reporter David Crossthwaite (now a PR man over in Melbourne) spoke to the Perth men who supported Osama bin Laden and considered him “a hero”. They compared the Al-Qaeda founder to freedom fighters like “George Washington and William Wallace”. As our deadline ticked closer the WA Islamic Council asked us not to publish their views fearing it’d be divisive. The story sparked a furore. Our phones rang off the hook and letter writers filled three pages with complaints. Editor Brian Mitchell responded “to protect our freedom we must vigorously defend the right of those we strongly disagree with to have a voice. To do any less diminishes us…we do not protect freedom by failing to exercise it”.

A peek at this earliest edition shows that some things haven’t changed: there’s an ad from Voice mainstay Cr Rod Willox, announcing his intention to recontest his seat at the City of Stirling in the 2001 local government elections (he remains a councillor to this day).

There was a story about street prostitution around Highgate, a perennial issue we got a call about just a few weeks ago, and a letter to the editor complaining about “Fitzgerald St traffic snarls,” a bug bear to this day.

Some of the advertisers in our first edition are now under new ownership, but still continue to advertise with us, including tradies like Celtic Plumbing and Gas, and local institutions like the Oxford Hotel on our front cover.

Back in that first edition Mr Mitchell, a proud gourmand, gave us a glowing food review of the Paddington Alehouse.

He related that he’d first been there in 1988 on a first date with his wife, and he “must have done something right, because the poor creature later agreed to marry me”.

He raved about the “marinated lamb rump,” and a pint of Coopers back then was also a mere $6.70.

Our chief of staff Steve Grant just revisited the Paddo two months ago, shortly after it was the centre of a bit of barney when they hosted an event with a different politician—Pauline Hanson.  Apparently the lamb’s still good, “well cooked and tender,” Steve writes.

“The Paddo’s a local institution,” he concluded, “it should be with us long after politicians come and go”.

We’ve had some die-hard loyal letter writers too.

Mt Lawley author Ron Willis kept our letters page filled with his ornate missives for years, though in his letter to our 1000th edition he announced it’d be “my last offering to Voice mail”.

But he did pose: “How many times have I vowed such?”

If you change your mind, Ron, we’ll still be here next week.

————–

• We couldn’t have our 1000th edition without mentioning the person who must’ve appeared in more Voice stories than anyone else: former Vincent mayor and Perth MP John Hyde. We’ve had a squillion stories with him over the years but one of the most dramatic was back in 2005 when he reported from Thailand that he’d narrowly avoided the 2004 boxing day tsunami while on holiday, staying at a hotel just 200m from North Patong beach. He told the Voice’s Fiona Willan (now a federal politics reporter for Nine) he was running 20 minutes late to have breakfast at a cafe that was completely destroyed by the tsunami.

• Back in 2009 we right royally peeved off then-Vincent mayor Nick Catania and former CEO John Giorgi, who banned us from the Vincent council chamber’s media desk because they reckoned we weren’t doing a fair job reporting on the city. They much preferred the tamer coverage offered by The Guardian Express: “The Town does not experience any problems with the other local newspaper,” Mr Giorgi wrote at the time. Eight years on and Vincent’s pulled its socks up as far as being open with the media (and we’re allowed back at the desk), but now it’s City of Perth media staff who enjoy ignoring our media queries (all but forcing us to find out info through back channels). And while we’re not banned from the City of Perth media desk, earlier this year reporter David Bell was subjected to the millennial equivalent: Lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi blocked him on Facebook.

• In September 2010 a story by Katie Bastians (who’s still working as a journo over east) named a City of Stirling worker who had committed suicide just before he was due to testify in front of the Corruption and Crime Commission over dodgy tenders. All other media outlets censored his name. Then-Stirling mayor David Boothman complained to the Press Council saying we shouldn’t have named the man. Editor Andrew Smith argued “whenever possible all known facts should be made available to readers” and suppressing names of people who committed suicided compounded “outdated and unhelpful prejudices” and inhibited the “urgent need to confront these issues”.

by DAVID BELL

2 responses to “A strong Voice for 20 years 

  1. Glad to see John and I had basically Fuck All to do with the Voice or its survival.

    kindly go fuck yourself,

    former deputy editor for five years or so,

    Mark Fletcher

  2. sorry missed some more names you did not bother to research..so one more time….

    Glad to see John, Jan, Jill, Karen, Jo, Moira, myself and other forgottens had basically Fuck All to do with the Voice or its survival.

    But that is the Smith way, “if it doesn’t fit or it’s too hard, it did not exist.”

    kindly go fuck yourself,

    a completely disgusted, though not surprised, Voice former deputy editor and moral captain for five years or so,

    Mark Fletcher

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