IT was David Barrow’s funeral on Friday. He died last week. He was 78.
Now, I didn’t know David personally but I came to know “David Barrow, Merewether” – his sign-off at the bottom of the many, many letters to the editor he wrote over many, many years to the Newcastle Herald.
As best I can tell, David wrote his last letter to the Herald only last month. It was about the Lake Macquarie council.
Before that, he’d written about Newcastle council. And about the contamination at Williamtown, the mine subsidence board, fast trains, same-sex marriage, the republic and much more. And, of course, he wrote about Merewether.
David had his own family and I offer them my sincere condolences.
But he was part of the Newcastle Herald family too, a family that extends beyond the women and men who work here.
It extends back 160 years and to the readers, the letter writers, the advertisers, the staff who’ve gone before us. To all the people who’ve trusted us to tell their story.
And in a week when the ownership of this newspaper – and many others – made headlines, it’s worth remembering who the real owners of the Heraldare.
It’s David Barrow. It’s you. It’s this community that we serve, and are proudly part of. Without you, we are nothing. Without your trust, support and feedback there could be no Herald.
And while change is constant in the media, our commitment to the community and to the quality journalism it expects will never change. This week, the Herald was nominated for three Kennedy Awards for Excellence in NSW journalism.
The Herald has been named the best regional newspaper and news website in Australia and New Zealand for the past five years. In that same period, the Herald has won eight Walkley Awards – the highest honour in Australian journalism.
In the past year:
– we’ve knocked on every door in Cabbage Tree Road, amassing a file of 50 cancer victims who lived near a drain carrying toxic chemical run-off from the Williamtown RAAF Base;
– we’ve exposed the shocking deceptions of two fraudsters who left clients, friends and family members millions of dollars out of pocket;
– our investigation into Awabakal Local Aboriginal Land Council dealings triggered an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry;
– our series on negligence in the pelvic mesh industry helped spark a Senate inquiry and led to the removal of devices from the market;
– the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission has announced a probe into whether a secret state government deal, revealed exclusively by the Herald, was preventing the development of a container terminal at Newcastle’s port; and,
– we’ve seen the culmination of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, five years after the Herald launched its successful campaign. The Herald was there when the report was handed down and continues to lead coverage on the issue, including the trial of Archbishop Philip Wilson.
– we’ve backed Got Your Back Sista, a Newcastle-based movement which helps women and children escape domestic violence. Last weekend, the Newcastle Knights invited Got Your Back Sista to provide the half-time community message, with participants in Herald-adorned shirts encouraging the crowd to stand up against and make a noise to help end the silence around family violence.
They’re just a handful of the hundreds of local stories told every month by our local team of journalists. They’re smart, they’re talented, they’re tough and courageous.
You know their bylines.
Anita Beaumont. Scott Bevan. Nick Bielby. Jessica Brown. Josh Callinan. Jonathan Carroll. Damon Cronshaw. Simone De Peak. Robert Dillon. James Gardiner. Penelope Green. Helen Gregory. Jim Kellar. Matthew Kelly. Craig Kerry. Ian Kirkwood. Josh Leeson. Max Mason-Hubers. Joanne McCarthy. Simon McCarthy. Max McKinney. Marina Neil. Donna Page. Michael Parris. Deborah Richards. Sam Rigney. Lisa Rockman. Barry Toohey. Renee Valentine.
There are names you might not see often but are just as integral.
Lisa Allan, Matt Carr, Cath Corley, Ben Drzyzga, Tracy Peters. Simon Walker. Chad Watson.
And our absolutely vital colleagues at Honeysuckle in circulation, advertising, digital, administration, accounts, classifieds, IT and printing.
Plus all our cherished columnists and contributors.
Tarnya Davis. Jeff Corbett. Dave Anderson. Michael Byrne. Tony Butterfield. Judith Whitfield. Paul Dear. David Dial. Gary Harley. Daniel Honan. Brett Keeble. Jade Lazarevic. John Lewis. Peter Lewis. David Lowe. Alison Moroney. Alex Morris. Ken Longworth. Phillip O’Neill. Greg Ray. Paul Scott. Jill Stowell.
And David Barrow.
Sadly, we won’t see “David Barrow, Merewether” in the Herald again.
But these last words are his, from a letter he wrote to Williamtown residents, and I hope he won’t mind me using them here.
“Please don’t lose heart, and definitely keep the faith.”