In 2009 I took over the editorial side of Midweek when Kate Spencer left the job to go travelling. When I started, the masthead boasted 23 years of community news; now we're celebrating 35 years.
Three and a half decades ago the last issue of the Wanganui Herald, a daily evening paper, rolled off the presses in Rutland St and the focus shifted to a twice-weekly, broadsheet, monochrome community paper, delivered free to the reader.
Thirty-five years later, we have a weekly, tabloid-size, full-colour newspaper.
There is a long list of people to thank for Midweek's survival and its maintenance of high standards, but the biggest contributor of all has been Whanganui.
The people of this city and region have had stories to tell, achievements to talk about, businesses to promote, and so much more. Every week has been a learning experience for this reporter, finding out more and more about the people who really make this place tick. It is a privilege to hear and sometimes be part of their stories. I will never take it for granted.
The style of Midweek has changed over the years, the tone of its voice, its self deprecating manner. It doesn't take itself too seriously, but neither is it the parish pump.
Midweek staff — there were many once — got involved in so many things from the polar plunge to working in the community, getting out and about and reporting on everything.
People like the late Barrie Mitchell-Anyon kept the tone light and wrote like he was having a chat over a cup of tea ... or something stronger.
Thanks to all who have given something for the pages of Midweek over the past 35 years. All the journalists, photographers, columnists, advertisers, sales reps, features teams, sub editors, designers, production staff and printers — you made it happen.
In the Midweek of August 12, 2009, Kate Spencer, who had been at the Midweek helm for two and a half years, introduced yours truly, Paul Brooks, one-time Chronicle sub editor, who was about to take over the bridge.
The front page featured a photo and a mostly correct potted biography of the new Midweek reporter.
In the following week's edition I took charge, writing my first Midweek editorial, called the Front Bit, introducing a new column called Left Field by Dave Campbell and learning how to lay out a tabloid-sized paper. Most of the stories in the issue of August 19 were by Kate Spencer and I dutifully placed them before they passed their use-by date.
The following week I was on my own, writing 13 stories in the 36-page paper. From then on it was full speed ahead, interviewing, writing and taking photos in my new job as Midweek reporter.
A few weeks previously, in June, the paper had undergone a design makeover, featuring a new masthead and liberal use of blue. Midweek now had a smart new look.
By this time, all sub editing was being done off-site, so the sole reporter (editor by default) had to learn new technologies and a complete new modus operandi.
We had a few regular contributors like Mark Rayner, who wrote a gardening column, and Shirley-Joy Barrow who wrote as City Missioner. Since bringing Dave Campbell on board there has been a long list of people who have put their expertise in print for all to read. They have given the paper new subject matter and helped generate loads of interest, and, frankly, without them this reporter would have to write an impossible number of stories each week to fill the pages.
By the time I took over the keyboard, the Midweek was well established in format and content. There would be small but incremental changes ahead but the content remained focused on Whanganui and its people.
I have learned to record my "chats" with the people I'm writing about so I get my facts straight and quote them accurately. I have learned the basics of photography to take their picture and now have the technology to put story and pictures online for all to see, should they so desire. I have learned that not everyone is keen to tell their story, but reader interest is strong and usually good incentive for people to sit down for a chat with the Midweek reporter.
Every copy of Midweek is collected by our own Alexander Heritage and Research Library in Queens Park, collated, bound and stored for reference. That's where I went to look at past issues and glean a little more information about the masthead I work for.
Community newspapers are a barometer of society, the grassroots journalism that gets to the heart of the village, and that village can be as big as any city. It's the means by which people learn about their neighbours and develop a strong sense of community through so doing. Now that such news is online as well as in print bodes well for its future, but never discount the endurance of newsprint.
I'd like to think Midweek will be around in another 35 years, and I hope it retains its character and purpose, to provide a voice for people who matter, a platform and a pulpit, a record of things wonderful and ordinary.