Look­ing back

Hills Gazette - - NEWS - Michael Palmer is cur­rently chief sub-ed­i­tor at Com­mu­nity News.

COM­MU­NITY News chief sube­d­i­tor Michael Palmer re­flects on his time at the Hills Gazette from 1994 to 2003.

Michael Palmer worked on the Hills Gazette from 1994 to 2003. He re­flects on a decade of his time with the news­pa­per. MY first ex­pe­ri­ence with the Hills Gazette was in early 1993, when three months out of univer­sity I drove out to what to me seemed to be the coun­try for a job in­ter­view.

A univer­sity tu­tor had let me know of a va­cancy at the Avon Val­ley Ad­vo­cate in Northam, which at the time was a sis­ter pa­per of the Gazette.

I had bor­rowed one of Dad’s black jack­ets and had my best black pants on, wear­ing what I thought would be suit­able at­tire for an in­ter­view – and then-ed­i­tor Howard Gaskin greeted me with “you look like you’re dressed for a bloody fu­neral”.

I was back at the Gazette 15 months later when one of the Gazette’s ed­i­to­rial team – which at the time com­prised an ed­i­tor and three jour­nal­ists – had taken on a new job and I took up the trans­fer from Northam.

Over the years I be­came ed­i­tor of the Gazette and af­ter a stint at the Mid­land-Kala­munda Re­porter I be­came east­ern re­gion ed­i­tor, over­see­ing both pa­pers un­til I moved on in 2003.

The one is­sue I re­mem­ber dom­i­nat­ing the news dur­ing my nine years cov­er­ing the Hills still dom­i­nates to­day – the risk of bush­fires.

Fires that come to mind in­clude in­ci­dents in Dar­ling­ton, Stoneville and Chid­low.

Be­fore the days of mo­bile phones and me­dia pro­to­col, my ap­proach was to lis­ten for sirens, look for a plume of smoke and drive to­wards it. Dur­ing my time at the Gazette I de­vel­oped a knowl­edge of lo­cal roads, which put me in good stead when I man­aged to find my­self driv­ing out from be­hind the cor­don brigades had set up to keep peo­ple away.

Dur­ing a fire in Chid­low I found the com­mand post and spent some time talk­ing to firies. I went to drive out, only to be told the fire had cut us off and I’d have to wait un­til it was clear.

I re­turned to the of­fice sev­eral hours later reek­ing of smoke and had to call my now-wife, who knew of my fire re­port­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Mun­dar­ing made the state news in 1996 when Mun­dar­ing Weir over­flowed for the first time since 1978.

The small school of Mt He­lena Pri­mary School also made the state news when it was dis­cov­ered as­bestos was in its roof. Calls to have the roof re­placed in­cluded par­ents and stu­dents com­ing all the way down Green­mount Hill and march­ing around the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment’s head­quar­ters at Sil­ver City in East Perth.

On the lo­cal front, a pro­posal from the then-Depart­ment of Land Ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­zone ar­eas set aside as re­serves had res­i­dents up in arms, with the plan even­tu­ally aban­doned.

KFC used to stand me in good stead while killing time be­fore go­ing to coun­cil meet­ings but an ap­pli­ca­tion from it to erect a sign at its store at the re­cently-con­structed Mun­dar­ing Vil­lage left a bad taste in some peo­ple’s mouths, who didn’t want a “bucket of chips” on the high­way. Some months af­ter the sign was erected, sev­eral trees that were stand­ing in front of it were mys­te­ri­ously re­moved.

I was taken aback when I re­vis­ited the area last year and found Hun­gry Jack’s was now sit­ting where the Gazette of­fice used to be. Work­ing at the Hills

Gazette was more than just cov­er­ing the news – it was also about be­ing part of the com­mu­nity. I bought a new pair of glasses from the Mun­dar­ing Spec­ta­cle Maker, got my tax done by lo­cal ac­coun­tant Ian Cover (to get there I had to walk over a va­cant block which later be­came Mun­dar­ing Vil­lage), walked down the road to the Mun­dar­ing Arts Cen­tre to buy presents, bought a Star Trek En­ter­prise model kit from the lo­cal hobby shop (which I still have to­day) and had my car ser­viced at the lo­cal servo af­ter cruis­ing down Green­mount Hill in neu­tral the pre­vi­ous night to avoid it over­heat­ing. Iron­i­cally, the Hills

Gazette and I were both cre­ated in the same year.

I hope that for both of us, the story is not yet over.

Michael Palmer in the Hills Gazette of­fice in 1994.

Right: Palmer to­day.

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