PA news­pa­per go­ing places fast after hum­ble start

Talk of the Town - - Front Page -

IF you are driv­ing past the Talk of the Town (TotT) of­fices on Oc­to­ber 2, you will no doubt hear the sound of rev­elry as TotT cel­e­brates its 21st birthday. “It’s a phe­nom­e­nal achieve­ment for a lo­cal news­pa­per,” Sun­shine Coast Tourism man­ager Sandy Birch said.

TotT has been bring­ing news to res­i­dents of Nd­lambe and Gra­ham­stown since it first ap­peared on Port Al­fred’s news­stands in 1996. Whether it is a po­lit­i­cal rally, a township cricket tour­na­ment or an event as big as the Bathurst Agri­cul­tural Show, TotT has en­deav­oured to en­sure the news we pro­vide is timely, fair and un­bi­ased. We are the news­pa­per of record for the area and have main­tained – and grown – our read­er­ship over the years by in­form­ing the com­mu­nity of the things it wants to read about.

The ad­ven­ture (and it has and con­tin­ues to be an ad­ven­ture) be­gan when two friends, Mauneen Char­ter and Bar­bara Hanstein, started a news­pa­per with the ob­jec­tive of cater­ing to the needs of Port Al­fred – and sur­round­ing ar­eas.

At the time the well-known and firmly es­tab­lished news­pa­per, the Kowie An­nouncer, had been around since 1933, but did not de­ter the Char­ter/Hanstein team who took their cap­i­tal of R5 000 and bought a com­puter, a printer and a scan­ner.

On Oc­to­ber 2 1996, the first is­sue of Talk of the Town hit the streets – a 28 pager A4-size, with mes­sages from then mu­nic­i­pal man­ager, An­gus Sch­lem­mer, and mayor Khu­l­ulwe Jauka on the front page. To­day’s is­sue re­flects that same pro­por­tion, al­though it is now in tabloid (A2) size.

The pa­per was never less than 28 pages and by the time John­nic took over, it was av­er­ag­ing 52-64 pages per week, and go­ing up to 96 pages in De­cem­ber.

“We could have gone larger, but our sta­pler could not han­dle more pages than that,” Char­ter re­mem­bers.

“Our in­ten­tion was, and still is, to be a mouth­piece for the peo­ple of the town; for the peo­ple about the peo­ple.”

Char­ter was re­spon­si­ble for lay­out and de­sign (just one of her many skills), and the pa­per was filled with sto­ries writ­ten by her and Hanstein. Af­fec­tion­ately known as Aunty Barbs, Hanstein was also re­spon­si­ble for proof-read­ing. It was said of Hanstein that she could spot a spelling er­ror at 100 paces.

John Dell, of Dell’s prin­ters, took care of the print­ing of the first six is­sues and, by the time of the sev­enth edi­tion, TotT had man­aged to pur­chase its own print­ing equip­ment.

Al­ways seen as a fam­ily, in those early days, TotT was truly a fam­ily af­fair, with Char­ter and Hanstein’s hus­bands, Peter and Ted re­spec­tively, tak­ing on the task of print­ing each is­sue. All four held down full-time jobs, so print­ing took place after hours and over week­ends.

On Fe­bru­ary 1, 1998, TotT moved into its home at 29 Miles Street, and the blue house has be­come a land­mark along South­well Road. In those days, the pa­per was put to­gether and printed at the of­fice, and then col­lated by all the mem­bers of both fam­i­lies and var­i­ous friends.

Tak­ing a bold move, Char­ter and Hanstein de­cided to give up their ca­reers and fo­cus on TotT full-time. Char­ter at­tended all the func­tions, took all the pho­tos, put to­gether the ed­i­to­rial, fi­nally com­pil­ing the pa­per and the lay­out, and hand­ing it over to Hanstein who would proof­read the copy. Hanstein also added her “Neigh­bourly Notes” col­umn, the crossword and the ed­i­to­rial. The pair would also cal­cu­late rev­enue, pro­duce in­voices and send out the ac­counts.

Karla Ven­ter, Val Kil­ian, Janet Hyde and Shirley Evans free­lanced for TotT, and Dave Cheater came on-board as a free­lance sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive. Evans was re­spon­si­ble for coun­cil news, Kil­lian took care of the many so­cial hap­pen­ings, while Hyde dealt with school news and sundry ex­tra events.

Keep­ing up the fam­ily-ori­en­tated theme, all of the Char­ter and Hanstein chil­dren also be­came in­volved in the pa­per in one ca­pac­ity or an­other, typ­ing, print­ing, col­lat­ing, do­ing sto­ries, book­keep­ing and var­i­ous other jobs.

There have been many other con­trib­u­tors over the years, in­clud­ing Lovell Stark and Jill McGre­gor. Rand Daily Mail writer Ste­vie God­son joined the team as a proof­reader/writer, and stayed on after

the John­nic takeover in Fe­bru­ary 2005, and even­tu­ally moved to East Lon­don where she worked for Daily Dis­patch. Fol­low­ing the takeover sev­eral staff changes took place, with a large con­tin­gent of staff join­ing TotT.

En­gela Neeth­ling was ap­pointed news edi­tor at that time, while Hanstein re­mained on as of­fice man­ager and Char­ter be­came the sales man­ager. It was only a few months later that TotT adopted the tabloid for­mat.

In 2006 Char­ter was pro­moted to man­ag­ing edi­tor of TotT, and took over as chief sales of­fi­cer for all of John­nic’s com­mu­nity news­pa­pers coun­try­wide.

“We would meet around the board ta­ble to hold meet­ings. It was a large din­ing ta­ble, so most of our meet­ing would be held while we ate lunch,” Char­ter said.

There have been many re­porters em­ployed by TotT over the years, in­clud­ing Luke Char­ter, Than­dux­olo Jika, Hen­nie Marais, Malun­gelo Booi, Jon Houzet, Elbe van Heer­den, Amy Hop­kins, Akhona Qunta, Liesl Ah Shene, Gra­ham­stown This Week cor­re­spon­dent Sid Pen­ney, Rob Knowles, Candice Brad­field, Louise Carter and Louise Knowles, as well as reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tors, stringers and nu­mer­ous in­terns.

Houzet was pro­moted to news edi­tor when Neeth­ling left TotT in June 2007, and has re­mained news edi­tor to the present day, over­see­ing an ever-chang­ing sta­ble of news re­porters. The present staff con­tin­gent has, how­ever, been a con­stant for the past four years, aside from some ma­ter­nity leave.

In the sales depart­ment there have been many rep­re­sen­ta­tives in­clud­ing Dave Cheater, Rory Gard­ner, Am­ber Bryant, Laura Mile­ham, Risha Faca, Na­dia Del­port, An­gelique Peterse, Ge­orge Pet­zer, Chelsea Dower, Ivy Gul­li­ford, Bryan Smith and, lat­terly, Mitch Haupt.

On the pro­duc­tion side, Hay­den Hanstein and his wife An­neli have pro­duced qual­ity ad­ver­tise­ments and been re­spon­si­ble for lay­out. They have lately been as­sisted by Jessie Bohnen.

In Jan­uary 2015 Bar­bara Hanstein passed away, leav­ing a big gap and many heavy hearts at the pa­per. As co-founder of TotT, as well as an end­less source of in­for­ma­tion re­gard­ing the town as well as its res­i­dents, Hanstein was ir­re­place­able but, in true news­pa­per fash­ion, the show must go on.

As for ad­min­is­tra­tion, Nox­olo Blouw and Kim Belkum have taken up the reins, and be­fore them there was Va­len­cia Sa­muels, Liezl Broodryk, Si­ganeko Booi, Jongisipho Matthews, Dani Hilpert, Bulelwa Ngce­bet­sha and Khany­isa Daweti.

And, of course, the lady that keeps us all hy­drated and the of­fices clean, Phumla “Cyn­thia” Pase.

There have been some ma­jor changes in the own­ers of TotT, with John­nic mak­ing way for Avusa and then, Times Me­dia which re­cently be­came Tiso Black­star. Char­ter is the busi­ness man­ager for all com­mu­nity news­pa­pers in­clud­ing The Rep in Queen­stown/Ko­mani and the Go!+Ex­press in East Lon­don and King Wil­liam’s Town. But the spirit at TotT has al­ways re­mained; that of pro­duc­ing a qual­ity news­pa­per that gives a voice to the res­i­dents of the area, that in­cludes Alexan­dria to the Fish River, and in­land to Gra­ham­stown.

Over 21 magic years TotT has kept the com­mu­nity up to date with who’s in and who’s out, who’s ar­rived and who’s left, sig­nif­i­cant events, births, deaths, news, views, in­ter­views, char­ac­ter sketches and much more. In short, TotT is the Sun­shine Coast news for the peo­ple, about the peo­ple.

WHERE THE MAGIC HAP­PENS: The iconic Talk of the Town of­fices on the cor­ner of Miles and South­well roads in Port Al­fred

CAKE FOR KEN­TON: TotT sales rep Mitch Haupt manned the ta­ble hand­ing out cake for TotT’s 20th birthday out­side Sun­shine Spar in Ken­ton last year

FUN TREAT: Two young TotT fans en­joyed hav­ing a slice of cake and get­ting a bal­loon to join Talk of Town in cel­e­brat­ing their 20th birthday at Pick n Pay in the Her­itage Mall last year

MILE­STONE CEL­E­BRA­TION: Talk of the Town busi­ness man­ager Mauneen Char­ter and Pick n Pay man­ager Werner Pien­aar with one of the birthday cakes baked for their 20th birthday last year

THE GANG’S ALL HERE: When we cel­e­brated Talk of the Towns’ 20th birthday last year, our staff com­ple­ment was, from left, Mauneen Char­ter, Bryan Smith, Va­len­cia Sa­muels, Phumla Pase, An­neli Hanstein, Hay­den Hanstein, Louise Carter, Mitch Haupt, Rob...

SENSE OF AC­COM­PLISH­MENT: Talk of the Town staff did a beach clean-up for 67 min­utes for Man­dela Day this year. From left are Rob Knowles, Phumla Pase, Bryan Smith, An­neli Hanstein, Jon Houzet, Jessie Bohnen and Hay­den Hanstein, who par­tic­i­pated in the...

BLAST FROM THE PAST: A glimpse of some staff mem­bers past and present, when we cel­e­brated TotT turn­ing 12 in Oc­to­ber 2008. At the back, from left, are Rory Gard­ner, An­neli and Hay­den Hanstein, next row, Am­ber Bryant, Mauneen Char­ter and Jon Houzet,...

CAKE FOR MAKANA: Not for­get­ting our read­ers and ad­ver­tis­ers in Gra­ham­stown, TotT staff Louise Knowles and Mitch Haupt also handed out cake for our 20th birthday cel­e­bra­tions at Pick n Pay, Pep­per­grove Mall

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