Paper grows from humble beginnings
ON this very day 40 years ago, the first Byron News hit the streets.
The rock on which it was built was the printing business started at Byron Bay in 1962 by Reg and Jean Wright.
As Byron Bay continued to develop, Reg and Jean decided in 1970 there was a need for a free local paper.
They contacted businesses and organisations soliciting support, not only with advertising, but also supplying sport and social news copy.
Reg and Jean received encouraging support from residents, Byron’s council and politicians.
A big plus, Reg told us back in 1996 for the paper’s 25th anniversary, was that the Byron News was to be a local paper, printed locally.
And while it was planned to eventually circulate throughout the shire and beyond, emphasis for that time would be on Byron Bay.
While the Wright’s print shop at the front of their house near the Browning Street roundabout in Bangalow Rd, now a Happy House accommodating backpackers was progressing well, they had very limited resources to establish a newspaper.
They initially had to be innovative with limited equipment.
They acquired extra plant and staff, but the biggest task, said Reg, was to “educate” local businesses to advertise and the benefit of doing so.
The front page of the first Byron News carried a message of congratulations from the then president of the Byron Shire Council, Cr R B James, who said he and fellow councillors trusted the “growth and development of Byron Bay is reflected in the success of this venture”.
About 1200 copies of that first issue were printed.
The paper was eight pages and a three-quarter tabloid size.
Locals eventually became aware of how important a local free newspaper was when such issues as saving the old Wollongbar Wreck, saving the Cape Byron goats, publicising beach erosion and fighting to save the Byron District Hospital were highlighted.
Because of editorial contributions from the community, the Byron News developed a unique personality.
Who could ever forget the Mrs Busy Lines paragraphs on the back page which Jean wrote for 23 years?
Jean said the necessity to keep overheads down meant that reporters and journalists could not be employed and copy was purposely left in the main unedited, to retain the style and personality of the writers.
“This way locals felt they really were a part of their local newspaper,” she said.
The newspaper, which was a family business, progressed over the years and in July, 1976 the proprietors changed the format to a magazine size because of production requirements.
Computerised typesetting was introduced in May 1977 as part of the Wright’s policy to keep up with new technology.
In July, 1986, Reg and Jean handed over the management of The Byron News to son John and in March, 1993, the newspaper was sold to ouside interests.
The News is now owned by APN ARM (Australian Regional Media).
Reg died in 2008 and Mrs Busy Lines – Jean – now lives on the Gold Coast, but their legacy lives on.
“I congratulate the Byron News on 40 years, it’s a great achievement and I know how much hard work it takes to produce a paper.
“I hope it will be around for another 40 years, but I’m just sad Reg isn’t here to see this milestone.”