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Victorian regionals celebrate major milestones

Two historic Victorian mastheads have celebrated anniversaries this month, with The Courier in Ballarat reaching 150 years and The Ararat Advertiser marking 160 years in print.

The Fairfax Media-owned titles are the second- and third-oldest continuously printed newspapers in Victoria, with The Geelong Advertiser the longest standing by 17 years.

The Courier is in the middle of month-long celebrations. The title has created a 150th celebration page on its website, highlighting key stories, images and video compiled throughout the years.

For five weeks, starting from the July 25, The Courier will revisit some of the biggest and influential stories the paper has covered. Alongside this, it is inviting readers to submit their own “The Courier story”.

The Ararat Advertiser has taken a more simple approach which focuses on readers, while releasing a series of features to coincide with the 160th anniversary,

The paper began in August 1857, when the masthead’s pioneers Jabez Walter Banfield and James Gearing joined with printer Edward Holt Nuthall to create a single sheet newspaper in a tent on a goldfield.

Then called The Mount Ararat Advertiser, it was distributed for free throughout the gold diggings.

Following Nuttall’s death, Banfield purchased the paper at auction in 1861. The paper remained in the family until 1962, when it was sold to the company owned by neighbouring masthead, The Courier, in Ballarat.

The Courier printed its first edition in June 1867. The first editor, Robert Clark, aimed to create a local paper that explored the issues facing the Ballarat region with the promise to “speak out boldly”.

The Ballarat masthead teamed with the National Archives of Australia, The Ballarat Gold Museum and the Ballarat Historical Society in 2013 on a project titled “Archival Revival”. The photo series highlights the visual storytelling work of the Courier and its ability to map the history of the regional centre.

Ararat Advertiser editor Kim Quinlan made it clear that the community was at the forefront of its operations.

“We have told the stories – both good and bad. We have campaigned for change. We have been your voice when no-one else would listen. We have informed you about disasters, about growth and development, about how your sporting team fared at the weekend and who in the community has given birth, tied the knot or passed away.

“All these stories have one thing in common … they have been about the Ararat community, for the Ararat community.

“Over the last 160 years, The Ararat Advertiser has one great strength … community,” she said

Ms Quinlan said she wants the community to feel “ownership” over their masthead, encouraging them to pitch stories and generate content of their own.

“The involvement of the Ararat community in our storytelling goes further than just letters to the editor. User generated digital content – comments, articles, videos and photos from members of the community are also important to us.

“We never forget we are part of a bigger picture, part of the Ararat community,” Ms Quinlan said.

Both mastheads have a strong presence in their communities. The latest emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia) data shows The Courier has a monthly print readership of 252 000. The smaller Ararat Advertiser has an average readership of 6600 per issue according to Fairfax Media’s Australian Community Media AdCentre.


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