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Queensland’s oldest newspaper stops printing after 160 years

The QT was founded in 1859 as the Ipswich Herald and first published as The Queensland Times in 1861.

Staff are still saddened and stunned by the decision to close Queensland’s oldest daily newspaper, but admit its “a sign of the times”.

Office manager Cathy Wilkins will retire after 31 years and five months.

Credit manager and advertising representative Michele McCoombes finishes after working for 30 years.

“It has been like a family over the years,” Ms McCoombes said.

“Everybody spent so much time at work so it is like losing your family as well. We’ve seen kids grow up, babies born and grandkids, all of it.”

On its final day, the once-bustling QT office at West Ipswich was quiet. The 13 QT staffers have been working from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

A few staff casually arrived to drop off laptops and terminals, before meeting later at the Ipswich Jets function room to farewell their paper. Six will stay with the company.

Ms Wilkins said the QT was one of Ipswich’s big employers.

“I used to pay about 170 staff and at the very end here I was paying 24,” Ms Wilkins said.

Journalists, compositors, sales staff, administration, printers, drivers, inserters, packers and senior managers all called the QT home.

Local news had always been the QT’s staple diet. Ipswich Road became the Ipswich Motorway, coal mines opened and closed, the Swanbank Mine Disaster rocked the town, universities opened, sports stars emerged, politicians of all colours rose and fell and there were birthdays, crime, court and crashes. The QT was there for it all.

David Lems, sports editor and reporter of 36 years, says Ipswich is now in a rebuilding phase.

David Lems, sports editor and reporter of 36 years, says Ipswich is now in a rebuilding phase.Credit:Photos: Supplied

Sports editor David Lems has been the soul of the QT news desk for 36 years – outlasting 10 editors and hundreds of reporters. He will continue as the paper goes digital only..

Mr Lems said Ipswich was in a rebuilding phase in the post-Paul Pisasale era.

“Obviously we were all devastated at the decision to close the paper,” he said.

“But the challenge now for us – we have a good small team staying on – is to keep Ipswich in the spotlight.

“I’d like to think with sport from the community we will be able to provide solid Ipswich content that people will like.”

In a 36-year career, Lems has covered Olympics, Commonwealth Games, grand finals, Origin clashes and watched while local stars – Allan Langer, Steve, Kevin and Kerrod Walters, cricketers Andy Bichel and Shane Watson, then Ash Barty – emerged from the QT’s inside pages to the front pages.

“The big thing is that we have done everything from the grass roots up to international stars,” he said.

“While we have done the big guns like the Watsons, the Langers and the Walters we have always focused strongly on the average ‘Joe Blow’ who is out there competing every week.”

One of his highlights is the 2000 Olympic Torch Relay, which passed through Ipswich’s Limestone Park, drawing thousands of people while RAAF Base Amberley’s F-111s flew overhead.

“That was a big one. That was a pretty emotional night,” Mr Lems said.

Long-term Queensland Times reader Maureen Anderson says the decision to close the newspaper is “shocking”.

Long-term Queensland Times reader Maureen Anderson says the decision to close the newspaper is “shocking”. Credit:Tony Moore

QT readers at Booval on Friday were still shocked by the paper’s closure. Maureen Anderson said local papers had local news.

“Where do we get it from now?” she asked.

“I have very poor internet connection where I live. Don’t get me started. It’s just a sign of the times. Money means everything.”

Marty and Sue Cruice from Blackstone said they bought the paper “for the funeral notices and the front and back page”.

Mr Cruice said the decision to stop printing the newspaper “was terrible” but he accepted things were changing.

“With the modern world they will miss it yes, and no,” he said.

“Yes, the older people like ourselves will probably miss it, but the younger people probably don’t give a damn.”

Wife Sue agreed, but said she was going to try an online subscription.

“I think the younger ones if they want it, will get it on their phone,” she said.

News Corp says it will have 375 journalists covering regional local news throughout Australia.

“They will continue to serve, and live in, their local communities with the majority in regional Queensland where we have most of our titles,” executive general manager Michael Miller said.

He said digital subscriptions in regional Queensland were increasing by 40 per cent.

“In regional Queensland more than 80,000 people have digital subscriptions and this number has grown by more than 40 per cent this year,” he said.

DISCLOSURE: Tony Moore worked at the QT from 1991 to 2005 as reporter, chief of staff and news editor.

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