Life On The Job

NEWSPAPER EDITOR  - Franco Vanzini, West Wimmera Advocate

Franco Vanzini with award
Franco Vanzini with an Award from the Victoria Country Press Association for Best Photograph in 2013

Where is West Wimmera Shire?

West Wimmera Advocate provides local news to living in (or interested about ) or between Goroke, Edenhope, Apsley, Harrow and the South Australian border.

West Wimmera
Map of Victorian Shires
West Wimmera in orange


Owning and publishing a small country town weekly newspaper without any previous experience or qualifications presented a number of challenges but taught me to have a go, adapt and not be frightened to ask other people for advice (no mater how trivial it may have seemed).

Effectively a one-person operation, I was responsible for writing and editing articles, photography, graphic design, advertising (marketing and preparation) and final page layout. I also handled the administration side of the business.

Given the scope of the job it was rare to have one single task to perform each day. A typical day could involve traveling to cover events and take photographs, writing the article and selecting the best photo to go with the story, many phone calls to interview people and to follow-up advertising copy before deadline.

The only time that changed was the evening prior to publication day which was spent entirely on page layout.


West Wimmera Advocate Facebook

West Wimmera Advocate Facebook


The opportunity to become involved with the newspaper came by chance while I was working in another field while living in Edenhope, Vic. and was looking for a career change.

My past interest in writing during my school years, an interest in news generally, and a failed interview in for a cadet journalist position with the ABC in Adelaide in the late 1970s, all came together when I realised that the asking price for the newspaper within my reach.


I was fortunate to know a newspaper owner/editor in country South Australia and after several conversations with him, decided to make an offer to buy the paper, which was accepted.

I kept in touch with my SA friend on a regular basis asking for advice which he gladly provided. Also, much to my delight, was the sense of community between other country-based newspapers and a willingness to assist one another either directly or through the Victorian Country Press Association.



The thing I remember most about school was the desire to do well in maths, physics and chemistry only to find that my best results came from English, history and art appreciation - basically any subject that required the writing of an essay. It was frustrating and perhaps the reason that I decided to repeat year-12 in 1978 after working for one year.

I had never settled on a particular career path while at school but it is interesting how my experiences at school came rushing back to mind almost 15 years later when I decided to take on the newspaper in Edenhope in January 1992.


Training for the newspaper was very much on-the-job. The previous owner stayed on for two weeks (2 editions) and then I was on my own. In that time he showed me how to load bulk film for a camera and develop photographs, how to use the old typesetters and develop the photo-paper which eventually finished on a paste-up sheet. Many hours were spent standing at a paste-up bench and laying down strips of typed paper for stories and advertisements. Even the borders for the adverts were pasted onto these sheets.

All of this was eventually replaced by desktop computers and the learning cycle started all over again. In this regard I was fortunate to know a commercial printer in Hamilton who had a strong knowledge of computing and his help was critical at the time of changing over from old photo-mechanical typesetters to the desktop computer. It took about three months before I was able to retire the paste-up bench and produce completed pages from the computer.

There was also a rich source of information available from the computer software publishers and other industry bodies. It was a case of asking and looking for training aids and then making use of these.


As a self-employed person, there was always something that needed to be done. Publishing a newspaper was basically a seven-day-a-week occupation and it took a while to find a balance between work, home and sport. When I first started I had a couple of people one day of the week helping to type the articles I wrote and edited while I spent time at the paste-up bench.

My wife helped with this as well as doing the accounts. The income for that paper came from paid advertising while the price paid for the paper by readers covered production costs. The newspaper was printed in Horsham and then later in Mount Gambier. Once everything - newspaper and accounts - went digital, I undertook all of the tasks myself (apart from the printing of the paper).

Victoria Map
Horsham is about 3.5 hours from Melbourne. Mt Gambier is in South Australia.

The biggest highlight in the life of the newspaper was when the bank loan was paid off. The loan included the cost of buying the paper, was added to when we bought the computers and further extended when we purchased an office in the main street after renting for seven years.

With a modest, but steady income, it took about 12 years before I was in a position to consider superannuation contributions and retirement.


Given the nature of the task at hand, I felt that I was too committed to undertake further study. The Victorian Country Press Association ran a number of training seminars during the year and I did attend a number of these which I found very helpful.

However even though I published a newspaper for 22 years (from January 1992 to December 2013) I do not hold any recognised qualifications, so I regret not having made the time to undertake a self-paced course in journalism, or graphic arts while publishing the paper.

We can always think back to things that we could have done better. If I had my time over, I would definitely make the time and take whatever opportunity I could to undertake further training or study to gain recognised qualifications to enhance my career.


Did You Know?

Victorian Country Press Awards 2014-2015

Agfa-Gevaert Best Sports Photograph, Circulation under 3,000

Franco Vanzini, West Wimmera Advocate, Hard slog
(Source: Victorian Country Press Association)

Hard Slog
From the West Wimmera Advocate (Source: personal communication)


Your Local Newspaper Article and Advertisement for the West Wimmera Advocate

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

Critical and Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical and Creative Thinking

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and Social Capability

Intercultural UnderstandingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Intercultural Understanding

IndigenousAustralian Curriculum Cross Curriculum Priorities: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures


1. You are to research the local West Wimmera Shire Council website by looking at the local events.

West Wimmera Shire Council

2. Choose one event to write about using your imagination to describe:

  • the event

  • the participants

  • the weather on the day

  • any funny incident or something of interest to the community

  • a map of the town where the event is taking place - Goroke, Edenhope, Apsley, Harrow or...

  • a drawing or picture of the activities or the event itself

3. Create an advertisement advertising one of the cultural, arts or environmental attractions of the district. Use the West Wimmera Shire Council website under Discover to find the names of the attractions of the district.

For example, Baileys Rocks. Unfortunately, the Shire Council website is still in production but this gives you an opportunity to create a wonderful page enticing tourists to the district to see this particular attraction.

You are to fill this gap with either this attraction or the many others in the district. 


You are to find photos and information from at least four websites about a particular attraction and write up any interesting facts to encourage people [Australians and overseas tourists] to come to the West Wimmera district. You need to be mindful of the intercultural needs of your targeted overseas tourists.

4. You are to help the West Wimmera Shire Council with Indigenous Tourism. With a partner, go to the Maggolee website


Look at the West Wimmera section of this website and in particular what the Council is doing to encourage Indigenous culture.

Find out either:

  • the documentation about Aboriginal history of the municipality

  • the use of Aboriginal language to name sites - give examples

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