That was my surprising “welcome to Beaudesert” moment from a café owner in the main street. My only previous visits to the country town – just over an hour’s drive from Brisbane’s CBD – were as a teenager to play sport. On reflection, the cheap tie probably gave me away.
The café owner then remarked: “Son, if you do get the job, your main task is to make sure you print in the paper which one of the dozen rumours going around town is actually the correct one.”
The memories flooded back when I heard owners Mark and Gail Hodgson had decided to sell Beaudesert Times Pty Ltd to Fairfax Media last year – ending the family’s era of 82 years.
I vividly recall Mark asking me during my job interview: “What do you think of my paper?”
Tough question: Do I tell him what I really think and run the risk of upsetting him or deliver glowing praise and potentially be rejected for being a soft touch.
My response: “I think I can improve it Mr Hodgson.”
Thankfully, I got the job and we won PANPA Newspaper of the Year in the next 12 months. I’ve always been conscious – and appreciative – it was a big gamble by Mark to give the nod to someone so raw.
Mark knew a few things about tackling a big challenge with limited experienced – he took over the business aged just 22 after the untimely death of his father Roy in 1976.
I’ve been fortunate to work with some wonderful people during more than 25 years in the industry, but Mark has been without peer in terms of both work ethic and consistency of calm demeanour.
Mark was a dream proprietor and mentor to work for. He would often help paste up pages on the stone as deadline pressure mounted and always wanted to know what was going on, but respected story selections and editorial stances were the editor’s call.
As the saying goes, behind every great man is a great woman.
Wife Gail, a former nurse, was always a tower of strength and actively involved in the business – performing roles from proof reader to office manager.
I know selling was a tough decision for Mark, but his pragmatic nature will see him move on with his life.
Myself, and many others, will be forever indebted to the Hodgson family for giving them their “start” either as a cadet reporter or editor.
They have made a wonderful contribution to the industry – your dad would be proud Mark.
Enjoy your retirement Mark and Gail … it’s richly deserved.
Mitchell Murphy is the executive director (publishing) at The Newspaper Works.
He landed the editor’s job at Beaudesert Times aged just 20.