JUST OVER a decade on, newly-appointed editor Brett Kennedy can still recall the nerves of being sent out alone for his first story just a few short hours into his Border Watch Newsgroup journey.
“It was a fundraiser cheque handover – I remember asking for advice from other journos about what questions to ask and I probably delivered them word-for-word from my notepad without making eye contact,” Brett said.
That baptism of fire set the tone for the then-19-year-old of what was to come in the diverse landscape of country journalism.
Around a month earlier Brett had been working part-time less than 12 months out of school, with no plans of tertiary study, but the hope that he could forge a career in his native Mount Gambier.
“When I saw the cadetship advertised the penny dropped, I had always envisaged finding a career path which allowed some form of creativity, but just never considered journalism,” he said.
While a spelling test formed part of the interview process, applicants were also required to pass a general knowledge quiz and the benefits of being born and raised in the South East would soon be known.
“Simply knowing addresses or having existing ties within the community can make a big difference in efficiency when dealing with daily deadlines,” Brett said.
“You quickly start to form relationships with individuals and organisations, and that frequent face-to-face interaction builds trust which is important when dealing with someone’s passion or livelihood.”
After several months covering local news, Brett made the switch to sports journalism under the guidance of the late Rod Morris where he would spend the next few years honing his craft.
“Sport is crucial to the newspaper, you only need to do the photography rounds on a Saturday afternoon to see how many people in the community are involved in sporting clubs, so it is important our coverage reflects that,” he said.
“A lot of volunteers and club people dedicate time to contribute results, reports and photographs to The Border Watch Newsgroup which makes life a whole lot easier, it allows us to do the impossible and be in 10 places at once.”
Returning to the news team, Brett took on the key round covering Mount Gambier City Council – including the election of Mayor Andrew Lee, the final stages of the Mount Gambier Railway Lands project and the inaugural China trade mission.
During this period Brett also interviewed serving Prime Minister Tony Abbott and covered the plight of a former resident jailed in Thailand for defamation and computer crimes including his subsequent acquittal followed by a family reunion on the Blue Lake city’s outskirts.
“My whole journalism journey has been filled with stories and experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and you learn a lot not only about the world, but about your own home and its people,” Brett said.
Over the last two years Brett has served as a sub-editor and chief of staff, but has recently been promoted to editor, which includes playing a key role in producing The South Eastern Times, Penola Pennant and The Border Watch.
“I’ve never said no to an opportunity the Border Watch Newsgroup has presented, and that has given me a great deal of experience across different aspects of our daily production.
“A lot goes into producing the newsgroup’s seven papers each week, but The Border Watch has not missed an edition in over 150 years, and that is an impressive streak the whole team is committed to maintaining.”