A woman of words, wisdom and a wealth of experience, this masthead was under the watch of Ann Newling for many years. Ann broke ground in 1987 becoming the first female editor of The Northern Daily Leader. The city’s stories were told by Ann and her journos for many decades. As an editor, Ann had a penchant for fostering fresh-faced reporters, with a healthy number of established journos launching lauded careers from The Leader. A Face of Tamworth, in her own words:
I’ve always loved listening to people tell their stories, learning what makes them tick, getting into their heads to work out who they are and what they’re about; it is interesting, just fascinating.
And learning about them gives you a responsibility to respect them; where they’re coming from, where they’re heading, and as a journalist that’s important and a perspective you retain.
I first came to the Northern Daily Leader from The Daily Telegraph in 1977, where I had done my cadetship, and it was only going to be a brief stopover on a round-Australia trip.
The newsroom then had one female journalist, who was assigned to do the social rounds basically. I covered sport and news and that was something really different for both the newspaper and readers – and footy players.
I joined a small team of about 14, including three photographers, and one of them, Shane Chillingworth, would be the reason I stayed on.
We married in 1981.
I’d been appointed chief of staff/news editor just before then and served in that role for about six years, before being appointed editor in 1987 - the first female editor in the history of the NDL.
Like other women I juggled work and children, and the newsroom coped with that, especially at the times when a baby was closeted in a carry cot under the editor’s desk while she finished writing editorials and finalising the pages for that night, or toddlers played around reporters’ desks.
Babysitting made them multi-talented too.
The Leader operated out of the Brisbane St building at the corner of Marius St for 96 years, and over that time there’d been maybe 25 editors – but hundreds of journos.
I’m proud to have worked with some of the best in the business, and to have been there to employ so many younger reporters who were so bright, smart, caring and committed to their craft.
Plenty of them have gone on to big careers in metropolitan newspapers and other national media since.
I served a couple of stints as acting editor too and as news editor for more years than I can count.
Over those years I interviewed and wrote about a lot of famous people, celebrities and plenty of pollies, but the most enjoyable were always the ordinary, down to earth, and the characters you meet every day.
It’s been fascinating to tell their stories and reflect the history of where we live too.
I have loved helping to share that heritage, especially through the likes of historians Jim Hobden, Lyall Green and Warren Newman.
The Leader has been instrumental in driving major issues over the years, it hasn’t just been a sounding board or echo chamber for residents.
It has also tried to be the heart and soul of its people but it hasn’t always been about the serious stuff. It’s also been important for us all to have some fun and reflect the personalities and colour of readers and residents.
Some of our most popular stories have been comic relief, invoking laughs and joy.
In between stints at The Leader I also worked in radio and television news, and in corporate and civic media, helping write submissions for government funding, including for the original feasibility studies for the TRECC and AELEC, but also for Walk a Country Mile, music festivals, and for other Tamworth council projects and employment contracts for recruitment agencies.