John, Anne Leach sign off from Bega and head north | Photos, Video

FAREWELL: Former Southern Publishers owners John and Anne Leach are moving closer to family on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Alasdair McDonald
FAREWELL: Former Southern Publishers owners John and Anne Leach are moving closer to family on the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

When a young married couple moved to Bega in 1973 and bought a local newspaper, they were fresh faced and ready to resurrect a media outlet on the brink of closure. 

“We had nobody down here, and we were taking over a business that had lots of history and going through difficult times,” former Bega District News editor, Southern Publishers owner, ABC journalist and founder of the Batemans Bay Post John Leach said.

John and his wife Anne are bidding farewell to the Bega Valley after more than four decades, to be closer to family and enjoy the warmer climate and rainforest around Palmwoods on the Sunshine Coast.

“We would love to thank the Bega Valley for the wonderful things it has allowed us to do, it has been a wonderful experience,” John said.

John began his career in radio on the Gold Coast in the 1960s, and said moving to Palmwoods, itself is not much larger than Bega, will be like moving home.

Aged in their mid-twenties, the couple took a leap of faith and moved to a part of the world they knew little about.

They were young and “there was only one way to go, which was up”.

“When we came here agriculture was bigger than it is now and we had absolutely no idea about it, so the farmers of the region took me under their wings and taught me so much,” John said.

When they took over the newspaper, Anne created an accounting system which breathed life into an ailing business, and John took care of managing content, which contained a lot of information no longer put into print.

“We used to have the hospital patient names in the paper, which privacy wouldn’t allow these days,” John said.

“I also think Facebook has destroyed the classifieds, and many people would buy the paper just for them – but it’s hard to find something that hasn’t changed because of the internet.”

The classifieds captured everything happening in the community and was almost a newspaper in its own right, and photographs of newborn babies were a must see.

“We used to take photos of the babies, and sometimes the photo would fail, and well would we cop it. We would have to go back to the hospital to take another photo,” John said with a laugh.

“We couldn’t have achieved what we had without the community.”

The couple said it was their loyal staff who helped build the office from eight staff to over 100 in 17 years.

“At one point we had 14 papers and 36 deadlines a week, working from 7am to 9pm,” John said.

Anne said she will never forget her many colleagues.

“We were a family,” she said.

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