Daily Mercury journalists Raye Williams and Rod Manning at work in the newsroom at the paper's premises at 36 Wood Street.
Daily Mercury journalists Raye Williams and Rod Manning at work in the newsroom at the paper's premises at 36 Wood Street.

Learning the formula for a great paper

RAYE Williams joined the Daily Mercury team in 1964 as a teenager.

While many young women were training to be teachers, nurses and secretaries, Ms Williams became a cadet journalist.

“I liked English, and a lady named Margaret Coburn was leaving to get married,” she said.

The first years of Ms Williams’s career were spent at the former Daily Mercury office in Wood St.

At her desk she would use her typewriter to type single sentences onto single pieces of copy paper.

“It made it easier for the compositors,” she said.

Under the leadership of Rod Manning, she learnt the formula for an excellent paper.

“Names make a newspaper, spell the names right and get the details,” she said.

“Rod Manning cared. He stayed back, watched everything and liked details, wanted accuracy and, whenever possible, a historical link.”

He held the press as late as he could to get the final story in, especially late-breaking news.

“People would wake up the next morning and know exactly what had happened. He didn’t like to leave things to the next day,” she said.

“Late accidents, fires, we reported on them.”

It didn’t matter if you were putting together the winners of the Mackay Show or recording traffic offences, every name had to be mentioned.

Ms Williams covered many rounds – court, council, social and features. She attended shows and the annual meetings of district sugar mills and local organisations.

“Every council meeting except Sarina’s, little organisations, but the one I remember the most is the Trades and Labour Council,” she said.

“They would meet in a wooden hut on Victoria St, the men would be there smoking their cigarettes and tapping the ashes into old fish cans.”

She later moved into the features department and worked alongside Mackay historians Berenice Wright and Terry Hayes to produce a series of history features.

“The 1918 Cyclone was a good feature. We spoke to people who had living memories of the cyclone,” she said.

The moon landing on July 20, 1969, was a memorable day for Ms Williams.

“I was the sub-editor for the moon landing. The news came through on a teleprinter,” she said.

“We all raced over to watch the black and white television at McGuire’s, the journalists’ pub in those days, to watch a blurry image of someone slowly descending. It seemed to take ages.”

During her career, Ms Williams also spent a year with the Sunday Mail, worked in Melbourne and for Member for Dawson Rex Patterson.

Another highlight has been her role in saving dogs from death row. Ms Williams was instrumental in establishing advertisements and stories about dogs in the pound. Over the years she has helped thousands of animals find their owners or be adopted.