LOOKING BACK: The fire that shook the South Burnett
AS PART of closing the chapter on the printed editions of the South Burnett Times after 99 years, we have reached out to former journalists and editors to get the exclusive scoop on what it was like to work at the region’s oldest and most widely read newspaper.
Here is what former journslist Katherine Morris had to say:
I WAS lucky enough to get my first job out of university at the South Burnett Times in 2015 and made Kingaroy my home for three years. I learnt so much about journalism and life in regional Queensland but also about myself and I had the privilege of working with an amazing team of people.
The most significant story I covered was the Swickers Fire in November 2016.
I’ll never forget waking up to the work car out the front of my house and my editor, Shannon Newley calling me to get in.
For a bit of background, it was a Sunday morning and I was hungover as we’d all been to former councillor Damien Tessmann’s 30th birthday.
We quickly realised this fire was going to become much more than just a weekend breaking news story, as one of the biggest employers in the South Burnett the fire had huge ramifications for families and businesses across the region.
Over the next year I wrote story after story about the rebuild process and sat down with Kingaroy firefighters and talked about how they battled the biggest structural blaze they had ever faced.
Volunteer firefighters spoke to me about what it was like to fight a fire at their place of work, hoping to save their jobs in the process.
This was an important story that only a local paper like the South Burnett Times could do justice covering and the stories I wrote will stick with me forever.
From people who had lost everything they owned in a house fire, to victims of abuse and the resilience of farmers going through drought – these are the types of stories that make, shape and break a community.
I made lifelong friendships inside and outside of the newsroom and found a home for myself among a team of people I still miss working with.
We received everything from death threats over a story about stolen budgies, to a bomb threat, to aggressive and homophobic postcards – every day was different and unexpected.
I’ll always be grateful I had the opportunity to grow from moving out of my comfort zone and learning more on the ground then a university could have ever taught me.
Katherine Morris (former SBT journalist)