As the Northern Valleys News celebrates this landmark 100th issue and an eight-year journey uncovering hidden treasures of the region it seems fitting to tell the story of how it all began.
Jackie Shervington and Tamieka Preston launched the first issue of the paper in April 2011. The idea of a community newspaper went from concept to realisation in just two weeks, fuelled by the enthusiasm and drive of the pair. While this process may have been quick, the inspiration for an outlet to unite the towns of the Northern Valleys had been lingering in Jackie’s mind for some time.
“At the time I was involved in a Shire of Chittering community forum, which opened my eyes to the lack of branding of the region, and the need for a clear identity. Living in Mooliabeenee, at the heart of the Northern Valleys, I was travelling from one end to the other for my children’s’ activities – school in Bindoon, tennis in Wannamal, dancing in Bullsbrook, pony riding in Muchea, swimming and football in Gingin, and so on. This criss-crossing opened my eyes to the similarities of the communities and the need to tie them together so we could all embrace the fullness and opportunities of the region,” explains Jackie.
“It was actually Barni Norton ( a Shire of Chittering Councillor at the time) who suggested I consider starting a newspaper. I initially dismissed it! But when learning of Tamieka’s experience with the Sunday Times, it was enough of an alignment and off we went. We had already built the beginnings of a strong friendship and when I canvassed the idea of a newspaper with her, she jumped at it,” says Jackie.
Tamieka, an experienced graphic designer with a background in advertising, was uncertain of where her career path would head after marrying a cattle famer in 2007 and moving to Bindoon.
“Jackie literally came knocking on my door, bursting with excitement of the idea of starting a community newspaper,” said Tamieka.
“Her enthusiasm is pretty infectious and soon I was wrapped up in the idea as well. The plan was that I would take care of all the graphics and layout while Jackie wrote and gathered the stories,” explains Tamieka.
“Of course the first challenge was coming up with a masthead – and figuring out a name that wasn’t necessarily defined by local government boundaries.
“We agreed on the name Northern Valleys – firstly as we are north of the Swan Valley, and secondly as our valleys and hills distinguish us from the eastern parts of the Wheatbelt,” says Tamieka.
Eight years later the name has been adopted by many local businesses in the region and is commonly used to describe this semi-rural to rural area north of Perth, in parliment and by organisations such as the Wheatbelt Development Commission.
The fact that Northern Valleys News is not only surviving, but thriving in what is undoubtedly a challenging time for print media is a testament to the connection people feel between their communities and a trusted, independent source of information like the Northern Valleys News. Even American business magnate Warren Buffet has spoken about the appeal of local newspapers in this digital age: “A reader’s eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about Canadian tariffs or political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbours will be read to the end.”
“I think being an independent gives us flexibility to be a genuine community publication – everyone has the opportunity to contribute – and everyone loves to see their friends and kids in the paper,” says Tamieka.
The mission of ‘uncovering the hidden treasures of the region’ was initially achieved through featuring a local producer or farmer on the cover of each issue. Over time, this evolved to also include businesses who were contributing to the growth of the area, with a special commitment to using local produce or inviting tourism.
“I continue to be astounded that every year more and more unique and fascinating people pop up on my radar,” says Tamieka. “I love sharing their innovative business ideas and passion for their produce.
“By celebrating their achievements and success we are working towards building a regional brand identity. An amazing amount of food and produce comes from our region and as a community we should be proud of what our neighbours and local farmers are doing.”
A turning point for the NVN occurred in 2015 when Fairfax Media decided to close the Moora Advocate. It was a natural opportunity to expand.
“We already had a lot of readers in Moora – many of whom would pick up their copy from the Bindoon Bakehaus on the way home or into Perth,” said Tamieka.
Since then the coverage of NVN has continued to expand – and it now covers the coastal areas of Jurien Bay, Lancelin and Guilderton, as well as Dandaragan and Moora.
The 100th issue has provided an opportunity for Jackie and Tamieka to both reflect on the past and contemplate the future of the Northern Valleys News.
“I’m so proud of what we started and am in admiration of how Tamieka continues to grow the paper,” says Jackie. “Now back in the city and working for a large company, I will always be grateful for my time with the Northern Valleys News and the front-row seat it offered to see the region and meet the community.”
Tamieka says, “I feel fortunate to have been a part of documenting the history of our region and look forward to continuing to do so – it’s a wonderful job and I enjoy it immensely!”