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Australian Story -

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# Theme music Hello, I'm Pip Courtney from the ABC's rural affairs program, Landline. In a time of
unprecedented crisis in the newspaper industry, tonight's Australian Story is about a former big
city journalist who's bucking the trend and keeping faith with print. James Clarke put his future,
his relationship and the family sheep station on the line to chase his dream of running a little
local newspaper in outback Cunnamulla. In the process, he's ruffled more than a few feathers. This
is his story. The previous owner called the press 'Bertha'. It's an East German machine. I think it
came out here in the late '50s, early '60s to print the New Idea in colour. And after it had sort
of done its job there, it was shipped off to print porn magazines in Melbourne.

Well, we got a rude shock when we took over the bloody thing - a very rude shock indeed. (Laughs)
The swearing, the 14-hour days, the printing the paper at 2am. It was a seven-day-a-week job.

I thought it would make a lovely artisan product and your grubby ink-coloured fingerprints would be
all over it and it's a rare thing in this day and age where the big companies are gobbling up the
local papers. I came as a storyteller, somebody who wanted to capture the stories of this area,
which is almost a mythical part of the country. It's the outback.

All of my adult life I've been based in cities. I was based In Sydney, I spent two years living in
Amsterdam, I spent a year living in Rome, then I ended up living in Paris. I was working in
experimental theatre, and mixing with arty sort of crowds.

My intention was probably to try and get Josephine out to Cunnamulla, but I didn't know that she
would come. A lot of the women who grow up here don't want to be here, so the chance of you getting
a girl from the city to take to it are not that good. We grew up on a property outside Cunnamulla.
I was the eldest of three children, and our parents, Peter and Beryl, were the managers of a family
partnership, a sheep and cattle property.

Right from the day he was born he was just different, and the governesses that used to teach him
used to say even that, you know, he was great with essays and stories. He's always had that. We
always thought James was eccentric in his own little way.

I was getting a bit of pressure from my father to take over the reins of the place. I thought,
'There's a world out there to discover', and it may seem romantic to be looking after 160,000
acres, but it's really just a 160,000 acre prison. I told him that I wasn't too happy about
settling down there and I wanted to go travelling, and I'd be going to Europe, and 'see ya later'.

I'm not saying that James is lazy by any means, but he just didn't seem to sort of be quite
attached to it the way that Phillip was.

The eldest son is meant to take over the place. In my case, fortunately, James decided that, you
know, the land wasn't for him. We sold the family property, and that is when we bought Pabra.

Phillip was just so keen, and there was nothing down there except an old boundary rider's hut so
virtually he set it up from scratch.

I was given a gift - the land was partly mine, partly my brother's. James gave me the right to use
his land, he was a perfect partner. He didn't want any money, and he was away.

I'd wanted to get into journalism for some time, so while I was in Spain, I wrote a few stories
about bull running and bull fighting and that got me a job on a little paper. I wanted to go to
Hong Kong during the handover, worked on the South China Morning Post for a year. Once you get a
bit of experience on a newspaper that's recognised around the world, you're in, you're away. Did a
bit of Fleet Street - Daily Mail and Evening Standard and that sort of thing. I had a French
girlfriend at the time, I went over to France with the idea perhaps of freelancing and that sort of
thing, see how things panned out with her.

We met through a mutual friend. It was a sunny summer day at Monmartre which is up on the hill in
Paris. I'd have to say that I saw him and just felt a little surge, you know, of energy and we
ended up having a very playful conversation about Paris that day, because we were both hating it a
bit and we thought that was quite funny because most people adore Paris and wax lyrical about
Paris, whereas we were both getting a bit anti-Paris.

I think what brought us together was we liked to bitch about the French. She had a baby, Leander,
so nothing was going to happen there, but we did become friends. But, you know, I had my French
girlfriend at the time and I definitely wasn't in the marketplace, but I definitely did think
'Geez, whoosh, wish I was single'.

My introduction to Cunnamulla was the Cunnamulla documentary by Dennis O'Rourke and James came
around with a six-pack of beer and the Cunnamulla movie and we sat down and watched it with some
very bewildered French people.

There's somebody moving into that house next to Joyce's. $60 a week.

They couldn't understand most of what was being said, and they said, 'Oh my God, what is this
about?' And most of them left the room and it was just Josephine and I watching it.

The town's like the bloody dump. Both of 'em buggered.

James and I laughed a lot and, you know, were disturbed in turn, but it didn't put me off
Cunnamulla, I thought it was rather intriguing.

About the time that I'd decided I'd had enough of France and wanted to move back to Australia, my
brother was looking to leave the property and go further east for his kids' education. At the time,
they were in an incredible drought. They were up to their seventh year of drought.

I said, 'Why don't you come back to Pabra, you can run the place while I'm away and that'll give
you plenty of time to write your memoirs.'

After living in a 45-square-metre flat in Paris, I needed at least 60,000 acres of country around
me, and it felt like the right thing to do. It was a great feeling to get back to that after living
on concrete and bitumen like a pigeon for five years. Feels like home, and it had had a bit of rain
so it wasn't looking too bad. People that grow up on a property just get attached to the... ..they
get attached to the countryside, you know.

Initially on moving away, I did miss Pabra. You can't spend all your entire life on a patch of dirt
and not have a longing for it when you leave. I always knew James would run the place in a
different manner to I. I remember he was rekindling the love for the land - the red dirt and the
Mulga. And he just loved it. He had his pack of dogs. It was comforting that James was there. That
I knew he was also appreciating Pabra as I did. So James was right back in his element and then he
bought The Warrego Watchman.

Josephine made it clear she was going to try and get out of France even though she had the
complication of breaking up with her French partner and a child involved. She had a nice feel for
writing and I thought, 'Well, it would be a good job for the two of us to do.' So I kept that in
the back of my mind that this could be something that she could be running as well. I tossed up
about it, but it just sort of, it possessed me and rather foolishly, I bought the thing. It needed
a new name, the best that I could come up with was Warrego Watchman. In fact it was a name the
paper was known by in the late 1880s.

James, this doesn't feel like home. This neighbourhood is so familiar yet I wear it like an
ill-fitting dress. We both knew that there was something there but I was stuck in a miserable
relationship in Paris.

'Darling, this is probably my last email to the Parisian Josephine, suddenly and finally...'

His relationship had ended and we then had this sort of very deep - as much as it can be - email
relationship, but very long, very long letters to each other.

'I feel like I could talk to you and look at you forever.'

'Your skin is the cloth I'd like to wear and nothing else. I think of you 1,000 times a day. Love

'So when we kiss we will be in strong light, around gum trees in the land that nurtured us.'

I think we longed for each other for a few years.

'How I love the sound of your name...' I suggested to her that she come out to Cunnamulla. It sort
of went from there. 'I love you, James.'

If I'm honest, I'd say in my heart of hearts, James was the destination, but at the same time I
wasn't sure that Pabra and Cunnamulla were the destination.

Josephine and Leander were sort of struggling to settle in at Pabra because they turned up and I
think it was 45 degrees the day they arrived at Pabra and the air conditioning wasn't working and
they spent the first couple of weeks lying in the middle of the room in the coolest part of the
house. And I wasn't even sure that they'd be able to stick it out. No, you've got to tell a story,
you've got to say I was having a ferocious swordfight with a scumbag pirate from Charleville...
Grab his back legs. Get your other hand on his back legs. I went from being a lonely old bastard in
the middle of 60,000 acres, to an instant family. Now, don't crash into the grid. There'll be big

James, can you get the gate for me? He told me he wasn't into marriage. That it was very
conservative and it's what our parents did and he much preferred living in sin. Living on a sheep
station in the middle of nowhere, it doesn't seem that strange or unfamiliar. I can't really
explain why. I suppose the only explanation, really, is that I'm here with James and for me, he
feels like home. He's home.

As soon as he, well, told me that he was buying the Warrego Watchman, I could see we were going to
have major problems at Pabra, because James had always had trouble with time management, and I knew
that throwing another business into the bargain, Pabra was going to be affected.

I said, 'It couldn't possibly take much time', a little 12-page paper, three days a week on the
paper, and four days a week running the property. It would work out pretty well.

I remember going into one of the shop owners and saying, 'Oh, James is going to be the new editor.
This is fantastic, he's intelligent, he has to be fair.' And they went, 'Oh oh, just wait and see.'

With our first edition, we wanted to make a splash, and we were always going to be a little bit
iconoclastic, so we took a shot at the biggest icon around here which is the Cunnamulla Fella
statue. In my time in France, I was somewhat influenced by Le Monde, who always ran a front-page
cartoon, so I commissioned my sister, Susan Killen, to come up with a cartoon of the Cunnamulla
Fella statue with his daks around his ankles. I sat here bracing myself for the backlash and there
wasn't really one. Our first critical letter actually came from my father.

I had to write to him as a... as a member of the, um, discerning public that I felt he was using
too much excessive bad language in the paper which would no doubt sort of annoy some of his older

You know everyone out here says (Beep). They say (Beep) all the time, and I just say 'F'. That's
how I print it in the paper. We're just trying not to be boring. Just trying to be interesting.

For about two or three weeks he was pretty good to us, and then it all changed.

I always wanted it to be a lively read, I didn't want it to be a straight newspaper that reported
in an impartial manner 'cause I think it's sort of bullshit.

If you're the editor of, you know, a large city publication, then you're probably quite safe to go
grocery shopping if you've written a couple of, you know, articles that haven't been appreciated
but, yeah, not so in Cunnamulla.

People weren't used to it. They were used to local newspapers with pictures of cheque presentations
and lots of school news and nothing terribly controversial, but I was heavily influenced by the
British tabloids when I first started in journalism. Always go looking for controversy 'cause there
always is some.

Have you met Peter?

Yep. I recognise him, yeah. One of our interesting stories was the visit by former Environment
Minister Peter Garrett.

How are you?

Nice to meet you. Jo Shepherd.

Likewise. How are you going?

Lead singer of The Oils, of course, who came out here to open a bird sanctuary on a working cattle
property. Jo collects photos of politicians.

Can you get out of the way, James.

It was choreographed to the minute. It was classic fly in fly out, stage managed with all the press
there and the TV cameras rolling and all that.

This place will become a Mecca for bird watchers.

He waxed lyrical about the wildlife but he was unable to identify many of them. You do get called
the Minister for Geckos and Gallery Openings. Does that hurt?

Who by? (Laughs) I think you just made that up.

I think that's what they call you. Mostly I've had people come in here upset about our court
stories, and they've used stronger language than 'you fool'. They said, 'Hey mate, that's not good
you putting our names in the paper', and I said, 'Well, don't do anything stupid and you won't end
up in the paper. Stay out of court, stay out of the paper.' Kevin Halliday's wife Barbara is the
judge, and she's apparently very hard on her husband.

He was gung-ho and people, they were too frightened to tell him the truth any more 'cause they were
frightened they were going to get quoted.

My son had a little bit of bad luck with a dog the other day and picked the local rag up last night
and here it is 'Wilfred Fagan dies in a one car vehicle accident.' Wildred's the dog, yeah.

And so, the community turned straight off him. He struggled to get interviews.

You think he's a novice?

I don't think he is but anyway.

Even socially people were ostracising him.

No. No. Just calm down.

James, um, gives no-one an easy ride and certainly, you know, neighbours or not, he actually said
to me once, you know, that I was the closest thing to a celebrity, um, that he had so, you know, I
was open slather.

We didn't always agree with everything that her council did and in a town like this, people take
things personally. And she was a bit of a media tart.

He made quite a lot of reference to me being a blonde which I think most professional women, you
know, seethe a little bit at.

This all came to a head at the Cunnamulla Fella bull ride one night where Jo's husband, Digger,
sort of pulled me up on it, if you like, and he told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn't to
write about his wife anymore.

I thought, 'Dear, oh dear, this is not going to end good.'

It started something off in the crowd. When this guy moved off, another bloke tapped him on the
shoulder and said, 'Yeah, I just want to have a go about you about this'. Then about three minutes
later, someone came up and said, 'You said something about my dad, and that's not true,' and I
think that whole episode might have just pulled him back a bit, made him rethink everything.

I thought it might come to blows, but it didn't but, yeah, it probably did make me pull my horns in
a little bit.

I think he's doing an amazing job and I admire him and I admire his bravery as well. But yeah, I'm
always encouraging James to have empathy. I don't know if that comes naturally to him.

So do you want to see it protected, the sand hill?

Yeah, there won't be any here if you don't.

But it's just another sand hill. There's sand hills all over this country. Why's this one so
special? I'm torn between two occupations and both of them are suffering. They want to fence it off
for cultural and heritage reasons.

A rural property requires constant work, constant maintenance, because you can't wait until things
are collapsing before you fix them.

Pabra was just falling apart. The stock weren't being properly looked after, the house was falling
apart, the bathrooms were full of frogs and there was a mouse plague on and it was just -
everything seemed to be falling apart and nothing was being properly done.

Yeah, most of the people I'm close to aren't too happy about the situation. My brother
particularly. He had a bit of a vent a couple of months ago, where he laid it all on the line and I
told him that, yeah, 'Of course, it's not an ideal situation, but you're just going to have to live
with it. Life's not perfect.'

We just realise we both have different priorities. James has his dream, I have mine and at the
moment they're not aligning.

It's a god job you come out, Phlippo, and do these jobs. I should have told you about the dunny
pipe that's disconnected. You would have got that one done too.

No, you told me about that last time.

Brothers are stuck with each other, you can't break that blood link. If you really put him on the
spot and just say, 'Have you lost money in the last five years since your brother's been running
the show?' And he'd have to say, 'No, I've made more money than I've ever made before.'

So did they look poor in condition?

No, no, no. It's just not as neat as perhaps he would like.

The hours he puts in to that paper - they're ridiculous, it's too much for one man. I feel as
though I'm watching a slow motion train wreck.

All this time, Josephine was very much involved in the Watchman and she was very forbearing, very
patient and, you know, I'd be dragging her out of bed at 2 o'clock in the morning to catch papers.
It looked like a job you'd still find today in India or China but not in a Western democracy. Just
that little bit of adjustment anyway. Right-o, that'll do us... And then she started saying no,
'No, I'm not coming out to catch your papers,' and I thought that was a bit disloyal. Yeah, it's
coming up. It's going to do it again.

I just said, 'This is inhumane.' And anyway, there were floods of tears and sort of storming around
and may have broken a few plates, I can't really recall. Anyway, I refused to help him. I said,
'I'm not doing it. This is enough. You've reached the limit now.'

I started having trouble with a streak appearing right across the middle of the front page
photograph and it just spread like some plague. After a lot of cursing and swearing I stopped the
press. And that's where it's stayed ever since. The last of those pages are sitting on the press

The press breaking down - it saved our relationship, I think. I think we wouldn't have lasted if
we'd continued the way we were going.

I got it printed by outside printers which just changed our lives. Now I just press a button. It
ends up on a press in Toowoomba. The next day it's on a plane back to Cunnamulla. We pick them up
and distribute them. We're in a rush to get these papers back on the plane to Thargo... It's saved
us at least two days a week.

I thank the press, I think the printing press must have just said, 'Oh, these two are in trouble.
Stop working.' (Speaks French)

All through our relationship, I've always had the feeling Josephine always had one foot out the
door ready to do a bolt if things got too tough. (Speaks French) And Josephine started making
noises about getting married and that was sort of an all-out assault on one of my basic tenets of
life - don't get married. (All speaking French)

And then we started planning this big birthday party. As a bit of a joke, I said, 'We should have a
surprise wedding at the party.' He seemed a bit tickled by the idea. You little sneak. No inkling?
Come on, Leander. And we ambushed our friends and family with a surprise wedding at the party which
was on a sand hill on the property. A beautiful spot where the sun went down and the moon rose.

We were surprised because James had just turned 50 and we'd all given up hope and we were just so
pleased. Even though he's 50 years old, you're never too late.

It is the star to every wandering mark. I do.

I do.

This is my solemn vow.

This is my solemn vow.

(All cheer)

After 3.5 years of trying to make a baby, suddenly we're pregnant. Yeah, which is amazing. Quite,
sort of, unbelievable. Got the illness to prove it.

I do think, just from knowing Josephine, that he is definitely a calmer person. She counteracts
James, that wild, ADHD, streak that he might have all the time and she just balances it so well. I
really think they make a great couple. James has been fantastic for the town.

Have you got a footy team this weekend?

Yeah, mate, yeah.

He sells the town in his paper every week. It's been excellent. He definitely has changed and he's
mellowed. He's just changed his whole attitude to small town living, I think. He still does a good
article, but he sees each side and he gets more opinion, which is so much better for a community.

Papers are here, Val.

I've become very attached to Cunnamulla - friendly, good hearted people. There are times when it
closes in on you a bit though and you have to get out and into the wider world and take a deep
breath and come back in again. Whether James can continue to run a paper and run a property as
well, I just don't quite know how long it would last.

We've become a bit more ambitious. Well, I've become a bit more ambitious. Nobody else is. So we've
opened up an office in the next big town up the road and we're trying to cover the area bigger and
better. Bush fires will be the next thing...

We'll take over the South West. We'll be the Murdochs of Cunnamulla and surrounds.

You're alright, Pete, just keep looking for those birds.

You guys have got an intense media exercise happening here.

We never do this, we just have things involving horses. We haven't gained a lot of insight here but
we'll have to dig deeper. Closed Captions by CSI

This Program is Captioned Live.

Good evening, Craig Allen with an