Hills News’ fascinating history in pictures

We began as the ‘Parramatta and Hills News –The Voice of the People’ in 1957.

Previously working at Cumberland Press, founding editor Ron Stettler believed the community deserved more and went out on his own. Ron was reportedly a man who believed that the “story someone did not want printed was real news and the stuff they did not want printed was public relations”. 

To get the venture off the ground, Ron and two mates put in $1000 each. 

Aided by his family, he operated the six to eight page paper each week without a telephone for two years, and in those days newsagents couldn’t stock free newspapers, so they charged 3 pence.

The News was operated out of an office in George Street, Parramatta and printed in Conie Avenue, Baulkham Hills. Front page news focused on pure local news: engagement and wedding announcements, dances and obituaries. 

The bulk of the newspapers were delivered to homes in the back of Ron’s Hillman Minx car. 

His daughter Jennifer Touzel said: “A great deal of the news in the paper was contributed by the community. It was a community newspaper and Dad wanted the locals to have their say. Dad did just about everything and he soon had a circulation of around 10,000.

“Cumberland offered to buy him out but he refused, and a bit of a newspaper war started. He also used to spend a couple of afternoons at the local barber shop where he picked up a lot gossip and current happenings.”

In the 60s, headlines were dominated by nature: heatwaves, an earthquake (hit Baulkham Hills in 1961), hail, and bushfires caused extensive damage. In 1962, plans for a major shopping centre for Baulkham Hills (now Stockland Mall) were revealed, and again in 1966, with Castle Mall.

In the early days, few pictures were used in editorial or advertisements. The process was too complicated and pictures had to be sent away to have blocks made. 

In the 70s ‘The Voice of the People’ was replaced by ‘An Independent Newspaper’, which was dropped in 1976 and picked up again in 1980.

In August, 1984, Parramatta was dropped from the masthead and the Hills News soon proved it didn’t need it to survive.  

Warwick Dawson and his partner Jim Holmes bought the Hills News masthead in 1984. Distribution grew from 7000 to 20,000 a week. 

In 1997, Mr Dawson said: “I was attracted to the News back in 1984 because I could see the huge potential of the area. We really liked running an independent paper that was more in touch, more relevant to the community.”

In 1997, Mr Dawson sold it to Fairfax Media. 

This story Hills News’ fascinating history in pictures first appeared on Hills News.


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