Contributors and staff
(or drudges in Echo vernacular)
Chris Dobney’s unlikely career in journalism started when, as a 20-something, mostly out-of-work actor in the 1980s, he took up writing theatre reviews for a Melbourne gay newspaper.
On one occasion, as he arrived at the basement office with his weekly copy, he was approached by the publisher.
‘What are you up to this week?’ he was asked. ‘The editor’s sick.’
Chris pulled up a chair and began teaching himself how to use a computer – and publish a newspaper.
It was a steep learning curve. When there wasn’t enough copy for the first edition, he begged the layout artists to increase the size of the photos, thereby learning the first lesson of editing: Readers Like Big Pictures.
Days turned into weeks and the founding editor’s condition worsened: he soon passed over the baton permanently. Chris had stumbled into the job of editor of Melbourne’s only gay publication at the height of the AIDS crisis.
It was a dramatic time and gay newspapers had an incredibly important role to fulfil, keeping their readership up with the latest developments as well as trying to keep up their spirits.
Production was all done by hand and was frequently an all-night affair. The paper was laid out from galleys spat out on photographic paper by a state-of-the-art Linotype machine. On more than one occasion Chris got home in the early hours to find fragments of type, intended as corrections for the paper, glued to the bottom of his shoe.
Chris went on to edit the [then] national gay magazine OutRage and Sydney’s first weekly gay newspaper Capital Q before making the leap into the new world of internet publishing in 1997.
Fairfax began its online events guide CitySearch in September of that year and Chris was its first Sydney editor. With a team of seven specialist writers, it was a far cry from the early days in that Melbourne basement.
Chris went on to become editorial director of CitySearch, which by then included guides to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra.
The site, which had been developed in the US, was in fact incredibly forward thinking. It linked events to their locations, complete with reviews, maps, user comments and frequently videos (if only people’s dial-up connections were fast enough to watch them.)
It was extremely popular with its readers but ultimately, like many early internet start-ups, failed to succeed financially.
When CitySearch was sold, Chris was asked to stay on at Fairfax to become entertainment editor of the by-then burgeoning Sydney Morning Herald website: smh.com.au.
It was a wonderful opportunity and a great job for a number of years. But after some 15 years in Sydney, Chris began yearning to escape city life.
In the mid 2000s, he and his partner began visiting the northern rivers, which Chris had fallen in love with during his student days as a participant in the Nimbin Aquarius Festival.
The two decided on a tree-change, buying a small holding just outside of Bangalow in 2007.
During that early period, Chris had a stint as an online editor for APN, frequently sourcing stories for as many as 14 dailies from Coffs Harbour to Rockhampton.
Then, in 2011, Chris saw an ad for an online editor at the Echo, a publication he’d dreamed about working for.
He insisted upon being made editor and has subsequently seen the publication through from its rocky first few issues to the streamlined website that it is today.
In many ways, working for the Echo completes the circle for Chris, who began his editorial life working for community publications and, after a long stint working for the big corporates, is happy to be doing so again.
Chris is very grateful for the opportunity to offer a much-needed alternative voice to the news and events of the region.
Luis Feliu has been a working journalist for 36 years. Raised and educated in Canberra, he started his profession as a cadet on the then Fairfax-family owned The Canberra Times in the late 1970s (during the ‘hot-metal’ era of printing newspapers before it was phased out). He trained in many facets of the profession, including general news writing, editing, court reporting, sports, finance, parliament, feature writing, local politics and was also a rock music columnist for several years in that time). The cadetship included a stint at The Sydney Morning Herald.
In the early 1980s he joined Australian Associated Press (AAP) in Sydney, and also briefly studied political economy at Sydney University, then back to Canberra where he joined the federal public service as an A-grade journalist working in various departments over several years including territories, education and industrial relations. While there he also studied political science at Australian National University.
After leaving Canberra for the NSW north coast in the late 1980s, he worked casually at both The Tweed Daily News and The Northern Star before settling into the Daily News as general and council/political reporter and sub-editor for almost two decades. In 2006 he left the Daily News and worked as a casual reporter for The Northern Star, covering local courts before joining the independent Northern Rivers Echo in Lismore for a few years as general reporter.
In 2008 he was headhunted by the Byron Shire Echo management to run a new paper, the Tweed Shire Echo, which became one of the most respected and loved weeklies in the region and spearheaded many successful campaigns for local environmental causes and against inappropriate developments threatening communities throughout the shire. After it closed in 2011, he joined Echonetdaily where he continues to report on a wide range of issues throughout the northern rivers region.
Luis has lived in Brunswick Heads for over 10 years after moving there from his former rural slice of paradise in the foothills of Mt Warning near Uki where he lived for almost 20 years and was an active member of that community.
Echonetdaily’s resident filmmaker, Sharon Shostak grew up in the local area and made her first Super 8 film in 1984, followed by training in postproduction in the Victorian film industry, travel, and two degrees in film. After settling back in the Byron shire and procreating, it was the win of Best Film at the New York Short Film Festival in 2004 that made her eminently employable and since then she has worked mainly in documentary, education and music video clips.
In 2011 Sharon wrote, directed and edited the independent documentary feature The Echo Doco – Born To Be Trouble, as well as her 2012 dramatic short feature Tish Ho, winner of The Triangle Award for Excellence In Originality from the Colombia Gorge International Film Festival, USA. Sharon also produces longer commissioned documentary pieces for Lismore Regional Gallery, and tutors primary school students in devising, creating and acting in their own digital short dramas.
Born in Sydney in 1941, our venerable political correspondent spent almost 20 years in the Canberra press gallery, where he worked for just about every press, radio and television outlet in the nation and a few overseas. He is most famous (or notorious) for his years with Nation Review, sometimes remembered as Australia’s first attempt at Gonzo journalism. He also covered several series of test cricket for the Australian Financial Review.
He moved to the north coast in 1988, where he indulges his other interests: body surfing, bushwalking, travel, gardening, theatre, sport and cooking. When not lunching, he is usually writing a book, 11 of which have been published. His partner is the videomaker Jenny Garrett; their annual St Mungo’s Day party has become a local legend. Between them they have four daughters and two grandchildren. Mungo continues to deny that he is more than semi-retired:
I once was an over-achiever
A true journalistic believer
But now I relax
With a phone and a fax
And a large curly-coated retriever.
(Actually the retriever has passed on, but there are other dogs.)
Entertainment editor, columnist, comedian
Mandy Nolan has performed as a standup comedian for more than 20 years. During that time, she has worked alongside celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg, Ertha Kit, and Bob Downe. Amid a full schedule of live acts, television and radio appearances, a weekly press column in The Echo and a comedy course (did we mention she also has five children?), Mandy also finds time as a MC, presenter and conference facilitator.
See Mandy’s Soapbox every week here in Echonetdaily. www.mandynolan.com.au
S Sorrensen is a writer. His weekly column Here & Now appears each Thursday in Echonetdaily.
S has been a column writer for 10 years, his columns first published in the Northern Rivers Echo based in Lismore, where he worked as a journalist. After that newspaper was sold to APN, S wanted an independent newspaper to be home for his column. Consequently, S is happily now part of the Echonetdaily team.
S is also a comedian, teacher of English, traveller, and lives in solar-powered shack tucked under wild cliffs north of Lismore.
Journalist, Photographer, Filmmaker, Artivist
Eve Jeffery, aka the Tree Faerie, has been a writer and photographer since her teen years in Melbourne.
Her background in theatre, dance, puppetry, television and probably one too many days as a vocalist in a rock band rehearsal room, have allowed her to view the entertainment industry from both sides.
A well-spent youth as a little athlete, an A-Grade netballer, a one-eyed Collingwood supporter and fifth-form PE have added that pinch of sporting mongrel.
Eve is also an artivist creating several short films in the fight against CSG and the Coalmonster with her other sideline Cloudcatcher Media.
Eve has been a single mother to the ‘best kids on the planet’ for 21 years – she has raised an activist and a ballerina, in that order. She has lived on the north coast for 20 years and loves and adores being part of what she considers the unique and very special Echo Publications family to whom she has belonged for more than 10.
She is also a grandmother to an Italian Greyhound…
I’ve been Jeff Dawson for more than 60 years, it’s probably too late to do anything about that now.
I’ve surfed most of my life away.
I’m been blessed to have a beautiful partner, good friends, a caring family, good health and an appreciation of irony.
I harbour a healthy respect for the rules of anarchy.
I disrespect Woolworths.
Being a part of The Byron Shire Echo is a source of much inspiration, pride, purpose, love, joy and creativity.
Editor, Byron Shire Echo
In addition to his role as the editor of the Byron Shire Echo since 2010, Hans is an accomplished musician. A graduate of the Canberra School of Music, Hans has played the double bass and electric bass for more than 20 years, in all styles and at most of Australia’s premier festivals. See www.hanslovejoy.com for more.
David Lovejoy arrived in Australia in 1971, after travelling overland (mostly) from England. He helped found The Echo in 1986 and has played many roles in the newspaper’s history. Now officially retired, he still occasionally fills in for sick or holidaying staff in between attending chess tournaments. He has accumulated a son, a daughter, three grandchildren and three cats. In addition to his Echo articles David has written a memoir and two historical novels. See www.pelagius.com.au for more.
Michael McDonald joined The Echo crew in 1986 when he became the ‘overseas correspondent’ in Tasmania. Two years later he moved to Byron Shire and started covering local news. Since that time Michael has reported on everything from local government to CWA cake stalls. He was the editor from 1995 to 2010 and then handed over the reins to Hans Lovejoy. In semi-retirement, his hobbies include chess, poultry and tennis, not necessarily all at once.
John is a short-story writer and artist whose paintings have been hung in the Wynne, Sulman and Blake Prizes. He has been The Echo’s movie reviewer and rugby league correspondent since 2007, in which year he was nominated in the Australian Sports Commission Media Awards.
Mary Gardner is a writer, biologist and photographer, contributing articles about local ecology for The Echo since 2007. Since 2012, she is also a PhD student of Southern Cross University. Her research topic is the historical marine ecology of the subtropics, focusing on Byron Shire. Her special interest is the history of marine animals and people in this place over the past three hundred years. She’s always interested to hear from readers who wish to share their sea stories about the region, people and animals. For more of her work, visit her website Tangle of Life – www.tangleoflife.org. Collected writings and photos are also available as e-books.
The work experience kid that never left. Ziggi has worked his way up from a junior graphic designer making classified ads for the Byron Echo back in 2001. Production manager since 2005, he oversees the production of all Echo publications and is chief architect of this website. Like the grease in a machine, Ziggi makes sure The Echo keeps ticking over smoothly.