31/07/2007 - 22:00

The next step

31/07/2007 - 22:00

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It’s not often you get to sign off in the way that you want to, but I’m lucky enough to be doing just that.

It’s not often you get to sign off in the way that you want to, but I’m lucky enough to be doing just that.

The words that follow this will be my last editorial as editor of WA Business News.

After nearly seven years in this role, it’s time to give someone else a chance, so I heartily endorse my successor, Mark Beyer, who will take over as editor after more than four years as the paper’s leading reporter.

But it’s not the end of me by any means.

In some ways, Mark and I are changing hats.

While he takes on the day-to-day task of running the newspaper and our online news service, the Daily Business Alerts, I plan to devote more time to writing, including a weekly column. Some might suggest this will enable me to put some of the things I have learned as an editor to good use. Let’s hope so.

But it’s not really a case of just swapping roles.

The objective of our change is to make sure that Mark continues to write and contribute his journalistic skills to the newspaper as a reporter.

As the organisation’s new managing editor, I will also remain in touch with the business as we continue to position it for growth in this fast-growing state.

I believe we’ve built a unique newspaper and a strong team to make sure that WA Business News is the first choice for relevant news and views to help business in this state grow.

 

Period of growth

Now, if you don’t mind me indulging myself – though many probably believe I already do that every week – I thought I’d share some of the highlights over the past seven years.

Back in late 2000, the all ordinaries was trading at 3,240.8, while this week it was trading at around 6,150. BHP Billiton Ltd was just under $18 a share (compared with about $37), Rio Tinto Ltd more than $27 (now $91, having been over $100), and Wesfarmers Ltd was around $12 (as against about $38 currently).

Seven years ago the Australian dollar had drifted below US50 cents; now it has surged to almost US90 cents.

And housing prices…well, you get the drift.

As believer in the Western Australian story, I have to acknowledge that this state has so many resources it had to perform strongly. Despite this, however, the scale and speed of the growth we have seen has been staggering.

I’ve been especially grateful to see how many of those devel-opments have been real, having taken place and been successful, as opposed to the largesse of the state’s previous booms when dreams were dressed up as investments. No matter what happens in the short term, we are fundamentally better off after this period of investment.

 

Winners and losers

It has also been great to participate in this growth, both as a business and a news organisation.

In our self-appointed role as an ambassador to the business community, we have championed a few issues along the way, none as often or as robustly as highlighting the skills shortage in the state.

These days the skills shortage is well known, but when we started doing cover stories on it, it was well off the radar of most of the community, with only the leading businesses starting to encounter this issue.

We’ve also had the great opportunity to highlight some of the state’s emerging businesses and business people, with cover stories on Michael Chaney, Andrew Forrest, Michael Malone and Michael Kiernan to name a few.

Most of these characters have not only graced our pages, but have also shared their thoughts through WA Business News events, a hugely successful part of our company and something that did not exist when I started at the newspaper.

It’s been a pleasure to watch it grow, including huge events like the WA Business News 40under40 Awards program, which has attracted nominees numbering in the high hundreds and an audience of thousands over the past six years.

Of course, not all the news has been good.

Evans & Tate Ltd, Sons of Gwalia Ltd, Chemeq Ltd and Westpoint Corporation Pty Ltd are some of the low points in the past seven years.

And it’s not just what has been done, the growth that has been achieved; it’s also worth remembering the public policy failures along the way.

The Swan River foreshore remains as disconnected from the city as ever, housing has become unaffordable to many, and immigration rules have yet to help WA deal with the skills crisis.

There has been a bundle of other developments along the way – the diminishing power of unions, a railway from Perth to Mandurah, the impact of terrorism and regional war, and the real rise of the internet – all of which have been controversial and/or influential on public debate.

 

Technology shift

Aside from a final thank you, I will devote the remainder of this column to the last of those developments – the internet.

Just more than 18 months ago we launched our Daily Business Alerts email service, taking advantage of the internet and its growing place in business people’s lives.

This was not a cutting edge idea – in a global sense – but it was certainly a novel idea in WA, where news organisations with a once proud heritage were slow to keep up with their international counterparts.

The DBA has been a real hit. It has penetrated the market better than we could have hoped for in such a short time and has been very well received.

From an editor’s point of view, it gives a much better idea of what you – the readers – want to read, allowing us to better spend effort and resources covering the issues that really matter to you.

 

Making it happen

Finally, thanks to all the loyal WA Business News readers who have helped the newspaper get to where it is today.

The owners of this journal backed the idea of real local news to help business grow and more than a dozen journalists, photographers and production people – some of them very talented – committed some part of their career to developing our product.

We decided that the market wanted relevant news, not just headlines that grabbed attention for attention’s sake.

We also wanted to be positive and focus on the success stories. Not to ignore the poor business performance, but to highlight it better when we chose to cover it.

We also wanted to be deeper in our coverage, so that those who consumed what we produced learned more about the overall sectors and markets because the news was put in context.

We wanted to be focused on WA. As news distribution consolidates around the planet, its gets cheaper and easier for media outlets to funnel news from central locations.

These days you’ll read more about Sydney, Shanghai and New York in your local press than you will about companies doing business at home.

We wanted to be different, and provide insight into what’s happening in your neighbourhood.

Thankfully, you, our readers, have responded to this approach.

It has been very heartening to have this strategy backed by the market.

Everyone in WA said the state needed a robust independent media, but the subscribers to WA Business News are the ones who have actually made that happen. Thank you.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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