15 years in Penrith’s best job

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Welcome to 2024.

It feels somewhat surreal to say that – not just because the years seem to pass by so quickly, but because next week I’ll celebrate 15 years as the Managing Editor of The Western Weekender.

Hence, a little bit of reflection in my first column of the year.

I can vividly remember Australia Day in 2009. It was a Monday, and I was hosting Penrith City Council’s Australia Day event at the Sydney International Regatta Centre.

I’d just finished up as KICK FM’s Drive host; the station disappearing from Penrith’s radio scene almost as quickly as it came.

I was heading back to the Western Weekender, where I’d cut my teeth in the media industry a few years earlier. Only problem was that the Weekender was coming off a troubled summer, where its very existence was under threat.

As Australia Day celebrations rolled on, an edition needed to come out in two days’ time and at that point, we had no access to the Weekender office, a new ownership group was in place and there was huge question marks over whether the Weekender name could even be used as legal complications surrounded the paper.

Turns out it couldn’t, and my first few editions as ‘Acting’ Editor were of a brand new publication – The Weekly View. It would be another two months before the Weekender masthead would return atop the publication you read today.

To be honest back in January 2009 I doubted I’d last 15 minutes in the role let alone 15 years.

Weekender Managing Editor, Troy Dodds.

There was some resistance from some within Penrith to me taking the chair – understandable, given I was 25 at the time and the grey hair that now adorns the top of my head was a couple of years away.

At one point, a prominent Penrith identity told me ‘a bullet was coming’ – thankfully, it was a metaphor, but it seemed everyone – me included – presumed my time with Editor on the business card would be limited.

Sometimes though, things just work out.

And here I am – 15 years having a front row seat to the extraordinary stories our city produces on a daily, weekly and yearly basis. 15 years watching Penrith grow at an unprecedented pace, and to emerge as an economic and social powerhouse in Australia.

I’m often asked why I haven’t left. Some people are too kind and believe I should be working for a national media company.

Others, well, they wish I would leave for other reasons.

But why would I leave the best job in the world? At least, the best job in my world.

The Weekender’s Troy Dodds at the Local Business Awards.

When Kathryn Garton took ownership of the Weekender in 2015, it returned the paper to where it belonged – in local hands – and we haven’t looked back.

I genuinely love coming to work every day.

Penrith is a unique beast – always has been – but now it is proving its uniqueness in the media landscape, with one of the only areas in metropolitan Sydney to still have a traditional newspaper serving its residents.

This should not be under-valued. Without local journalism, so many of the stories that deserve to be told – and need to be told – simply disappear.

There are areas all over Australia without a local journalist covering Council meetings, or local courts, or achievements by residents. As good as the digital revolution may be for many consumers, that doesn’t sound like progress to me.

The fact that the Weekender stands tall here in Penrith is something our city should be very proud of. I certainly am.

Weekender Editor Troy Dodds speaking with Karen McKeown and Chris Minns. Photo: Megan Dunn.

Highs and lows of the last 15 years? Too many to mention in both categories. I have edited thousands and thousands of stories in the last 15 years, written 750-odd opinion columns and hundreds and hundreds of stories in my own right.

There is a mixture of heartbreak, of pride, of excitement… the words go on. You write about people’s best days, and their worst. You cover life and city changing events. It is a roller-coaster ride no theme park could match.

If I’ve learned one thing from these past 15 years, it would be this, cliché as it may seem: don’t sweat the small stuff and embrace the life you have and the people in your orbit.

I have learned through this job how quickly your normal can be taken away, and the little things we often concern ourselves about don’t really matter.

I do admit, covering Penrith’s incredible NRL three-peat has been a highlight. As a lifelong footy fan, to be given the opportunity to be part of such an incredible experience is something I’ll never forget.

Diane Beamer chatting with the Weekender’s Troy Dodds today. Photo: Melinda Jane

The Weekender started its existence with John Cartwright on the cover back in 1991 and our coverage of rugby league has only grown since then. It is central to so much of what we do, and we’re looking forward to bringing you another season of coverage in 2024.

A final word, before we kick-off this year? As you read these pages each week, please support the businesses you see advertising here. They ‘get it’, just like you do as a reader. They support local news, and they help to deliver the content we produce every single week.

I sincerely hope everyone had a fabulous summer, and I can’t wait to see what Penrith has in store for us in 2024.

And who knows, the next 15 years may be even more of a roller coaster ride than the last 15!


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