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Ad boss to hit the road after 40 years with BDT

Friday, 10th March, 2017

Peter Keenan with advertising staff Toni Elliot and Rod Niemann after winning Best Advertisement of the Year award in 1987 from the SA Country Press Association. Peter Keenan with advertising staff Toni Elliot and Rod Niemann after winning Best Advertisement of the Year award in 1987 from the SA Country Press Association.

By Emily Roberts

If the lifeblood of any newspaper is advertising then Peter Keenan must be the veins of the BDT.

Peter has been at the paper for 40 years and is about to go on leave pending possible retirement.

He started at the BDT in 1977 after working at the Barrier Miner for nine years and living overseas for three.

“I worked as a hand machine compositor and a lino-type operator at the Barrier Miner,” he said.

“I had been working at the North Mine for a few weeks and I didn’t like it so a job came up at the BDT and I applied for it.

“I worked mostly afternoon shifts - it was similar to what it is now. We had dayshift and afternoon shifts. Sometimes we didn’t finish until 2.30am.”

Peter said a lot of the staff he knew had also moved from the Barrier Miner.

“In 1978 the BDT made the change from hot metal to the Compugraphic electronic system. This brought the paper into the computer age.

“They made me production manager - I was in charge of every department in the paper.

“The first thing I wanted to do was reduce the overtime bill and put the paper in line so each department flowed.”

He held that position for two and a half years.

“The ad manager then left and the general manager at the time, Chris Falkner, asked if I wanted the job.

“I said no, he said I should take it and I said no. Then I decided I would take it for a while.

“The BDT was always a struggling paper. We were a morning paper where the Barrier Miner was an afternoon paper; all the large stores went with the Miner.

“We struggled with advertising but when the Barrier Miner shut everyone came to the BDT, so we had to make it a paper you could be proud of.”

A Goss Community press was installed and the paper was brought even further into the computer age.

“I moved into advertising and that’s where I’ve been,” he said.

“The paper has developed over the years - we used to have to do everything by hand, all the layouts, and write the ads by hand.

“Then the guys out the back would make it up.

“In the last 10 years with the computer age we have made up our own ads on the computer.

“It’s made things a lot easier. It used to take me 40 to 45 minutes to lay out the ads in the paper. Now I do it on a computer and it takes me about 15 minutes, then the Editorial Department gets the layouts for tomorrow’s paper at about 1pm.

“The approach to selling ads is the same but there is less face-to-face contact.

“People send a lot of emails. Half the day can be taken up on the computer, sending and receiving emails and proofs.”

Recently, Peter made the decision to take long service leave.

“I will take 12 monthse and then after that I will see what happens.

“I haven’t really thought about what I will do - I want to plan a couple of holidays. I’ve also got a lot of work to do around the house and at tennis.

“I’m 66 years old, I need to take some long service leave.”

Peter has seen a lot of changes in his time.

“There has been three managers Chris Falkner, John Casey and Rod Niemann.

“I’ve worked with lots of editors; Glen Robertson, Kevin Ray, John Hudswell, David Pearce and Michael Murphy.

“They’ve all had their own ideas about running a paper and the layout of the paper.”

While each department of the paper is vital, Peter believes advertising was always the most important.

“Advertising is the lifeblood of the newspaper. The paper is like a big family that takes on boarders. Some come on board and stay a long time; others for a short period.

“It’s a profession with a lot of stress always meeting deadlines.

“The nucleus remains the same. On the whole the paper is a close knit organisation. It has to be to remain cohesive.

“When you have been doing something every day for 39 years it becomes a part of you.

“I will miss it but I’m sure I will come in from time to time.”

As well as being the advertising manager, Peter has given much time to various committees and volunteer work.

“I’ve been on lots of different committees; the Red Shield for 30 years, tennis for 29 years, the tourist association for nine years, the RDA committee, Broken Hill proud.

“I’ve played the bugle for 50 years for the Returned Servicemen’s League.

“I organised the SA Country Regional Press conference which came in 1987.

“When I first started there were 11 daily newspapers in South Australia Country Press and now most are bi-weekly or weekly.

“We’re the only daily.”

BDT General Manager Rod Niemann said he and Peter started working together in 1977 in the printing department.

“He was the production manager at that stage,” Rod said. “Then in 1980 he became the advertising manager.

“Working with him was just like working with one of the boys. Everyone pitched in but someone had to be in charge.

“Back then it was different. It was a lot more labour intensive.”

Rod said Peter’s expertise will be sorely missed.

“We both know how the newspaper game works; we’ve been in many roles.

“He was always good to work with. I will miss his banter and the knowledge he’s got - it will be missed around the place.

“I don’t think he will stay away, he will come into see what’s going on, especially after working here for 40 years.”

Rod said that Peter always had a way with words.

“Peter has the gift of the gab, whether it’s selling ads, getting people to be a part of a committee or joining a fundraiser.

“He was the instigator of the advertising contracts, which helped to increase revenue at the BDT.

“He also liaised with the national ad agencies and developed the BDT’s reputation with them.

“I think the community of Broken Hill will find it difficult with Peter not being available at the BDT.

“Now that he wants to travel, he will be harder to track down.”

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