A champion of the ‘people’s paper’

Journal stalwarts Marg Stork and John Woods.

Former Journal editor John Woods has died following a long cancer battle.
His family announced on Monday 18 December that he passed away peacefully and comfortably on Sunday 17 December, aged 78.
A post on Mr Woods’ own Facebook page said a celebration of his life would be conducted at a time and place to be announced, likely in a few weeks’ time.
“At his request, and consistent with the way in which he lived his life, John was clear that he wanted no fuss surrounding his departure, preferring to simply take his bat and ball, and go ‘home’,” it said.
The post described John as a “very fine gentleman, who never came close to understanding in just what regard he was held”.
Mr Woods started his stint as editor and group editor in the early 1960s.
“The people felt it was their paper,” he said in September 2013, when the Journal joined the Star News Group stable.
“People just loved it.”
Under his stewardship, the Journal won national and state awards, including best suburban newspaper in Australia.
“I have vivid memories of the 1960s and ‘70s when it was produced from go to whoa from a ramshackle building in Scott Street and when literally hundreds of people queued up on a Wednesday afternoon to buy the paper as it came off an equally – by today’s standards – ramshackle press, capable of somewhat slowly churning out only 16 pages at a time,” he said in August 2015, when the Journal celebrated its 150th year.
“And that was when the overall size of paper was at least 64 pages.”
Mr Woods also said at that time that he was privileged to be the editor of the Journal for more than 30 years.
He watched the paper change in its appearance and the way it was produced, “but not its basic mandate: serving its readers and advertisers not only via content but, equally if not more importantly, community involvement”.
The Rotary Club of Dandenong made Mr Woods a Paul Harris Fellow, without him being a member of the organisation, and he was named Dandenong’s Citizen of the Year in 1987.
When he retired as the Journal’s editor in 1994, Dandenong Council organised a public farewell attended by more than 500 representatives of business and community groups.
Mr Woods recalled the next door pub’s bar and pool room, which conveniently opened out to the Journal office’s back door, and escaping for a “lemon squash” or “a bit of pool”.
“I shudder to think how we got the paper out with all of our socialising,” he said.
Back in August 2015, former Dandenong mayor Frank Holohan told the Journal that John was always referred to as “the 13th councillor as he always seemed to get the inside information”.
Mr Woods was the editor when the Journal’s front page headline screamed Pommie bludgers on 21 March 1974.
“British migrants,” read the first paragraph “were described yesterday as ‘bludgers’ by a top Dandenong clothing manufacturer”.
“It was the biggest furore I ever caused,” Mr Woods said “as the story and its follow-ups certainly proved!”
Bomb threats, abuse and warnings of legal action swiftly followed.
The next week the Journal devoted three pages to the reaction from “irate Britishers”, including a phone call from a woman who threatened to “come in later with a bomb in my hand”.
Then Immigration Minister Al Grassby also weighed in phoning the Journal to say that hanging labels on migrant groups was “un-Australian”.
Forty years later, Mr Woods was still keeping mum about the identity of the mystery manufacturer.
Only he and the late Marg Stork knew the identity of the businessman.

Watch the pair speak about their time together at the paper here:


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