The first issue of HMA News was published by the Victorian HMA in May 1997 as a slim magazine of just 12 pages – eight in black & white with just the four cover pages in colour. Those were the days when full four colour process was just too expensive to print!
Rob Pelletier, who was HMA Victoria president at the time, said in his introduction:
‘One of the first things that had to be dealt with in planning a newsletter for the association was the boring business of how to pay for it. Advertising seemed the only viable solution. There was no way we could establish a subscriber base nor fund it from membership subscriptions.’
He continued: ‘The HMA News is intended for all hort media workers and associated industry and commercial organisations throughout Australia, however, at present it is produced on behalf of the HMA group in Victoria. There the committee has proceeded with the newsletter fully intending that ultimately it will fall under the auspices of a truly representative national body.’
When he wrote those words, Rob would never have expected that it would take more than 20 years for this to come to fruition!
The editorial committee of HMA Victoria, ably led in 1997 by Gwen Elliot, decided that the magazine should showcase the photographic skills of members on its covers. Rather than just ‘pretty pictures’, not that there’s anything wrong with them, the thought was that the cover shots should be somewhat left of field or off the wall – different enough to stand out.
The late Joy Harland’s red poppy image fitted the brief beautifully – the blurred foreground acting as the ideal foil to the perfectly in focus poppy flower and stems in the centre.
Over the years, the covers of HMA News have highlighted the talent in our midst. Many of the stunning photos that have graced the cover over the years were entered in the Joy Harland Memorial Photographic Competition by members from all States. The competition, held in alternate years to the HMAA Laurel Awards, was established to commemorate Joy’s outstanding contribution to horticultural photography.
Under the guidance of the inaugural editor Neil Williams and advertising manager Jo Lidgerwood, HMA News blossomed. By June 2001, the size had increased to 20 or more pages, articles and reports were coming in from a core of regular contributors across Australia and it was being mailed out to some 400 HMA members and associated industry people nationally.
The March 2002 issue saw the introduction of colour into the magazine, albeit a four page centre spread two pages of which were colour advertisements. It was not until Autumn 2006 that the magazine went to full colour.
In its 20 year history, HMA News has had only four editors: Neil Williams (May 1997 – December 2005), Helen Schwab (January 2006 – March 2012), Karen Shaw (July 2012 – June 2016) and Miffy Gilbert (August 2016 – current).
Helen Schwab’s untimely passing in 2012 was commemorated with one of her photos on the cover of the Winter 2012 magazine – the only time an editor’s own image has ever appeared on an HMA News cover.
Over the journey, HMA News has been fortunate to have a steady stream of enthusiastic contributors who have supplied informative content of particular interest to hort media operatives, including a few international correspondents.
Advertising from a steadfast core of industry supporters has remained a constant but, with increasing costs, signing up new advertisers has become increasingly difficult. From its beginning in 1997, HMA News has always had to be self-funding. It receives no financial support from HMAA or HMA Victoria but in recent years, any surpluses from the ‘good’ years has been eaten into to keep it afloat.
The recent decision by the HMAA Executive, supported by members nationally, to move to digital communications channels in 2018 sees the end of the printed magazine but not by any means the end of HMA News. It will continue on in some shape or form online.
As members of the media, many of us now work almost entirely in digital and electronic media. Publishing hard copy magazines and even books is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. It is therefore appropriate that our own media association move with the times and publish its news in the space in which we work.