By Daniel Bouwmeester & Jamie Furness
The month of July 2023 marks the 30th anniversary of The Lake News – a testament to the paper’s longevity and its valued place in our community.
The Lake News was founded by print shop owner Chris Wren, one of the original Forest Lake residents.
Chris built The Lake News from the ground up after he and his wife Betty moved to Forest Lake in the early 1990s. It was, and remains to this day, a popular source of community news, covering topics from working bees to village launches and community welcomes.
They retired in the 2000s, handing the business over to their daughter Susannah and son-in-law Graham Friis – with help from other family members along the way, too.
After nearly three decades of sharing the grassroots stories of Forest Lake, Susannah and Graham were also ready for a change of career.
Six years ago, Chris challenged then-pastor Paul Jackson to start a newspaper for the Logan West community – Logan West News – which has grown from a 16-page one-man experiment to three 40-page publications, including former LNP publications The Lake News and The Greater Springfield Times.
For this milestone issue, we spoke to our “founding father”, tapping into his memories – at age 83 – which he admits is a little fuzzy.
In April 1993, Chris Wren and his wife Betty were living in Corinda, with a family-owned cornershop printing business on Keble Street called Wren Printing (relocated to Bernoulli Street, Richlands around 1996).
But they were also empty-nesters needing to downsize.
“We decided we needed to move. We’d been out to Forest Lake and saw what a nice-looking place it was,” Chris said.
They were also looking to meet and get to know new people – to go somewhere fresh – and Forest Lake, with its roughly 600 homes at the time, fit the bill.
“So we bought a small house out there.”
After spending a few months introducing themselves to the locals, Chris formed a small group of like-minded residents, and they approached master developer Delfin about the possibility of starting a small community newspaper. Chris and Betty still had their printing business, so it was certainly practical.
“We chatted to Delfin, and they said: ‘That would be great. We’d support that.’”
Delfin even offered to deliver the paper to its residents.
“It was a real big help. I was happy to print it, through our printing shop. We worked from home on our Apple Macintosh, with the little screen.”
Financial feasibility, though, took a bit longer.
“We didn’t know whether people would advertise in it. People were starting businesses. There were a few shops that advertised in The Satellite. But eventually we got to the point where we could subsidise operations through our printery. Betty used to do the invoices for all the accounts, and basically managed it all at home.”
Through persistence, The Lake News – with its humble four pages – was born.
“It started to take off – which we had been rather surprised by,” Chris explained.
“Everybody liked having it. There was a sense of community with all the activities people were trying to start. It was delivered to everybody – and only to Forest Lake. Businesses realised they’d be advertising to people who were really going to come to them.”
They started to add more pages, and worked towards a bigger page size. The Baptist Union of Queensland had sold them their larger printing machine to accommodate the growth. Their son-in-law Graham Friis – and later, daughter Susannah – came to work for them.
Building a community – not a fortune.
Eventually, publishing The Lake News dominated Chris and Betty’s printing business.
“I said to our committee: ‘Does anyone else want to take it over? It’s just too much for us at the moment.’ It’s hard to believe [nowadays],” he joked, “but no one had a computer!”
Delfin was willing to continue supporting its delivery, but the only long-term solution was to officially incorporate The Lake News into their printing business. Despite the meagre revenue from advertisements, the paper was operating at a loss. The goal was to build a community, not a fortune.
“The ads didn’t cover the cost of it, so that spurred us to make it financially viable. But it didn’t take a lot to do that, because there was a lot of interest and there was a lot of growth in Delfin’s efforts to create Forest Lake.”
Fortunately, Delfin continued supporting the delivery for around 15 years.
“We shifted to doing it in colour – whatever colours were on the machine. Black and white inside, though, at first, then as the printing business was growing, eventually four-colour printing.”
The iconic yellow masthead, it turns out, was purely serendipitous: “We tried yellow, and thought, ‘that looks nice – we’ll go with that!’”
As the 2000s wore on, retirement became increasingly attractive, and Chris negotiated with Susannah and Graham an official deal to take over the business. His other daughter Kate and son-in-law Phillip joined later.
“We happily surrendered it to them. We were financially still involved, but we never interfered.”
“It’s my Bible“
“So that was the sort of journey – the motivation for Betty and me – which Susannah and Graham carried on, and now Paul and yourselves are carrying on,” Chris said, wistfully.
“It was my baby, but my baby had grown up and gone. It was in fact to serve the community. Building a better community is through communication.
“It’s been the community organisations and the general public that have really been the ones that want it.
“People have run out to me and said ‘The Lake News is my Bible’.”
“I remember we ran a garden competition for a while – and the Christmas Lights competition.
“I think there’s a few people in Forest Lake who’ve kept every single edition.
“One guy loved it so much that he actually proudly sent a copy to the Times newspaper in London.”
It’s been great to actually see through the years how the community has been built by the papers – particularly The Lake News, and organisations have grown.
And some of the organisations have said: “every member we get comes through The Lake News.”
Early advertisers who supported the growth of the paper included Forest Lake Bakery, Forestdale Landscape Supplies, Centenary Landscaping Supplies and Delfin – plus current advertisers who have been in for 15+ years like Heritage Bank, BOQ Forest lake, Lake Law, Abel & David Wan Dental Practice.
National Seniors Forest Lake Branch historian Julie Baldwin said their club owed a great deal to The Lake News.
“Having a local news magazine where community groups can make monthly contributions has been invaluable,” Julie said.
“It has helped our group grow from beginnings in 2011 of 15 members to 120 members as of now.
“We made the front page celebrating our first birthday.
Julie said the National Seniors were so grateful for how The Lake News had supported them.
“Our article has been included monthly since August 2011 which is where most of our visitors find out about our group and meeting dates and times,” she said.
“Susannah was a guest speaker at one of our meetings. We found Susannah such a warm,friendly and sincere person who spoke about a trip made by her and her daughter to an overseas country. It was very interesting.
“Congratulations and very best wishes to all at The Lake News. Have a wonderful celebration of your 30th Birthday.”
“There’ll always be a Lake News”
Chris believes that although there is now a great deal of information available on digital platforms, people of all generations will always value the tangible printed copies of The Lake News magazines.
“There’ll always be a Lake News … I can’t see it losing its place,” Chris said.
A special note from owner-manager Paul Jackson:
“On behalf of the whole Local News Publications family, I want to thank all the advertisers and contributors who have supported us and given us the opportunity to tell local stories and promote local business over the last thirty years,” Paul said.
“Our team of journalists, designers, and sales staff are energetic and passionate about celebrating the people, places and events that make our communities a great place to live.
“We are honoured to continue the great work that Chris and Betty started, and Susannah and Graham built upon. We look forward to working with you to celebrate our communities and champion our people.
“So thank you for the part you have played in making today possible and for all you are doing to build a strong community.”