Di ThomasTHE deputy editor of The Border Mail, Di Thomas, has been named the paper’s new editor to succeed Heath Harrison.

Harrison leaves next week to become deputy editor of The Newcastle Herald, both papers being part of Fairfax Media.

General manager of The Border Mail David Bowring announced the promotion yesterday, noting that Thomas was the paper’s first female editor in its 109-year history.

Sydney-born Thomas, 46, has 27 years’ experience in journalism and has been with The Border Mail since 2001, the past four years as deputy.

She said she had enjoyed working with Harrison and his predecessors, Simon Dulhunty and Cameron Thompson, and always saw the paper’s continuing success as being due to a strong team effort by all staff.

At school, Thomas wanted to become a journalist but first studied at a secretarial college.

“My mother told me I should learn shorthand and typing but I also did things like bookkeeping,” she said.

“My first full-time job was a secretary at Circular Quay for the Industrial Design Council but after a year I applied for reporter’s job and went to Orange as a cadet with the Central Western Daily — a city girl in the bush.”

In 1987, she returned to Sydney to work at The Land, rising from reporter and sub-editor to be chief sub-editor and production editor, handling the transition to electronic pagination.

Thomas moved to The Border Mail with her Albury-born husband Don Fraser in 1998 to edit Country Mail and the Twin Cities Post.

From 2001 to 2005 she was The Border Mail chief of staff and from 2008 combined the role of deputy editor with reporting, with an interest in health, education and cultural matters.

“Our staff have a lot of pride in the paper and as we change it’s important we maintain our standard of reporting and continue to be seen as a voice of the community,” she said.

Outside work, Thomas is a director of the Wodonga Institute of TAFE and HotHouse Theatre.

Harrison, 37, is returning this month to Newcastle, where he was a sports sub-editor in 1999-2000.

A former Wodonga schoolboy, he started his cadetship at The Border Mail in 1996 after gaining a journalism degree at the University of Canberra.

His roles included chief sports sub-editor, sports editor, day editor and deputy editor before succeeding Thompson in 2008.

“Di has been the best deputy you could hope for and I’m thrilled she is taking the reins,” Harrison said.

Mr Bowring said Thomas was the stand-out candidate given her experience in journalism.

“She has done a fine job as deputy editor and her reputation in the community is second to none,” he said.

He said Harrison had achieved great success as editor for four years.

“The Border Mail winning paper of the year from the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers Association last month was a great footnote to Heath’s career in Albury-Wodonga,” he said.

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