On top of running the NT News , Bowditch was also involved in managing the Mount Isa paper in Queensland . While they were exciting times , he was bearing a huge load of responsibility and at times felt worn out .
Under Murdoch's ownership the Darwin paper soon became a tri-weekly , published Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The Saturday edition was mainly made up on Friday . Finding sufficient local stories to fill the paper in that short period kept everyone working at a frenetic , thirsty pace.
By Peter Simon
Bowditch invented a person called Mr J. G. Slaggert , described as a self-employed businessman , who was an eyewitness to many newsworthy events and ever- ready to have his views reported on any subject . The observant Mr Slaggert was quoted in relation to his sighting of a strange object seen from time to time in Darwin Harbour, known as the Mandorah Monster , something akin to the Loch Ness Monster, but some people suggested it was mechanical and even that it was Russian !
Mr Slaggert was particularly invaluable when you were struggling for a major story to fill a space . Fortuitously, late one Friday night , when Bowditch was battling to wrap up the following day’s edition , Slaggert saw a flying saucer ( shades of Alice Springs ) , land near the Darwin Golf Course. Of course, he immediately contacted the worthy editor and gave what they call in the trade a graphic eyewitness account of the UFO and its occupants. According to Slaggert, they spoke perfect English, questioned him about Darwin and told him they were Russian!
One problem Bowditch had with this handy fictitious informant was that he had difficulty in remembering how his name was spelt. Is it Slogget or Slaggert ? he would ask . At times he would hunt through newspaper files trying to find stories in which Mr S. had been quoted to make sure of the spelling.
CLERIC BECOMES SUSPICIOUS
Only a worldly minister of religion, Reverend Norm Pearce , of the Uniting Church , appeared to smell something fishy in relation to Slaggert , and it was not due to Mr S. having had a close encounter with the Mandorah Monster . Reverend Pearce told Bowditch that this Mr Slaggert, oft quoted , seemed to be everywhere, yet he had never met him . Bowditch laughed, said Mr Slaggert was a very busy man and probably did not mix in the same circles as the cleric. The dubious minister said he looked forward to the day when he would actually meet the fellow.
For a time it looked as if Bowditch’s employment with Murdoch would not last much longer . This was due to the fact that Jock Nelson , the Member for the NT in the House of Representatives , put a proposition to Jim to come back to Alice Springs as editor-half owner of the Centralian Advocate.
Nelson had become the major shareholder in the paper, having bought out the printer, Morcom . Newspapers attracted Nelson , who had been a paperboy in Darwin . The paper ran into constant staffing problems which created immense difficulties. Nelson described the situation as being left like a shag on a rock whenever somebody left or something went wrong. No member of the staff was a newspaper man who knew what to do to keep things going . The situation was going from bad to worse and they either had to sell the paper or take in a partner . Nelson thought his close friend Bowditch could be the answer to the problems .
Bowditch regarded the half share offer as most tempting . Apart from that , there was talk of the NT News soon becoming a daily which would put an extra load on his shoulders . As he had never run a daily newspaper, he felt somewhat apprehensive. Bowditch told Murdoch of Nelson’s offer. In doing so he said reporter Keith Willey was his logical replacement as editor, and that he would produce a better paper because he had worked on dailies down south . Murdoch asked Jim if he had signed anything committing himself to Nelson’s offer. Told no, Murdoch then said to do nothing further until he came to Darwin and spoke to him .
Bowditch agreed and told Willey what was afoot . Willey immediately said Murdoch was coming up to talk him out of going to Alice . Bowditch said it would have to be a pretty good offer to talk him out of half share in a paper. NEXT : Willey’s fiery departure .