BORDER Mail journalist David Johnston joined the paper as a full-time racing writer in the winter of 1995 and he proved to be a stayer.
He went from a world of faxes to emails and saw the masthead become a web platform as well as a press product.
Now though the boy from Swifts Creek, who would read The Border Mail on childhood trips to Albury-Wodonga, has opted to depart his working home, accepting a position at The Weekly Times covering national politics.
"An opportunity has come along that I never thought would come along," the 53 year-old said.
"I was probably resigned to feeling I would see out my career here but life throws up opportunities and you may as well grab them, I don't think there will be too many more in the future."
Having joined The Border Mail from The Courier in Ballarat, Johnston became widely known for his coverage of Ovens and Murray football.
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He saw all but two of the league's clubs win flags and covered interleague clashes, flying to Gippsland and back in a day for a match at Moe.
In addition to covering the Ovens and Murray, Johnston is also proud of his role in co-founding the league's Hall of Fame.
In 2005 with then general manager Leigh Elder and inaugural selection committee chairman, Rod Mullavey.
Johnston will retain his unbroken involvement and hopes the event returns in 2022 after falling victim to COVID the last two years.
"I'm biased of course, but it's the best night of the footy year by far," he said.
"It was always going to be a winner with the competition's rich history, so many on field Champions and larger than life administrators, none bigger than Cleaver Bunton."
One of the nine editors he worked under, Xavier Mardling joined the sport desk as a teenage cadet and absorbed the craft of good journalism from Johnston.
"Everyone knew who Johnno was, so it was a thrill to work alongside him in sport and to work in a variety of different roles with him," Mardling said.
"He taught me the value of talking to people and talking to as many people as you can and just getting out and about."
Johnston cited "fronting up" as a key philosopher and it was something he used when he switched to general news, firstly as editor of the now defunct Mid Week Express and then as a council roundsman on The Border Mail.
Covering the dismissal of Wangaratta Council and reporting the Sydney Olympics, including interviewing swimming ace Dawn Fraser in the wake of gold medal success for horseman Andrew Hoy, are among his reporting highlights.
"It's been a great place to work," Johnston said.
"I couldn't have had a better experience, 26-and-half years has gone in a heartbeat.
"The region just generates so much news, there's so much going on."
Current editor Julie Coe lauded Johnston's contribution to the newsroom.
"He has been a loyal reporter and a friend to many in our newsroom, and always a passionate advocate for his community," Coe said.
"Many young reporters who have come through the newsroom over the years owe him a debt of gratitude for being someone who was always approachable and willing to offer advice."
Johnston, a father of two, will remain living on the Border for his new job, which will see him in Canberra during parliamentary sitting weeks.
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