THE saying ‘may you live in interesting times’ is certainly true right now as we all adapt to a new world, but there are always some comforting constants and through this time the nature of a small community remains.
I’ve always been passionate about the importance of small regional towns having local news and we’ve done our best to provide everyone with news as it comes to hand. With the recent news of the larger media companies withdrawing from regional areas, now more than ever we want to be able to keep the community up to date and informed.
The profits in media are not what they used to be and have not satisfied the financial shareholders of large media companies, but it has also returned us to where local news began.
When Arthur Miller started the first local news for Scone in 1887, he was one man, who lived locally and reported on the news of the town, its people and events.
He was independent media, much like all of the other independent media which sprung up in towns and suburbs across Australia. They weren’t beholden to financial shareholders to return a profit to investors, they simply wrote for their readers, who brought the news each week.
It is sad to see so many towns and suburbs now without local news, but I am glad Scone is not one of them.
Much has changed in news since 1887, small news owners were brought out during the rise of large media companies, print turned from paper to online and now large media companies have retreated back to their urban homes, but through it all local news has remained important to local people and media has come full circle, back to locally owned media, living in the town and reporting on the town.
Since establishing scone.com.au four years ago I have been gobsmacked by how far and wide the news of Scone has reached, with more than 2 million page views and more than 540,000 visitors from around the world logging on to read about our little town of 5,000.
While the readership is beyond all expectations, we also need to adapt to the changing landscape.
Local businesses are struggling under the strain of coronavirus and while I have faith we can help our local businesses flourish once again, right now relying on local businesses advertising to support production of local news is unrealistic.
So, we are also going full circle, returning to the model where local news began and in May we will put our business in the hands of our readers.
While we have loved having an open platform of news for everyone to access it for free, we need to pay for our costs and a journalist to research and write the news each day.
We are asking you, our readers, if you value locally produced news to contribute $2 per week, to pay for the wage of a journalist and the running of the website. But if local news is no longer as important as we feel it is and readers aren’t reading local content, we will know by the number of subscribers. It is the fairest system of all.
We recognise many people may not pay for things online, so we will be working to look at a range of options for our readers and will provide all the details of how to subscribe before we launch the paywall.
In the meantime, we will continue to spend time covering court each month, following cases in Tamworth and Newcastle that have local significance, alerting residents to emergencies happening in their community, covering the latest decisions by local Council, covering the broader changes happening in the world right now and how it is impacting us in Scone; we’ll keep telling the stories unfolding in our town and remain true to our tagline “Your Story, Your News”.
We will start working on a paywall, but there will be a few stories we may provide for free. We will need to balance what we do provide for free, with what our readers who subscribe and keep us financially viable, think is fair.
Our Facebook platform will remain open for everyone to read the headlines and make comments on the thread, with a link to the full story on the website for our subscribers.
Ideally, we would have liked to have remained a completely free news service, but much has changed in the current climate and like any businesses we need to adapt to remain viable, we hope many of you make the move with us and keep local news, local and independent.