Community news outlets “courageous”

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Just days after lamenting that New Zealand’s mainstream media was in an “existential crisis” a leading media commentator has praised the courage of community news outlets during the pandemic lockdown, including those serving Tamahere.

Gavin Ellis
Media commentator Gavin Ellis
praises the courage of community news outlets

“Thousands will no longer refer to the community newspaper that appears in their letterbox as “the local rag”, wrote Dr Gavin Ellis, who last month was the expert media witness to the Parliamentary Epidemic Response Select Committee chaired by Simon Bridges.

“They have a new-found respect because they either realised what they had missed during the Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown or were grateful that publishers had continued to supply local news in those challenging times,” said Ellis in a column on his White Knight News blog entitled New respect for the ‘local rag’

“When the Level 4 lockdown was declared, community newspapers (and magazines) were inexplicably omitted from news media deemed to be essential businesses. There seemed to be an outdated belief that community newspapers were only delivered by vulnerable children. Days after the ban, there was a partial loosening of the rule to allow publications in remote rural areas and ethnic communities. Many titles, however, could not print or could not make letterbox deliveries. Digital editions continued and local residents expressed their gratitude for continuing local coverage but, for many older readers, that was no compensation for the loss of the local newspaper.

“In the Waikato, the Cambridge News and Te Awamutu News merged for the duration but continued to print issues for bulk delivery to dairies and supermarkets. An elderly man made an emotional call to their office after receiving his first copy of the combined paper. It was his only source of local news and ‘human contact’.”

Ellis went on to say that “the real attraction of community newspapers lies in that [community] description. They need to be about the local community, the people you know, or the people you recognise and to whom you can now put a name.”

He quoted Tamahere Forum editor Pippa Stevenson’s definition of the hyper-local news on this website.

“Pippa Stevenson, publisher of the digital Tamahere Forum in the Waikato, defines hyper-local community news as “news that directly affects people where they live – at home, in their pocket, in their neighbourhood. It includes local events (social, markets, fundraising, anniversaries, congratulatory), calls to action (oppose/object, support), material changes (roads, plan changes, rate rises) and so on as well as the people stories that show who lives locally and what they do”.

To read more of Ellis in praise of community news on his White Knight News blog click here.

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