OPINION: Communities matter

The Times greeted news that Aussie-owned Stuff will radically cut its staff numbers on its community papers with trepidation. However Times’ managing director Reay Neben reassures us this local 100%-Kiwi-owned paper is going to step up and continue to bring strong, local content

Reay Neben, managing director of Times Newspapers, remains passionate about community papers after almost half a century bringing local news to the area.

Over the past week I have reflected on the decision of Australian-owned news media company Stuff to make 19 community newspaper journalists redundant and appoint maybe three to four senior journalists to cover the 13 Auckland community newspaper titles affected.

I am truly sorry for those journalists who have done their bit in Auckland’s communities but an Australian decision was made and out they go.

This made me think of the dedicated people who owned these local papers in the past, people who were bought out when the large corporates competed for the local newspaper market.

Over the years the corporates have closed so many of these papers all around New Zealand.

Earlier this year Fairfax (now Stuff) closed 28 of their mastheads across New Zealand and in 25 of those areas, a stronger independent newspaper existed.

Local news is the most read media in the country and to not have this local content but instead have readers contend with syndicated content across all of their community publications weakens the community it should serve. That is what Stuff is going to do.

You can get the national news on so many platforms but how does a community get its view out into the public arena.

Local papers are the life blood of the community where issues that mean little to anywhere else in the country are huge issues locally. Who else cares about saving the views from Stockade Hill for example? This is very much a Howick local issue.

Publishing Howick and Pakuranga Times for nearly 47 years, I have seen – and been part of – most of what has happened in our community and recorded this in our pages for posterity. These were our stories, by our people for our readers.

We are a true local paper employing more than 30 staff to bring you the news that affects you and your families and your neighbourhoods. Whether you always agree with it or not is something we have to wear as a trustworthy, fearless and yet compassionate news provider.

Yes, we do the bigger unsavoury stories as and when they arise, but we also love and thrive on what’s going in our wonderful schools, sports teams, clubs and organisations and churches and temples. We keep you up-to-date with Council, Local Board and transport news that matters.

These naturally go hand-in-hand with local people and businesses seeking advertising opportunities, design advice, photography and online exposure. We do all of this. Here. And we’re 100 per cent local.

We provide a newspaper that people read and we are strongly supported by our clients – without whose support we would not exist.

I also want to assure people that all the hard work we do is only good if the paper arrives in your letterbox so if you have a non-delivery, please let us know as we now outsource this service and we need you to let us know if they are doing it well.

I write this from a position of privilege which this community has given me all these years but I am also strongly passionate about the community newspaper industry which is (unlike the dailies) doing really well throughout New Zealand.

I am very lucky to have a dedicated team that is as passionate as I am about this area and we will continue to be the true voice of the community.