“We all enjoy a good laugh, know and love our towns and want to give it our all”, says Jane Gardner, one-third of the accomplished team behind The Paper, Gippsland’s newest newspaper.
With a passion and work ethic that’s as impressive as their talent, Jane, a retail business management and advertising specialist; author and journalist Matt Dunn; and photographer, graphic and web designer Nick Jeremiah are ready to breathe fresh life into the South Gippsland news scene.
Having previously worked together for years, this trio has bold plans to reinvigorate the model applied to local news platforms, all for the benefit of the community they love — South Gippsland.
Right now is a heck of a time to launch a newspaper. What was the catalyst for The Paper?
Nick Jeremiah: At the end of March, we were stood down at our previous jobs. Sadly, this meant the South Gippsland community lost their newspapers. We couldn’t sit around waiting to see what might happen. The community, above all else, needed to know about Covid-19. Matt started writing for a Facebook page to keep the community informed and it exploded from there.
Matt Dunn: An online newspaper is a very different animal to a paper one, but I’m beginning to appreciate the potential of delivering stories in text, video and audio.
Jane Gardner: Local communities are the backbone of Australia; without local news, the sense of community is reduced and the democratic process suffers.
Please share a little on your process in operating The Paper in these early stages.
MD: So far it’s been fun, although we’re operating on a 24/7 basis at the moment. It’s true that the news never sleeps, though sometimes I need a little more.
JG: We’re juggling our delivery of the news with developing a new business all at once. We are working long hours every day as all small business owners do. [It’s] busy, exciting and daunting but super fun.
NJ: There are many hours-long phone calls every day. We’ve all got our fields of expertise, so we go away, do our thing and then report back. Working from home is a new challenge. Trying to have meetings over Wi-Fi or dodgy phone reception is very tedious. It’s a different environment than the office we’re used to.
JG: Our video calls always bring a smile and our multiple daily phone management calls often reduce to giggles. Every day is interesting when you work in the news!
What has provided the steepest learning curve so far?
JG: The behind-the-scenes creation of a new business. Any new business faces mountains of paperwork and must learn multiple new processes. Thankfully, we all have established skills, so delivering the news is the easy part at the moment.
NJ: Definitely the business side of things.
MD: I’m trying to get my head around all the techy stuff. Fortunately, Nick and Jane are pretty damn good at it. When they start talking in acronyms, I tend to tune out.
Why does Gippsland need local journalism and storytellers?
JG: Without a trustworthy news source, many smaller communities struggle to get the news that matters to them. Local journalists and storytellers know how to tap into local minds, delving into the heart of the story that will resonate with their communities… [they] help small business develop good, trustworthy reputations, something every business needs to thrive.
MD: More than anything else journalism is about listening to the community and being a conduit for its aspirations. I hope The Paper can evolve as the region evolves. I still think South Gippsland’s full potential will be realised... It’s the best place in the world, hands down.
NJ: Every region, no matter where in the world, needs its own journalism. I think with all the new projects and ideas we have at The Paper, South Gippsland is about to see coverage they’ve never had before.
How can a newspaper assist a regional community to thrive, and how can the community support their newspapers?
NJ: Most importantly, it’s about giving the community a voice for the important things.
MD: It’s tapping into that community spirit. We’re not newbies… But to be truly successful I think you need more and more people knocking on your door saying, ‘Hey did you hear about this?’ The more people… the more representative you are of where you live.
Absolutely, people should support their local media, but if your paper becomes a platform for one person’s opinions or those of a politically motivated group, all hope is lost. Independence in journalism is essential. You should always report without fear or favour.
JG: Regional newspapers deliver a very important service: from births, deaths and marriages to supporting local charities and sports, as well as supporting growth for businesses and holding local government to account. It’s important that it come from qualified, trustworthy sources who fact check before publishing, otherwise, we face a future of fake news, lost history and loss of community.
Support is easy, donate as you can afford, always subscribe or buy your local paper and, if you’re a local business, advertise. Share the content that resonates with you — regional news needs you now.
What’s your short-term goal for The Paper? What would be the ‘dream’ outcome for the project?
MD: In the short term, we need to get up and running. We have aspirations of delivering a service that has something for everyone, including younger people. I think in this Covid-19 world… survival is the first goal. Then, perhaps, one day, we can thrive.
JG: Produce a high-quality digital news platform for South Gippsland. We aim to ensure that it’s easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, free with the option to donate, and offers local businesses the best digital advertising options at an affordable price with results they can trust and measure. [This] has been lacking in regional communities and is often out of reach for micro and small businesses.
The dream is big and our effort will match that dream.
NJ: My dream outcome is making sure we can earn a living. Because without us making a living, we can’t make The Paper happen.
We’re all in this for the long haul. The community has jumped on board from the very beginning and we’re so grateful and appreciative of it. Hopefully, the community stays with us, so we can produce a quality online newspaper for the region.