A plea for a community paper’s future
So Fairfax Media is about to either close down or sell the Wairarapa News along with several other community newspapers. The modern communications revolution has struck again.
Are we to lose an integral part of our weekly consumption of local news, gossip, happenings and personal titbits, or will someone put up their hand so we can continue to feed our appetite for knowing what’s going on around us?
This led me to look back over the years I have written Nelson’s Column and the changes that have occurred during that time.
I started writing for the Eastern Bay News in the Bay of Plenty on a regular basis in 1988. After I returned to the Wairarapa in 2006, I began a similar column for this paper, but on a more casual basis, maintaining a fourweekly cycle. Thirty years seems a long time but it has been an enjoyable experience, and one I would happily continue if it fitted the wishes of any new owners. If not, then so be it.
My Bay of Plenty column was much more personal in content. MPs were fair game as were local body politicians, business and community personalities, tribal groups, and the occasional serial letter-writer. As part of the business and service community and regularly in the news myself, I was close to the action. I also did a half-hour weekly prime-time talk session on Radio Bay of Plenty, for thirteen years.
Wairarapa is quite different. I had been gone from here for more than 50 years so I returned as a complete stranger in my own land. Whilst there will always be those who stand out, most people in the public eye here tend to merge into the population. Now that I know most of the local leaders and opinion makers, it doesn’t seem appropriate to be overly critical or satirical, and it would be churlish to single out the few local politicos who swim against the tide. The small group of letter writers do an admirable job of keeping their targets on their toes, so why should I stick my oar in. As well, our column words have been severely reduced.
It is unfortunate that Ma¯ori and Pasifika here are the unseen population, but this will change markedly in the next ten to twenty years.
Perhaps too, I have mellowed over time and my writings now are more like musings, quite philosophical really. I am heartened by those who tell me they enjoy reading this column. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me but if I can get people thinking about the subject, then my mission has been surely accomplished.
Isn’t it time you joined with me in pleading for the Wairarapa News to continue publication, with present or new ownership.
Wairarapa is quite different - and needs to hear its local voices.