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.

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