New heart for the News, a message to readers

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By ERWIN CHLANDA

The four of us got ready to board a friend’s Cessna. “Got your pacemaker?”

Cheeky bugger. Freefall ageism. “It will never happen to me,” I thought.

I was in my fifties and on that skydive we performed three formations at 250 km/h.

Famous last words. I am now 76 and in 15 days’ time I am going to get a pacemaker. Me and the Alice Springs News.

And this is where I am apologising to our readers for the sparseness of editorial content in recent times, a problem taking much longer to fix than expected.

I hope you will take into account that the important letters and reader comments have been maintained (see recent buffel and domestic solar power stories), and we kept abreast with a range of stories, including the Rolfe trial developments, the Singleton water licence, the Yuendumu crime wave, the recent record rains and the passing of H. Furber.

The town’s most trusted gardening advice, from veteran Geoff Miers, has also continued to appear.

Now we are working hard towards regaining our momentum.

The News routine has always been to deal immediately with the stories we decide to take on board: Expressed as an example, we take the stone, put a fine file on it, make sure the edges are sharp and fit it into the puzzle where it explains or entertains. And then it’s on to the next story.

That has remained our intention all along but fatigue and medical procedures have taken up time and energy.

However, there was always our eight million word archive of stories we assigned,  researched and wrote over nearly 30 years. And the evidence is that readers continue to take advantage of it.

The Jewels in the Crown are contributions by people such as Mike Gillam, Alex Nelson, Peter Latz, Fiona Walsh, Dick Kimber, and our own staff writer and reviewer Kieran Finnane. This rich archive is of course available 24/7 and free from a paywall.

Recent discussions, including a public meeting of about 40 people, toyed with some fanciful ideas around starting a new printed newspaper.

As I understand it, one proposal at that public meeting was that the Mayor or the council could produce a ‘newspaper’ which could consist of just one page so long as the funeral notices could be clearly seen.

The role of independent journalism in a democracy seemed to get no consideration. As we have always seen it, this is about providing people with the information they need to make decisions about their lives, holding governments to account, and offering stories that are a reflection of the town’s history, identity, and challenges.

With its new heart (and with Kieran taking leave to work on other projects), the News will be looking for middle-level journalistic staff, and for someone to manage the commercial operation, whose potential has not yet been fully tapped. Ring Erwin on 0418 890040.

Meanwhile, continue to enjoy your Alice Springs News as we ease into our summer “Rest & Reflection” period. Your contributions to what we offer, as in previous years, are most welcome. Looking to revive at our usual end of January date.

PHOTO: Kieran and Erwin, heading back to the Good Country two years ago after a summer break. The whole world has changed in those two years.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Best wishes for a successful and speedy recovery following your procedure. To be hoped your search for journalistic support is successful.

  2. Keep up the good work and I wish you good luck.
    I’ve had my fair share: Survived drowning a few times, car crashes (roll over and run off), cancer, auto immune disease, old age (so far 80), 70 years of driving all over, 2nd WWs, and flying with you to Birdsville and back.
    So far so good, cheers.
    PS: I hope some of my replies haven’t caused you’re heart probs!

  3. I was wondering why I kept running into you at the Doctors.
    And me only a young 75.
    I know a few people with pacemakers who seem to keep powering on, Phillip Adams comes to mind, but I do think we have earned the right to take it a bit easier.
    Best of luck with the procedure.

  4. Sorry to hear about your ill health. Take time out to recover for there are many people who want ‘The Alice Springs News’ to keep going. Erwin, you have done a very good job over the past thirty years. I like your broad approach to the material you accept for publication. I am waiting for more stories. ‘The Alice Springs News’ is the best media outlet in the Northern Territory.

  5. Best wishes to you Erwin and Kieran. The Territory will always need as many media platforms as possible.

  6. Erwin, I’ve long admired your journalism and am deeply grateful for the Alice Springs News (ASN). The News has been an important even vital source of information and opinions about our wider region, the towns, communities and Alice.

    The News is exceptional in many ways. Its journalists care about the region and its future. It has a vast, rich and accessible archive of town and regional history, is at the forefront of transitions from print to online, has deep long-term knowledge that informs contemporary reporting, it blends topical reporting from arts to politics, nurtures younger journalists and writers, and more.

    I’ve known Kieran and yourself for decades, I’m glad of our friendship in recent years. Although I haven’t always agreed with the journalistic stance on certain issues, I now know that you’re open and willing to discuss them and expand your views.

    It awes me that two people, and their intermittent colleagues, can operate and report for an independent newspaper yet earn enough to live carefully if humbly. You each contribute to the strengthening of the social fabric of this town and many individuals. This includes me who has found greater confidence in photography and writing through occasional contributions to the News.

    I trust your spirit stays strong, your health restores and you adjust the workload to them.

    As your banner quote says, we need independent journalism.

  7. Best wishes Erwin for a very speedy recovery. Independent journalists are the eyes and ears of a civil society – thanks to you and Kieran for giving voice to analysis and discourse over such a long period. Take care both of you. Pip.

  8. John, Fiona, Pip et al speak for me also.
    Regretfully, the value of a diverse and fearless media is not always valued by the wider community, that is perhaps, until it’s gone.
    Some of my fellow citizens seem content with puff pieces and recycled press releases, the offerings of tame journalists who enjoy cozy relationships with government.
    All the best, Erwin and Kieran. Rest up, you’ve certainly earned it.

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