TURNING FIVE may not seem like a big achievement, yet it is a number loaded with significance.
Behind the scenes, ‘5’ adds up to countless hours of volunteering time that has been given by a small army of helpers to create and deliver the paper, month in, month out. Without their vital help, the paper wouldn’t exist. This is because the Gazette is, for all intents and purposes, very much a local, community-driven project.
This story is written to give you a better understanding of the Gazette as an enterprise, and to publicly recognise the valuable contribution made by so many wonderful people who help us out, each and every day.
When our region lost its local newspaper more than five years ago, it quickly became clear that something else went missing too. The valley lost the means to collectively share its stories - its triumphs and tragedies, news and tidbits, joys and friendships.
Equally, local businesses lost a key means to reach out to existing & new customers, and local council lost the ability to broadcast its latest information.
Since the start of the Gazette in 2013 (the first issue went to print in January 2014), all of the above has been made whole again. Five years on, we still regularly receive letters of gratitude and thanks for publishing a local newspaper. We enjoy telling the stories, capturing the valley’s living history and keeping young & old alike in touch with the amazing people and talents that surround us.
People often think that the paper is put out by Meander Valley Council. This is not so. While we are supported by our local council, especially through the inclusion of their Public Notices pages, the newspaper is actually run and published by a small, local not-for- profit organisation called Meander Valley Connect.
As well as the Gazette, Meander Valley Connect manages two Online Access Centres (Deloraine and Mole Creek) as well as Pixels Digital Art Gallery in Deloraine.
Meander Valley Gazette pays a small amount of money to a handful of core staff each month; however, for the most part, the paper is produced by volunteers.
Weekly meetings are held to discuss the paper’s content and direction. The content is predominantly written by volunteer writers who develop stories under direction of the editorial team. We also receive submissions by local community members, politicians and other services/ events visiting Meander Valley.
The stories and advertisements are brought together using industry standard software, two computers and the wonders of ‘cloud computing’, which allows people in a few different locales to access and contribute to the process.
Then, once a month on a Saturday, proofreaders gather in Deloraine to correct any errors. The paper is then converted into finished artwork and sent to the printers.
In line with our ethos of supporting small business, Meander Valley Gazette is printed in Tasmania in Franklin, Huon Valley. It travels to north via 3 different trucks, with Sunrise Trailers in Deloraine lending a final hand in the process by using their forklift to take the pallet of papers off the truck and place them onto the back of a flat tray ute, which is then delivered to the Deloraine Online Centre.
A team of folders get cracking unloading the pallet. Thousands of papers are hand-folded, ready to be delivered by Australia Post and a local contractor. Thousands more are delivered to Salmat in Prospect who organise delivery to residents in Prospect Vale and Hadspen. Yet more volunteers deliver papers to shops and businesses throughout the valley. Once delivered, the whole monthly process starts all over again!
We estimate the paper takes, collectively, around 400 hours per month to put together. Most of these hours are volunteered.
Currently, we are printing 9,500 copies per month. Plus, many people are accessing the paper digitally through our website www.meandervalleygazette.org. (Previous editions of the paper can be downloaded there, too. Just head to the shop and download for free).
During the time we have been printing we have uncovered a wealth of skilled artisans and craftspeople. We’ve also looked into many rurally-based enterprises, and the biggest surprise always comes when we discover another local business that is sending their products all over the globe. Innovation is clearly alive and well in Meander Valley and its our aim, with your help, to promote the area to its best advantage.
All up, we’ve been fortunate to be able to call upon the assistance of many people who have long experience in publishing and communications. In fact, the Gazette provides an ideal vehicle for people to express their creativity and make a meaningful contribution to the welfare of the community.
It also provides a wonderful training ground for those wanting to become journalists, photo journalists or graphic designers and we have mentored many of these over the years.
One of the hallmarks of the Gazette is its wonderful photos. We have been fortunate to have the input of Mike Moores, a photo journalist with some 40 years’ experience in both English and Australian newspapers.
The paper is offered free to all residents and visitors of Meander Valley and is financed by advertisers, sponsors and donations.
The break even costs of producing the paper each month are considerable, and we are very grateful to all of our advertisers for their financial support. Three local businesses have recently taken out 12-month sponsorships, helping to smooth out the ups and downs of monthly advertising income and helping ensure the current 20-page format can continue.
As always, our aim is to keep the residents of Meander Valley informed. To ensure that we can do the job properly we need your input. If we don’t know about an event we can’t tell the story!
If it’s interesting to you then it is probably of interest to other people too. Please email email@example.com if you have a story and/or pictures to share, or phone 6286 8212 on a Tuesday or Wednesday to speak with one of the team.
It’s always affirming when we hear the wonderful feedback the paper receives, and it confirms our steadfast belief that there still is a much-needed place in this digitised world for the printed word.
Thanks for reading your very own local paper!