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After two years and nearly 1,000 stories and features, we have some news ...

February 24, 2024

By Peter Holmes

When I launched The Orange News Examiner as a free online news service on January 1, 2022, I had hoped to be able to bring news to everyone, irrespective of their financial status. 

Since then the Examiner has published nearly 1,000 news and feature stories, covering council, crime, Covid, real estate, community, Indigenous affairs, politics, entertainment, food, sport, business and much more. 

It has held authority to account and given a voice to many who needed it. 

My plan was to deliver something a little different, attract an audience, and then fend off hordes of advertisers wanting to hop on board. Ha!

Well, the first two were achieved - the Examiner quickly attracted and maintained an audience of around 12,000 people per month - but the third didn’t happen.

As the world’s worst ad salesperson, I have to wear my share of the blame for that.

The Orange News Examiner has a staff of one - me. A mate, David Fitzsimons, writes a fair chunk of our council yarns.

Together we have more than 75 years of experience as journalists and editors, at media outlets including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun-Herald, The Sunday Telegraph, BuzzFeed News, Pedestrian and We also did time at the CWD. 

The Orange News Examiner relies almost entirely on advertising revenue. It also has a handful of supporters via PayPal and Patreon. Unlike some large media companies it receives no local, state or federal grant funding. 

Without our current supporters - OCTEC, Huntley Berry Farm, BNB Made Easy, Peter Smith TerryWhite Chemmart, Andrew Gee MP, Phil Donato MP and Orange City Council - and those that advertised previously, it would have folded long ago.

The reality, however, is that the revenue is nowhere near enough to maintain a news website.

I haven’t been paid so little since I was a copy boy at afternoon paper The Sun on Broadway in Sydney in the late 1980s! And Dave Fitz has been paid in ... well, a Chinese meal at Loc Sing, bookended by a few icy colds at the Parky.

News is not cheap to produce. 

Regurgitating press releases is one thing, but wading through hundreds of pages of council papers, making calls, researching, taking photographs, designing graphics, heading down dead ends, emailing government agencies, etc, takes a lot of time.

And that's before you start writing and editing. And moderating social media. And responding to readers and people wanting publicity.

A news app in Orange closed recently due to revenue challenges. 

News outlets in Orange are competing with Facebook, Google, Instagram, WIN, Prime, Southern Cross Austereo and 2EL for limited local advertising revenue. 

Some of the above produce some good local news and some do not, but none is purely a news service - they make most of their money playing music, conducting talkback, showing MAFS and the footy, or sliding ads into your social news feeds. 

If you look at an issue such as Lords Place south, I believe that without the in-depth and ongoing coverage from two local news services - giving a voice to all sides including local businesses, standing around at 10pm watching trees being cut down, trawling through old council papers - nothing would have changed. 

If we lose any local news service that covers the city beyond a surface level, we will lose more than we know. And it will be difficult to get it back. News will become what people in power want us to know, issued by press release, and not much else. 

I read a comment on social media recently. A local was complaining about the paywall at the CWD. “Why should I have to pay for local news?” they asked. 

They probably wouldn’t expect free things from the local butcher, baker or candlestick maker, or the local Thai or sparkie, or from Netflix, Harvey Norman or Telstra, but that’s just how it is these days.

Some media websites in Australia and around the world remain free, and the ABC is “free” - so it’s no surprise that people have become conditioned to expecting news reporting for free. 

But many news outlets here and abroad have learnt the hard way that without income from readers AND advertisers, the business model collapses. This is especially so for niche publishers in the regions, where the audience is smaller.

I wish it wasn't this way, but you have to play the cards that are dealt.

Social media can play a very useful part in spreading information and keeping people informed, but it can also be a place where half-truths, gossip, vendettas, ignorance and intolerance come out to play.

It is no replacement for a news service that has no allegiances or vested interests, and can ask questions on behalf of its community. 

The Orange News Examiner has broken many stories, followed issues doggedly without fear or favour, and tried to have a laugh along the way. 

I tried to do it the free way, but it didn’t work. 

Now it’s up to the people of Orange and surrounds, and others who read our stories in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, NZ, the US, the UK and many other locations, to take ownership of Orange’s only locally owned and produced news service. Without you, we will simply fade away. 

A sub is just 99 cents per week - one-fifth of a cup of takeaway coffee. [You can pay a little more if you want to.] 

I have no expectations either way. The people of Orange owe me nothing.

But if enough people subscribe then The Orange News Examiner will continue to beaver away on telling local stories. And I’ll be able to sling Dave a few clams, or shout him another succulent Chinese feed. 

Over to you, dear reader …

[Subscriptions currently paid through Stripe, however PayPal is expected to be added as a payment option in coming days. From 99 cents per week, billed monthly = $4.29. Cancel at any time. To subscribe, simply click on a recent story and you will be taken to the subscriber page.]


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