17 May 2024

Letter from the Editor: Celebrating the first year of many to come for Region Illawarra

| Jen White
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Jen with trees in background.

Editor Jen White … celebrating Region Illawarra’s first year. Photo: Warren White.

We’ve had lots of firsts here at Region Illawarra (RI) this week – first birthday, first daily digests sent to readers and now my first weekly letter from the editor.

During the year we’ve welcomed the first baby to our RI family – congratulations Keeli Royle – and we’ll soon celebrate our first wedding – congratulations Zoe Cartwright.

In my first (!) newsletter I want to start by thanking the thousands of Illawarrawarriors who have embraced Region Illawarra in the past 12 months.

It’s no small thing to start a new media outlet, especially in an area like the Illawarra already served by the Illawarra Mercury, ABC radio, WIN News, WaveFM, i98FM and the other local suppliers of community news.

I was part of a previous attempt to get an Illawarra online news service up and running.

READ ALSO Veteran journalist Jen White signs on as Region Illawarra’s editor

Some of you may remember Illawarra Bombora, the brainchild of talented former Mercury journalist Brett Martin. In 2017 Brett rounded up a few other redundant Merc journos, as well as some bright young talent, and we started to build the site from scratch. It was a hard slog but we were getting traction.

Residents were keen to engage with a source of news which was solely focused on the Illawarra and interest was steadily growing. Unfortunately, we’d just started daily publishing when we hit a financing glitch which ultimately killed off Bombora.

Region Illawarra is a very different beast in that we are part of a well-established and award-winning media organisation, Region Media. Headquartered in Canberra, Region Media’s stable includes ACT’s Riotact, About Regional (NSW South East and South West Slopes), Region Riverina, based in Wagga Wagga, and at the other end of the country, Cape York Weekly.

READ ALSO Meet the Region Illawarra team: Journalist Zoe Cartwright

My brief experience with Illawarra Bombora reinforced my strong belief that people want stories about where they live.

They love reading about people, places and businesses with which they are familiar.

They want to know about the new restaurant in their suburb and they love reading about local people who are doing great things – and we have those in bucketloads. Of course, it’s even better when that news is delivered for no cost, like Region Illawarra.

READ ALSO Meet the Region Illawarra team: Journalist Dione David

We don’t ignore the bad or sad news – like others, we rush to community Facebook pages as soon as we hear sirens in our streets – but we don’t seek it out.

In a world where we are bombarded with bad news every which way we turn, in our daily lives and around the world, it’s rewarding to share bright, positive news.

Even more importantly for readers, our content is free. Our stories are not behind a paywall – and never will be – and you don’t have to subscribe to access our content.

READ ALSO Meet the Region Illawarra team: Journalist Kellie O’Brien

Looking back at some of our most popular stories over the past 12 months just proves that point. Stories about two new businesses – Wollongong’s Balthazar Champagne Bar and Albion Park’s The Eucalyptus House – sit in the top five most viewed stories.

Illawarrawarriors love their food, as evidenced in the huge popularity of stories about Jin Kim’s new Thirroul restaurant, Shell Cove Marina’s award-winning chef David Beus and the new all-you-can-eat Japanese restaurant Okami at Unanderra. Just in the past week, our story about the reopening of Joe’s Milk Bar at Albion Park has attracted thousands of views.

Stories about two very different business operations – Jamberoo Water Park (Jim Eddy) and the Koonawarra lolly shop (Ric and Pamela Cann) – were both extremely popular.

What makes local media even better is when it’s a two-way street – when you tell us about your news. You are our eyes and ears, you know best what’s happening in your street, your neighbourhood, your sporting organisation or your workplace, so let us know.

We also have a small favour to ask – if you’ve signed up to receive our daily digest or weekly newsletter, please share it with your friends and family.

And if you haven’t signed up, please do – that way you won’t miss out on your free community news.

I’d love to hear your story ideas or suggestions, so feel free to email me any time at [email protected].

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