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I’ve been asked if the recent demise of the Kāpiti Observer newspaper is good news for Ōtaki Today.

It’s not. While there might be some benefits in a lessening of competition for advertising and the “scoop” on news stories, we at Ōtaki Today don’t like to see newspapers disappearing. That’s because newspapers still have a valuable role in giving people local news and ensuring accountability for those in power who might otherwise believe they can do what they like without a spotlight falling on their activities.

In the Spielberg movie, The Post, the owner of the Washington Post, Katherine Graham, was quoted as saying: “Newspapers are not for the government, they are for the governed.”

The Stuff-owned Observer, however, ended up being but a shadow of its former self. Once a robust teller of local news, it fell into a sad malaise, poorly resourced and almost bereft of anything that might interest its readers.

It had little content that was any different from its stable of other regional papers, such as the Kapi-Mana News, Hutt News and Upper Hutt Leader. In one issue recently, its one “local” story on the front page referred to the effect of Wellington region water restrictions as an autumn drought continued. The problem was that in Kāpiti there were no water restrictions thanks to the foresight of the council in introducing water meters several years ago.

The decision to run the story in the Kāpiti Observer was a reflection of its lack of local knowledge and resourcing in terms of reporting and sub-editing. If you’re not there, you won’t know what’s going on.

The story was a message to Kāpiti readers that they didn’t actually matter, as long as there was some advertising to bring in the steadily dwindling income.

Of course, as a business, Stuff would have done the sums and surmised that continuing to publish the Observer was not worth the effort. It’s given the NZME-owned Kāpiti News a clear advantage – it has continued to support local news with an editor and staff “on the ground” in the region.

The Kāpiti News, however, also made a corporate decision earlier this year to cease letterbox deliveries in Ōtaki, preferring to boost the number of news stands where readers could pick up copies. It’s likely to be the result of big increases in the cost of printing and distribution in the past year.

So where does it leave the people of Ōtaki who are still interested in local events, politics, the arts and all those things good newspapers should cover?

I can’t talk for the other newspaper here, the Ōtaki Mail, but I can say that we at Ōtaki Today have a long-term commitment to keep telling the stories of this town and district – honestly, fairly and “without fear or favour”.

We’ve taken a hit with cost increases – a rise of close to 50 percent for print and distribution – but we have great support from our loyal advertisers, contributors and readers that keeps us motivated.

While the future for many newspapers around the world looks bleak, comparatively we are thriving. It’s largely because we have had an unerring focus on what’s been described as “hyperlocal” news, and not cutting corners by filling gaps with news releases.

We’re here for the long haul, and we’ll keep reporting the news that matters for the foreseeable future.



Ian Carson is editor of Ōtaki Today.





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If you’re not there you won’t know what’s going on



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