Mt Albert Inc publisher/editor Bruce Morris: “We can’t survive without your goodwill, interest and backing”
Welcome to Mt Albert Inc, a website dedicated to our neighbourhood – helping you to stay in touch with what’s happening and some of the things we think are important.
The Americans would call this a hyperlocal site, concentrating on pure local news that would otherwise not be covered in today’s media world. We hope we can show that a place for grassroots local news and information is not an alien concept in the 21st century.
I was a cadet reporter on the Herald way back in the late 60s, and the Mt Albert Borough Council was one of my first news rounds. It was part of my job to let the people of Mt Albert know what was happening on their patch and, to be honest, the results were ordinary. Hardly surprising, since I was a wet-behind-the-ears kid straight out of school and let loose with minimal training.
I would pore over an advance copy of the monthly council agenda and then stay to the end of the meeting (along with the Auckland Star reporter) in search of snippets of news which would be published the following day. Or maybe not at all.
End of an era
So much for the good old days.
Mt Albert borough became Mt Albert City Council, which was pushed into Auckland City Council in the late 80s and that was the end of a local mayor, borough engineer, town planner and chief traffic officer (yes, Mt Albert even had its own traffic cops back then).
Amalgamation obliterated defined local boundaries and accelerated the decline of traditional local news in fast-growing Auckland. The creation of the supercity in 2011 added oil to the slide.
These days the Star (final edition 1991) is a hazy memory, and a vastly different Herald has no particular interest in Mt Albert – almost understandable in a city with a population touching 1.4 million and stretching from Wellsford to Franklin. Their sights are on wider city issues and sometimes stories that draw eyes if not necessarily brains as society races from newsprint to internet.
The Central Leader no doubt does the best it can with a small editorial staff stretched widely, but its pages and online presence contain little of relevance to our suburb. Just last week it revealed (if your eyes were sharp enough) it will now be published one day a week – on Thursdays. This news came after the demise of Harbour News, which many Mt Albert people once received.
So, as it has right across Auckland, local news in Mt Albert circulates haphazardly through a variety of email alerts and websites (the schools, the local board, the council, sporting clubs and so on) that hardly answer the demand in a fast-moving world for a one-stop shop delivering reliable news affecting the way we live.
Do it ourselves
In the end, most things gravitate in some way to Facebook – certainly a community advance but, between the lost pets, interesting snippets and helpful guidance, are splashes of gossip that’s been turned into fact and half-truths elevated to gospel.
The solution to all this? Do it ourselves.
That is the rationale behind this website, a project I led through the Mt Albert Residents’ Association (MARA), with the backing, in concept, of the Albert Eden Local Board. The board provided the bulk of the funding ($6600) needed to develop the technical side of the site, and Goodwin Property Management has been generous as our launch sponsor. A Givealittle campaign gave a further small boost.
The hope is Mt Albert Inc will become a long-term trusted source of local news and information and, as time passes and traffic rises, will appeal to advertisers looking to reach a local audience.
If all that works out, we’ll have funds to sustain the website (allowing support, upgrades etc), with the surplus to be channelled through MARA, owner of the site, for the good of the community. In the meantime, we’re going with very limited Google advertising (automated but low return).
Remember, please, this is a tiny local independent site (a work in progress needing polishing) where resources are as slender as they can be and no one is getting paid.
All we ask is that you join our subscription list for weekly email news updates (you’ll find the form at the bottom of this page) and come visit us two or three times a week. Together we can end that tiresome Facebook refrain, “I didn’t know about that – why didn’t someone tell me?”
Lend your support
The site can’t survive without your goodwill, interest and backing, so do send in your ideas or contributions (pictures, news stories, tips, and comments for our Forum section).
Got something relevant to Mt Albert that you’d like to get off your chest? Great – if it’s well argued, temperate, topical and interesting we’ll give it a run. If you hear about an interesting story, let us know. If you have a picture that captures the mood of Mt Albert, send it in.
Now we’re “live”, I’d like to thank people who have given me a hand… like Nic Butterworth, who helped with some design issues; Mike Field, with whom I bounced around ideas; Lauri Tapsell (Stepping back in time); Andrew Holdaway, who created our interactive map (almost there, but missing some images at the moment); Pip Stevenson from Tamahere Forum for her generous advice; and Estelle Sarney at MAGS who has been a cheerful ally.
But journalistically speaking, it’s been a pretty lonely trek and I’d love to hear from anyone with a background in the business who is able to help.
Is there a co-editor (or two) with journalism experience out there? A WordPress wizard I can call on from time to time? Someone with the credentials to follow up an advertising lead?
Please spread the message (make us your homepage, perhaps). The more visitors the site draws, the greater the chance of staying the distance and allowing everyone to keep in touch with Mt Albert and its people.
In the end, it’s up to you and whether you accept the responsibility as a citizen to stay well informed. We hope you’ll come along for the ride.
– Bruce Morris, publisher/editor