MySunshineCoast.com.au is not an online newspaper. We are what is commonly referred to as a "Regional Portal". This is why the site has everything from Events, News, Real Estate, Holiday Lettings, Specials and Businesses displayed on it. Apart from the upgraded Business listings - of which we desperately need more as they pay to continue vast majority of free community work we do, so please consider subsiding this work – we don’t charge any non-profits, sports organisations, charities etc. to upload their information on our site.
Often when you have been doing something for a long time and have large visitor numbers on your site you think that everyone is on the same page, metaphorically speaking. In this day of social media and the internet, that is not a good thing and looking at your site again with a ‘new’ person’s eyes can be very helpful.
A case in point is DJ on Twitter who raised the issue about a particular item in the news area being bias and obviously journalism costs. I was looking at the message thinking:
A. “well yeah of course, it came directly from the political party they are never going to let the truth get in the way of ‘their’ story” and...
B. We are not journalists (and don’t want to be) that is the papers job, we just disseminate information supplied to us.
What I failed to consider was that the person in question may not have been aware of the site as a whole, it’s purpose and it’s history and of course how things have changed over time. For example, we now have a hell of a lot more visitors than what we did back in 2002 - actually the likes of Twitter & Facebook did not even exist back in those days for this feedback from DJ to happen - people no longer just view the site on their computers, but on tablets & phones as well and with the case in point, DJ may not have scrolled to the very end of the article to see that the news in question was attached to the details for the political party – as all news items onsite are, ie. attached to a person, organisation, business, school etc. – and considering that just about all news media organisations are online now, looking through DJ’s eyes I can see how this can happen.
Back in the day...
When we went live on the interwebz in 2002, many newspapers were still not online, or if they were online, only had a few articles there, not the whole paper. Many press releases that would go out would obviously not get an airing in the paper or nightly news, just due to sheer lack of space. Many pieces of information were also quite frankly just not of interest to the vast majority of the population here, so would not get a run in the local news either, which is a fair call, the major dailies can't be expected to print details of every teeny weeny fundraiser or charity AGM coming up for example. Though as we were online only, space was obviously not an issue for us and even though some news may only have been of interest to a smaller portion of the Sunshine Coast, they could still be serviced.
Another issue back in the day was that obviously you could not click on a link in the paper to go directly to further information. So if you put together the lack of space in a physical paper combined with the link-through ability the whole item from say, the University with a free information seminar on an obscure topic, would not only be disseminated further via visitors to our site, it would also give the interested party the opportunity to link through to the relevant website to register or get more info.
Initially when this site started it was so you could find out things like what was on at the libraries for free in school holidays, and of course for many new visitors they were not so aware that we had 3 very separate Councils, Caloundra, Maroochy & Noosa, plus *Gympie who used to send through releases prior to the amalgamations – so obviously we put up all 4 councils school holiday information releases. Then we received more, on a variety of issues from budget details to calls for volunteers from other organisations, you name it and the area grew from there.
We soon found that not only were we helping to give information to people with a variety of interests, we were also allowing candidates in all three levels of elections the ability to say what they wanted to say directly, not just a short paragraph in the paper, particularly those who were either Independents or minor parties who would not normally get that chance with the large newspapers or nightly news. We also found that when there was an ‘issue’ on the coast, we had the ‘space’ to allow all entities to put forward their info, which allowed locals to make up their own mind.
Giving our visitors the ability to make up their own mind is very important to us.
Some News items may be boring to many, but not to locals who have a particular issue they are interested in. Some News items may be self-serving and cynical and as long as they don't breach our content rules - believe me, over the years, some well & truly have, sadly - well, visitors have a right to see what that particular entity really said (not just the small paragraph or one line that may be repeated in the regular news).
Often when putting up these I will cough *bullshit* to myself, though this also means that the visitor can look at it, see who it came from and take issue with them directly, or of course, do the same as me and cough *bullshit* whilst reading on their computer, phone, or tablet LOL!.
On the flipside I also put up some that have really useful information that I think to myself, “Damn, wish they had gotten a PR person to help them with this, it is important information but probably won’t be picked up by the nightly news”.
As we are not Journalists – nor aspire to be – this means there is no editorial amending and therefore the visitor gets to see EXACTLY what the entity has said, and it is for the visitor to decide on context, ramifications or to even go so far as to contact the entity themselves for further clarification or information – all Organisations, Business etc. with news articles & events are attached to will have a minimum of phone or email address attached to their profile.
So to sum up
We are purely a disseminator of information sent to us via many political organisations & entities, charities, non profit groups etc. Approximately 90% (maybe more) of the items in our News area are uploaded for free and are done so without fear, favour, political or any other form of bias. They are uploaded in this area in the order they are received via email.
We are also often accused of not having a particular entities point of view online, if that is the case, it means that entity did not send their media release or information to us, so obviously we won’t have it online. We do this as a free service, therefore do not have the time nor staff to be chasing things up, and as already stated, we are not journalists, so if we are missing a candidate for a particular election or the ‘other side’ of an issue, that is because they did not send it through to us, there is no bias there.
The only exception to this rule is for the minority of Businesses who pay to advertise with us (thank you very much, you keep the site going) who pretty much get membership to the site as a whole, therefore their media releases will be put up in the news area, their specials will go in the specials area, hell, if they are leasing extra space in their commercial premises that will go in our Real Estate area. Some content providers like PR firms will also pay Premium membership for us to publish all their clients media releases online, though I have to say, the regular ones who have been doing this for years with us also do a lot of free work for various charities & non-profits as well and they send through their info at the same standard as they do their business clients, so kudos to them for their community spirit as well.
I hope this has clarified the purpose and intent of our ‘Sunshine Coast News & Articles’ area and we hope to do similar articles over time to explain other areas of our website, so if you are particularly interested in a different area, please just let us know and we will put that at the top of the list. A lot has changed since 2002, both on the Sunshine Coast itself and on our site so we don’t take offence to any queries as we are human too and as my twitter interaction with DJ shows, in these days of short Social Media conversations, the more clarification we can provide onsite to point someone to, the better. So feel free to contact us firstname.lastname@example.org :)
*We started this site initially based on school kids information and they tend to compete in sport, music etc from Caboolture to Hervey Bay, we still cover this area to this day, so if we are missing your information as you felt that say Gympie was no longer part of this area, please don’t feel this way, many on the Coast, not just school kids, are very happy to drive to Caboolture, Gympie or Hervey Bay for events, gallery exhibits etc. so send that info through to us ;-)