Refreshed Stonnington Leader stirs contention

Leader Community Newspaper reporter Kiel Egging has been a journalist with News Corp for four years and in June this year he took over as reporter for the Stonnington Leader.

Mr Egging explained when he started at Leader they still had newspapers published each week, although some people started subscribing to read the print replica online, on their tablet or computer if they didn’t get it delivered.

Mr Egging recollects there being 26 Leader titles when he started with the group. In April this year, there were twenty or so mastheads and now we cover about fifteen patches of Melbourne he said.

ePapers are an online replica of the Leader newspaper and they stopped in April, when News Corp suspended the print editions of the Leader because of COVID and followed with a restructure deciding to make all the Leader titles in Victoria digital only with online reporting Mr Egging confirms.

The Stonnington History Centre, dedicated to preserving the natural history of the City of Stonnington, dates the first Stonnington Leader newspaper back to 2000 and archived the last hard copy of the publication on March 24 this year.

Stonnington Leader Community Newspaper from July 28, 2015, source: Stonnington History Centre.

City of Stonnington Mayor Steve Stefanopoulos, elected by council for the last three years, said he was not surprised they decided to stop printing the Leader.

“I think the local publication has gone already, it was gone a number of years ago when they reduced the content [of local newspapers] from being very local to being metro wide…when you look at the newspapers back in the eighties and nineties, very different volume, and very different number of local articles and local issues,” explained Mr Stefanopoulos.

“It was not very news focused it didn’t have a lot of local news items in there, so it hasn’t been a real newspaper for a very long time,” he said.

The printed hard copy only had one or two articles that were Stonnington based and the rest were from elsewhere in Melbourne he remembers.

“When the front page of the Stonnington Leader was no different to any of the others in metro Melbourne you wonder why they even produced it in hard copy form,” he said.

A lot of councils are now producing their own newsletters, more often, with local stories, Mr Stefanopoulos remarks.

Stonnington locals can subscribe to an eNewsletter and a hard copy is distributed to residents by the council, funded by rate payers, he comments.

The Stonnington City Centre service centre, Glenferrie road, Malvern.

Mr Stefanopoulos argues “locals won’t be interested in buying, subscribing to a local newspaper, I don’t think there is an appetite in the community for that at all.”

People are not going read the Stonnington Leader online because you have to subscribe to the Herald Sun to get the content, locals aged 60 to 70 years are quite IT savvy and might, but I don’t think people under 40 would, Mr Stefanopoulos comments.

Conveying the news fairly in the community starts with “good quality journalism, that’s open, honest, that presents the facts, not fiction,” Mr Stefanopoulos confirms.

“Subscriptions have now become a thing and journos don’t work for free,” Mr Egging explains.

“It’s an entirely digital product…the Leader is very much linked in with the Herald Sun obviously being part of News Corp…if we have a good enough story…the Herald Sun features it on their website [and] in their print edition,” Mr Egging confirms.

“All our coverage is…online through, as a part of the Herald Sun website…scroll down there and you will see local or Leader…if we still had the paper around that’s the kind of stuff we would be filling the paper with,” Mr Egging details.

Around the middle of the 2010s News Corp brought out their pay wall subscriber take out a subscription to the Herald Sun he explains.

“When I started in 2016…I can’t recall us having a big focus on subscription…I think it really just ramped up probably for Leader stories online…late 2017…that’s when we…were given instructions to make a few more of our stories subscriber only,” Mr Egging recalls.

Detail from the Leader Community family tree, source: State Library Victoria.

Now the Herald Sun subscription gets you a Leader subscription. Once you subscribe you get access to all the Leader news stories, as well as the Herald Sun stories or anything else in the News Corp network Mr Egging clarifies.

“On the Herald Sun website, the coronavirus information…is free…public health and public safety…[is] free as well.”

Mr Egging contends that breaking news remains the focus of the Stonnington Leader.

“The key stories are around crime, emergency services, shopping, council and development is a big one,” Mr Egging comments.

“I’m always calling up the cops to see what incidents there have been,” he says.

“I basically just cover general news…filing stories for the website…managing the social media channels as well so we have to keep on pushing out lots of stories,” he describes.

The Chapel Street precinct obviously is a very bustling source for stories Mr Egging remarks.

“We provide a voice for these people…without us…council could just spin things their way, that’s why community news is…so important,” Mr Egging asserts.

“The president of the rate payers’ group…keeps telling me what interesting little tricks the council is up to and things like that.”

“Those who just love the papers or were used to it…could potentially be…disappointed with it the most, hopefully they can get their fix again online,” Mr Egging contends.

“I still got a thrill of holding a paper and you know reading it and finding my work in there…it is that kind of nostalgia element, which was really cool, so to see that go was sad but at the same time I am still very grateful I have a job…because lots of people aren’t as fortunate in my position,” he recaps.

“Community newspapers and community news is all about shining a light on those people who may not normally get their stories…we’re still here and doing that so it’s just in a different environment…without the printed edition now,” Mr Egging summarises.

Read the Stonnington Leader online