Ipswich's council's ratepayer-funded news site in spotlight

IPSWICH City Council has defended its news website after the ABC'S Media Watch questioned its value to ratepayers and effect on journalism.

The focus on council-run "news" websites has reignited this month after Bundaberg Regional Council copied Ipswich's ratepayer-funded, Ipswich First site.

Ipswich City Council's communications and media manager Simon Holt said Ipswich First was "a rebirthing of the council newsletter".

"In our case, we see value in a strategy which combines Facebook, a digital newsletter, and a permanent home for content, branded Ipswich First," he said.

"Instead of producing content for magazines, printed newsletters and other forms of older media, we felt it imperative that we cater for a modern audience - thereby providing information to people in a form they are most willing to consume.

"The world has changed, and traditional barriers to communication have been eliminated."

Mr Holt said it was not an intention to compete with media.

"The best way to advocate pride within our communities is to tell positive, uplifting stories," he said.

"There will be times we will engage our audience in serious discussion about council matters.

"We recently released information from a McGrath Nicol report which showed a multi-million-dollar shortfall in funding for a project to redevelop the city's mall.

"While not overly flattering to council, we felt it was a responsible course of action."

News Regional Media executive editor digital Bryce Johns said, in Bundaberg's case, media inquiries were being used as a cue for the council to write its own stories.


Editorial Director Bryce Johns speaks at the 2015 Australian Regional Media Editorial Awards.Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
News Regional Media executive editor digital Bryce Johns. Adam Hourigan


"It means unbalanced stories giving their slant to potentially negative coverage can be seen, admittedly by a much smaller audience than ours, ahead of the real angle," he said.

"The irony in that is the very people who are lamenting the loss of regional journalism are doing their best to destroy it."

Mr Holt said Ipswich First provided a "higher degree of accountability".

"This is the type of platform we want to develop - one which is highly accountable and transparent, and one which is a trusted source of information to the community," he said.