Peri Strathearn was the senior journalist for his commercial, local paper, The Murray Valley Standard, when the COVID pandemic hit and the paper shut down during lockdown in April 2020 – a time when news and community reassurance was needed most. It was then that Peri decided to start his own newsletter and website, Murray Bridge News, to cover local news in the Murraylands community.
It was a tough time to start a local newsletter – all major publishers had been pulling out of regional markets for the past couple of years because the papers were financially unviable – and unlike other Australian businesses, Peri had no government financial support. Instead of pondering these things, he focused on doing what he loved most – writing articles. Peri offered his weekly newsletter free of charge and gave the option for a monthly subscription of $5.50. He applied and was one of 12 local publishers who won 12 months of partial subsidised funding through the Substack Local program in June 2021. The company is promoting newsletter business models without advertisements and focussing only on generating revenue from low-cost subscriptions. The subsidy program runs until the end of June 2022.
Peri is more qualified than most to run a newsletter, having been a reporter since 2012. He was awarded SA’s best regional/rural journalist and its best regional print journalist three times over. He is proud of his independent news service and that the decisions that guide it are made in Murray Bridge and not in a distant place like Adelaide or Sydney. He is pleased to also point out that 100 per cent of its profits remain in the community.
Peri says his newsletter encourages people to get involved with community groups, events and opportunities. His stories advocate for his local community, whilst guaranteeing a news service that is ethical, accessible and sustainable. He is keen to see more newsletters like his in other communities.
Peri is a member of LINA’s Advisory Committee and says that advocacy is needed so news organisations like his are heard and considered when the Government makes decisions.
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