The Illawarra Mercury has been around for a while. Since 1855 in fact. To put that in perspective, that’s 70 years before the establishment of the Port Kembla Steelworks, for which the Wollongong region is now synonymous. So does longevity in the newspaper business matter? You bet it does. It’s a sign of commitment, of relevance, of value, and an indication of how the Mercury has been able to adapt to changes across more than a century and a half and maintain the loyalty of generations of readers. We must be doing something right.
In those early days founder Thomas Garrett and his father John were committed to community advocacy as much as providing a conduit for news and information. Campaigning for better roads, John said that unless residents demanded attention, the region would be reduced to “a system of primitive barbarism”. He also reported heavily on the courts saying readers would “do right, when they know if they do otherwise it will be recorded in the columns of the Mercury”.
More than 160 years later, the Mercury continues to lead community campaigns, and while the state of the roads remains a prominent issue, the paper has taken up many other causes in recent times, the continued downgrading of the health system among the most prominent. There is no doubt that newspaper journalism is at its most effective when fighting for its community. As for court reporting, Garrett’s observation remains the same, no-one wants to see their names appear in our court coverage.
The media industry is undergoing massive changes and the Illawarra Mercury has not been immune to them. But under new owners (Australian Community Media bought the Mercury and 160 other titles in 2019 after half a century of production under the Fairfax flag) we are embracing the challenges with a focus on a digital future. While thousands of readers remain loyal consumers of our printed newspaper, thousands more are taking up digital subscriptions.
Our presence in the online space, both through our website and social media, has opened up massive opportunities for engagement with readers, not the least of which is our ability to now provide breaking news and updates in real time.
Our specialist reporters covering health, education, politics, local government, transport, property, sport, entertainment and other areas are now trained in not only writing stories but presenting audio and video options, aided by our highly skilled photographers, to satisfy a growing demand from online consumers. There is no doubt this is the way of the future.
But there is one constant behind these changes and that’s the commitment of the Illawarra Mercury to our readers and our region, extending from Helensburgh in the north to Kiama in the south. We are proud of our heritage and the award-winning work our journalists and photographers have produced over the years.
As Wollongong and surrounds continue to grow, the Mercury will be here to record the highs and the lows, the triumphs and the tragedies, and relay the news and information that matter to our community.