Bushfire crisis: how Region’s grassroots local operation brought you the news

Genevieve Jacobs 11 January 2020
Region Media team

Region Media team meeting in Moruya on 1 January 2020. Business manager and journalist Lisa Herbert, business writer Karyn Starmer and journalist Alex Rea. Photo: Karyn Starmer, Region Media.

Emergency reporting is one of the most important tasks any media organisation can do. It matters deeply to communities that their local media gets it right, understands what is happening and cares about the impact, long after the crisis has passed and the big operators from the city have gone home.

We’ve worked hard to do that for everyone in the Capital region over the past month or so since that first major fire began at Palerang before Christmas, and we’ll continue to do so.

But Region is very much a local outfit. While other mastheads have large teams at their immediate disposal or as back-up resources, we’ve just got ourselves. We’re a dedicated, growing but still small team, many of whom have worked their hearts out for the last few weeks.

As the New Year’s firestorm erupted on the South Coast, Bega Valley-based business manager and journalist Lisa Herbert teamed up with Moruya journalist Alex Rea, who is also deeply connected to the Braidwood community. Together they drove through fire-ravaged communities, sourcing stories about the devastation and helping out themselves despite having no power at home.

Lisa volunteered as a barbecue cook at Moruya when not filing for us and has put up her hand up for her own local fire brigade to help with communications. She spent hours talking to evacuees as the skies darkened overhead and the fires loomed.

Alex had already played a vital role in our coverage of the Palerang fire before Christmas. She monitored RFS radio and used extensive contacts on the ground to put Region hours ahead of other media outlets with our coverage of the threat to Braidwood.

Region’s business writer Karyn Starmer is at Moruya, where she faced the very real risk of losing her home of 25 years last week. The garden did go: Karyn cut down and cleared everything she’d planted and nurtured to give her and her husband a fighting chance of defending the place.

But she gave vital support to Alex and Lisa, sending us story ideas and contacts and charging up their equipment so they could keep posting stories and messages whenever they could find reception.

GJ and Gus

Region Media’s Facebook Live operation took place from group editor Genevieve Jacobs’ backyard, with the assistance of her son Gus. Photo: Charlie Jacobs.

Back at Region’s base in Canberra, the team rallied to keep everything rolling. That included me posting Facebook Live updates from my farm backyard, with the assistance of family members on their Christmas break and a microphone that Region boss Michael McGoogan drove hours to deliver (along with some very welcome cartons of beer for the “tech team”).

Michael Weaver was a machine, amalgamating masses of material into fire updates and attending the Fairbairn emergency briefings. Ian Bushnell and Dom Giannini held the fort andΒ produced continuous content to keep RiotACT and About Regional rolling.

Region co-CEO Tim White is overseas with family but kept his eyelids propped up with matchsticks so the publishing schedule would run smoothly. Sub-editor David Murtagh and community manager Jay Bergmann worked literally around the clock to make sure our content was accurate, timely and that comments met community standards.

Many more people, including quite a few spouses and partners, helped out behind the scenes with everything from comment moderation to a regular supply of coffee.

And all of this while the Region team was “on holidays”.

Local media is all about being part of our community. It’s not over yet, but, we’ll be there for the long haul for our neighbours, families and friends.

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on The RiotACT.

What's Your Opinion?

27 Responses to Bushfire crisis: how Region’s grassroots local operation brought you the news

Sharon Patrick Sharon Patrick 1:27 pm 12 Jan 20

Thanks for your coverage - it has been great.

Catherine Macgregor Catherine Macgregor 6:39 am 12 Jan 20

Thank you, guys! Your updates have been fantastic. Take care. You must be exhausted. Sending love , healing rain, and endless gratitude.

Magella Blink Magella Blink 5:05 am 12 Jan 20

Brilliant reporting & storytelling!

Big Appreciation to your team! About Regional's community focus & integrity are a gift to our communities, You have raised the bar of new journalism. Thankyou! A great, steady support- with distilled info and a clear focus - a real comfort and lifeline in these times!

Simon Haynes Simon Haynes 10:29 pm 11 Jan 20

Thank you!

The Beagle The Beagle 9:18 pm 11 Jan 20

To Alex Rea - your commitment to your community via your tireless delivery of updates must be mentioned here. While Regional News were terrific and the collective efforts of the three of you are well worthy of celebration the personal workload beyond Regional News that I observed from Alex, to keep her community informed, was staggering. πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Amanda Heather Amanda Heather 8:33 pm 11 Jan 20

Great job girls xxx

Dallis Tanner Dallis Tanner 8:15 pm 11 Jan 20

Good on you folks

Cheryl Jack Cheryl Jack 7:24 pm 11 Jan 20

You have been amazing!!

Sally Hammond Sally Hammond 6:49 pm 11 Jan 20

I love this group and often share your news on my site Australian Regional Food Guide. Wonderful to have such honest reporting.

Gabriele Harding Gabriele Harding 6:00 pm 11 Jan 20

Well done team

Marcia Smith Marcia Smith 5:48 pm 11 Jan 20

Thank you great work

Kate Raymond Kate Raymond 5:38 pm 11 Jan 20

About Regional is the best thing to happen to local media in many, many years. Far from an amateur vanity project, Ian started off a media organisation that reflects the highest journalistic standards while remaining grass roots. Thank you, thank you, thank you, everyone at Region Media.

Pauline Lovitt Pauline Lovitt 4:54 pm 11 Jan 20

Thanks for your reporting. I was keeping up with the devastating news whilst on a trip to Israel. I have done a lot of praying for rain and for Australia whilst I was there.

Carol Meindl Carol Meindl 4:41 pm 11 Jan 20

Thank you πŸ‘

Liz Swanton Liz Swanton 3:35 pm 11 Jan 20

And as one journo to a bunch of you, you have done an amazing job. Well done. Get some rest while you can. I fear this is not over yet. Make sure you get some emotional rest too.

Bernie Richards Bernie Richards 3:26 pm 11 Jan 20

You did an amazing job of keeping us all up to date. 10/10 πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Marie Zuvich Marie Zuvich 3:25 pm 11 Jan 20

love yr work xxxx

Leonie Johnston Leonie Johnston 3:19 pm 11 Jan 20

Brilliant ladies πŸ‘πŸ‘

Kylie Oneill Kylie Oneill 1:33 pm 11 Jan 20

Thank you. We depended on you and you came through for us brilliantly. We are all going to enjoy a holiday at the end of all this. So gratefulπŸ‘πŸ€πŸ’¦πŸ‘

Kathy Arthur Kathy Arthur 1:31 pm 11 Jan 20

You have been tremendous! Thankyou!