September 19th 2007
Still swell to be here!
Do you remember when Sunferries was the brand new ferry company - successfully taking on the old established order at a time when Islanders yarned their way down the prettiest of front paths (the Picnic Bay Jetty) on their way to and from work? At the same time, while the Island's longest and hottest public argument over the man-made wasteland at Nelly Bay Harbour raged away, a small band of residents worked late into the night for weeks as they taught themselves how to produce a new Island newspaper. When it was launched, it was called Magnetic Times. That was ten years ago today!
Leading with a first cover headline, "It's swell to be here", and running a photo of the occasional good surf to be had on Magnetic, the 20 page paper was printed in an edition of 1200 on 100% recycled paper and distributed to all Island residents through their letterbox.
Our first cover from September 19, 1997
Researching and writing stories sometimes all through the night, learning computer desktop publishing as we went, designing and selling adverts, dealing with scary letters from solicitors when we upset the big end of town and the often raucous paper folding parties of wine and typo spotting, were all part of the very intense life we took upon ourselves as we threw ourselves before the discerning eyes of Magnetic Island's residents.
Started by Wendy Tubman (now of Fiji), Penelope Sheridan and myself, George Hirst, the paper came out fortnightly and grew to 32 pages. After yet another paper (yes, there once were three!) had entered the market, we decided that, after six years of paying for printing, the internet was the best way to survive with our brand of independent and community orientated journalism. In 2002 it made us the first north Queensland newspaper to go online (beatcha Mr Murdoch!) and for that we thank the genius of Icelandic lover of Magnetic, Valberg Larusson who provided us with his prototype Cypress software.
In 2005 we were honoured when we were awarded the Telstra Media Award for best Website and, as the years passed, we watched as our world-wide readership grew. We still don't know how many of you readers there are out there exactly. Some stats programs say over 3000 per day while others put us at around 1000. What we do know is that magnetictimes.com is still a lively place for Islanders - especially our News Club readers who number over 750 - and anybody else interested in Magnetic, to come and read and discuss issues about the Island which matter to them.
We are also grateful for the long and steady support of our advertisers who have kept us alive and the many readers who tip us off for stories or contribute their own, often brilliantly expressed comments.
We know that some of you would still prefer to hold our pages in your hands but the reality of independent publishing for a small community in the 21st century - when the traditional media is swamped by massive multi-nationals - means we must make the most of the web. And with over 1700 Magnetic-related articles and over 4000 Magnetic-related images searchable through magnetictimes.com there are definitely advantages.
Perhaps, when electronic paper becomes cheap and ubiquitous, the portability of our pages will once again return. In the meantime we say: it's still swell to be here!
George Hirst & Penelope Sheridan
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