SIC - Who stands for the council? It's people like you.

Community / ‘A small price to pay in support of local independent journalism’ – our readers speak out on the fifth anniversary of supporters scheme

WHEN Shetland News started asking readers to contribute towards the running cost of our news service, we could not be sure of the response.

Back in 2016, the idea of paying for the news on the internet was still in its infancy and asking readers to do so voluntarily rather than through a paywall was seen as a risky step to take.

In fact, one unnamed local entrepreneur was adamant that business should not be built on charity; however at the same time the national newspaper The Guardian, principally struggling with the same issues, had just launched their own supporters scheme, a concept that we found attractive.

Five years later we are closing in on the 500 mark of active supporters and, incredibly, many of those who signed up right at the start in August 2016 are still with us and continue to pay their monthly contribution in support of the work we do.

To mark the fifth birthday we asked some of them why they are happy to pay for something they could also have for free? Here is what they told us:

Kathy Hubbard

Co-curator of the Screenplay film festival Kathy Hubbard says she signed up because it did not seem fair to use the service as much as she did without paying something towards it.

“I think we’ve all become a bit too accustomed to getting services free on the Internet,” she said.

“I enjoy reading Shetnews and I admire what you do. I particularly enjoy the film reviews that you sometimes include – they are really well written.  

“I feel that Shetnews has helped me stay and feel connected to people and events in the community, particularly through this period of the pandemic. Keep it coming!”

Karen Fraser

Library manager Karen Fraser highlights how lucky Shetland is to have several good local media sources.

“One can’t expect these to be free,” she said, and added that “on a bigger stage, there is a full-scale assault on honest news reporting going on, so it was just one tiny way to contribute to a reputable source.

“Shetland News is local and is long established, so has a good understanding of the community. It is quick to post updates and there is a variety of news and features. It uses photos and social media well, so is quick to scan.”

Lynette Ritchie with Louis

Meanwhile Aberdeen-based Lynette Ritchie says she visits the Shetland News website every morning “to get a snapshot of what is happening back at home”.

And, like many readers, she is conscious of the changing media landscape in the UK and beyond, and the need to support journalism.

“I consume a fair amount of written media and think it’s important to support local and independent journalism,” she said.

“Keep doing what you do and I’ll keep supporting you!”

Jordan Ogg

Jordan Ogg, from Edinburgh, says a monthly contribution towards Shetland News’ work is “a small price to pay for an excellent service” and he makes the point that “good quality, independent and accessible local journalism is essential for a healthy society”, as supporting it is “part of what holds our communities together.”

“I like the daily format of Shetland News as it means breaking stories are reported before they get too old. I also enjoy the mix of reporting, from straight news to features on local businesses and the arts,” he said.

When asked what we should do better he responds: “It would be good to see more investigative reporting from Shetland, but I understand how much resource it takes to do properly.”

“I very much agree with Jordan on his last point,” Shetland News editor Hans J Marter responds, “but as he rightly says, it depends on the resources we can commit to that as we have a small team with only two core journalists in addition to some freelancers.

“Progressing investigations can be slow at times, as our primary job is to get the news out quickly and accurately.”

He continued by saying: “What is worth pointing out, though, is that the majority of the stories we publish is original material researched and written by our journalists.

“There are many new projects and ideas we are working on at the moment such as the Shetland Voices podcasts of which we have just published Jane Moncrieff’s latest instalment at https://www.shetnews.co.uk/category/features/shetland-voices/

“Other than the ongoing improvements to the site, there’s now a few extra features with having an account. You can now bookmark an article to read later, and supporter adverts are now hidden, just make sure to sign in.

“A big thanks you to everybody who has supported us over the last five years; it’s all hugely appreciated and helps make Shetland News what it is.

“If you want to join us please do so by visiting https://account.shetnews.co.uk/contribute/