The removal of rubbish dumped in bushland and the installation of wheelchair-accessible footpaths are two of the many victories of a 10-week NewsLocal NSW campaign aimed at delivering real outcomes for local communities.
The Neighbourhood Rescue campaign was run across NewsLocal NSW’s 20 community newspapers from August and saw readers, journalists and councils work together to identify and fix problems in the local community.
The campaign was conceived by Kathy Lipari, editor-in-chief of the NSW News Corp Australia community newspaper division.
“It was a good campaign in that we’re able to get real things done in our communities to improve the streets and the areas that people live in,” she said.
Other Neighbourhood Rescue achievements include securing improvements to the Laxton Reserve playground in Dulwich Hill and getting potholes in the Punchbowl Station commuter carpark fixed within two weeks.
NewsLocal coordinated the digitally driven campaign, however it was executed individually by each local newspaper.
Each week of the 10-week campaign was dedicated to a different topic such as rubbish, potholes, graffiti, playgrounds and parks.
Readers were then encouraged to use an online tool to raise their concerns relating to that week’s topic and upload photos, details and the location of the problem.
NewsLocal journalists would then work with councils or the appropriate government body to address the problem or provide a timetable to fix it.
“It was something that I thought would be a great exercise for NewsLocal given our strong community connections,” Ms Lipari said. “And it was something that we wanted to enter into in partnership with councils.
“There were a few councils worried about it just being an exercise in negativity. They were worried that it might become a whinge-fest but it actually didn’t. The goal from the outset was for it to be a positive exercise where we’re able to actively work together to get things fixed that were most worrying our readers.
“Definitely in that sense it was great intelligence for our masthead editors.”
Throughout the campaign NewsLocal NSW papers like Parramatta Advertiser, Manly Daily and Inner West Courier would publish articles highlighting the top concerns raised by their readers. They would also publish articles canvassing the outcomes of the campaign.
NewsLocal received hundreds of submissions from readers each week of the campaign, as well as significant engagement on social media.
Ms Lipari hopes to run the campaign again in 2016 following its successful debut this year.
Neighbourhood Rescue replaced NewsLocal’s The Fixer column which was run irregularly and to varying extents across its mastheads.