Who’s reading their local paper?

The last time I read my local paper was… well, I can’t exactly recall. The Parramatta Sun arrives on my doorstep (or somewhere in the general vicinity – usually in a gutter or wedged under a car wheel) on a semi-regular basis, and yet it is only on the rare occasion where I feel like an easy Sudoku ‘challenge’ that I have a flip through its pages. Like most millennials, I get my news online, and in a globalising world, local news appears to be losing relevance. If you were to ask me who any of the contributors to my local paper were, or which section was my preferred read, I would not know what to tell you.
If you were to ask me the same about the Auburn Review, my answers may be a little different. After sifting through every edition of Auburn’s local paper over the past thirty years you’d certainly hope so. As part of my project, which looks into the history of the Auburn Youth Centre, I spent countless hours flicking through the yellowing pages of the Auburn Review in search for anything and everything I could find about the community organisation.
At first, my reading of these papers seemed to conjure more questions than answers.
How does a journalist manage to recycle the same story about footpath improvements over several years?
Is every front page article from 1988 going to be about syringes?
Why is Auburn Baseball Club pleading for ladies to enter their ‘lovely legs competition’? What is a lovely legs competition?
Did the Community Improvement Association realise their acronym would be CIA? Is that why they picked it?
And yet, the real question on my mind was: How did the Auburn Youth Centre feature in the local community – why was it so important for the local youth to have access to this organisation, and how did it benefit their lives?
Although my peripheral questions may forever remain an enigma, the answers I craved were there in the bound editions of the Auburn Review. Looking through the entire issue of the paper really gave an insight into the character of the community. I couldn’t ‘Ctrl+F’ ‘Youth Centre’ like in a digital edition (although my eyes may have developed a sharp radar for locating the words manually), but the lengthy process which resulted was entirely worth it.
The papers revealed so much about the needs of the Community. Certain themes were consistently brought up, and helped to establish context beyond the advertised offer of the centre. I was able to see for myself that Auburn Youth Centre was genuinely needed in the community. Prior to its establishment, there were few affordable activities available for teenagers in the area. Youth surveys and investigations showcased the issues which were at the forefront for Auburn youth: unemployment, substance abuse, boredom, and absence of a platform to voice their needs. The initiatives of the Auburn Youth Centre directly responded to these needs, and it became a valuable asset to the community. Coverage of the operations of the organisation by the local paper, in combination with an outlook over just how well AYC services corresponded to the needs of the community, show that the Auburn Youth Centre consistently provided an indispensable service to local youth.
There is so much to be learnt about the workings and character of a community just by reading the local publications – my research into AYC has shown me that. It has also encouraged me to become more interested in my own local community. The next time I find a soggy copy of the Parramatta Sun resting on my driveway, I will have a read through it to become an expert in my own local history – before it becomes history.