Twenty years on from it’s humble beginnings, City Hub is still printing the news and raising hell.
In celebration of this milestone anniversary, in spite of the numerous challenges not only to independent and traditional media over the past two decades, we are taking a look back with some of the editors and contributors who have participated in the growth of the Hub.
“I am just so thrilled that the City Hub is still going,” said Irina Dunn. Nowadays a highly regarded literary agent, manuscript assessor and Program Director for the 2016 Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival, Dunn was an avid and long-term arts contributor at the very beginning. She was drawn to the paper for it’s “progressive, critical attitude” and the way it was serving the needs of the local community.
The Hub’s first editor was Hall Greenland, who went on to win two Walkeys for his outstanding work in journalism. These days he does occasional journalism and is currently convenor of the Greens NSW – and is still president of Friends of Callan Park, which he cofounded to lead the fight to save the iconic heritage parklands on Iron Cove from the developers.
Uproarious support for the Hub’s fresh and independent news coverage at one stage saw publisher AltMedia running four separate titles (including City News, The Bondi View and The Inner West Independent). While global challenges to print media forced the publisher to scale back down to one title, the same initial spirit has maintained City Hub’s circulation and reputation for offering Sydney residents an independent alternative to Australia’s media conglomerates.
Many active media professionals have been drawn to the freedom and challenge of working with Sydney’s prominent independent publisher over the years, yet the platform has also served as a launching point for many more who cut their journalistic teeth with AltMedia and honed their editorial craft on it’s pages.
Gareth Narunsky is currently a senior editor at the Australian Jewish News, but his first printed byline was in the Hub’s sister paper the City News, where he continued to get published and eventually held the position of News Editor (2009-10). “It allowed me to improve my research, interview and writing skills, and introduced me to contacts that I’m still in touch with today,” explained Narunsky.
Former group News Editor Pam Walker already had valuable and notable media experience at the time she joined the team (2005-10), having worked as Press Secretary to Lord Mayor Clover Moore and in previous editorial capacities with commercial publications. “I liked the fact that the focus of the papers was the inner city, which was the area that I had come to do most of my work in,” reflected Walker. Presently she teaches journalism at USyd and UNSW, and writes for the South China Morning Post.
An activist in various social movements including ‘Reclaim the Streets’ and ‘Critical Mass’, Tracy Sorensen was drawn to the advertised position of News Editor when reading and issue of City Hub she picked up in a Newtown café in the late 90s. Moving to Sydney’s Inner West after growing up in a remote town in WA, Sorensen says she felt a sense of ‘homecoming’ when she reached Newtown. The Hub was an important source of information for her activist contemporaries. “We were ‘Hub readers’,” explained Tracy. “[City Hub] was always sitting in the cafes we frequented.”
Sorensen also witnessed first-hand the impact of the “massive opening up of the internet” in the early 2000s and its effect on independent media. “I think the Internet has changed the landscape forever, but I think the thing that hasn’t changed at all is the incredible need for alternative voices in a media landscape that is completely dominated by very few private interests,” she explained. Sorensen currently teaches journalism, video production and digital media at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst and is also still involved in freelance journalism and documentary making.
The Hub has not only built a reputation for its measured coverage of news and local affairs, but also the burgeoning arts scene. Angela Bennetts was an arts editor for about three years (2009-13). “As an indie paper we were able to shine a light on those events or projects that might not make it to the mainstream papers,” she recalled. “Of course established art practice was a focus too, but the most interesting pieces were always those with the ‘next big things’, seen first in AltMedia!” Bennetts currently lives and works overseas as a Marketing Manager for Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, Southeast Asia’s largest and most exciting cultural event.
As an Arts Editor early on in her career in the 90s, Barbara Karpinski was taken by the respect for the integrity of the work produced for City Hub. “I was able to write what I believed to be fair comment,” she reflected. She attributes this high standard to Hub founder and continuing publisher Lawrence Gibbons. “I think its vital to have free and independent press… it allows [alternative] viewpoints and marginalised groups that may often be represented in a facetious or non-serious way to be able to be [fairly] represented,” said Karpinski. She is currently a candidate for a doctorate in Creative Arts, and is working on a documentary film, The Flipside of Flamboyance, looking at mental health and the queer community.
“I think when there’s such a rush to occupy the conservative positions in politics, its really important to have an independent newspaper which isn’t beholden to huge donations from businesses, or indeed from unions,” explained Irina Dunn. “To have an independent voice is absolutely critical, and it has become more critical in the current environment.”
While the media landscape and reader habits have irrevocably changed over the course of time, the value of an independent publication like City Hub is more poignant than ever. We hope to continue serving and informing the public for another 20 years and beyond.