Back in March, as we were finalising Issue 29 of New Matilda, our Prime Minister, John Howard, got to his feet in the House of Representatives to answer a question from Kim Beazley about the current account deficit.
It was essentially just another ho-hum question without notice. And one would normally not expect to be riveted by the PM’s response. But riveted we were.
The reason was that the source the Prime Minister was using to respond to Beazley was us. Howard stood in the Parliament and quoted from an article by John Edwards that had appeared in New Matilda only the week before. See Hansard here.
We know that the Prime Minister is not a New Matilda subscriber and, from the way he described the article as having been ‘posted on the web site under the heading of NewMatilda.com’ we suspect the Prime Minister didn’t do a lot of surfing for himself.
Thanks to Fiona Katauskas
In any case, it was a significant moment for us. After enduring derision from commentators who sought to label us left-biased even as we pumped out issue after issue of good, solid, politically broad-ranging views, here was the Prime Minister using New Matilda to attack the Opposition.
It caught on. Only a week later, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Miranda Devine mentioned ‘the New Matilda crowd’ as she applauded the Government’s decision to tackle the issue of long-term detainees. Miranda called our contribution to the debate a ‘splenetic’ vendetta whose ‘hyperbole about concentration camps puts most of the Government and its citizens on the defensive’. Touché!
Later, a busy Terry McCrann at The Australian sent us an email: ‘You were wrong.’ That was it. About what? We still don’t know. Perhaps he and the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt had been comparing notes when Bolty sent an email chiding our use of ‘thankyou’ as one word in an editorial when, of course, it should be two — as in ‘thank you’. Watch out, you grammar-mavens at Media Watch!
As the year wore on, moments such as these had us feeling that we were heading in the right direction. New Matilda was in the game.
And though one year is not a long time in the world of publications, it is these highlights and other significant moments that have made of New Matilda a palpable success and a joy to be part of.
We now have 3192 valued subscribers and we’re well on the way to hitting our target of five thousand by the end of the year. Our hit rate averages around ten thousand unique visitors to the site each month. But best of all, New Matilda has published almost eight hundred articles providing a forum for around two hundred and fifty authors, many of whom had never had their opinions heard in Australia’s cramped, mainstream mediasphere before.
In terms of popularity, Don Watson’s editorial of June 29 scored the highest number of hits for any New Matilda article, closely followed by two pieces by John Hooker — this month’s ‘Signs of the future’ and ‘John Howard’ . High hit rates were recorded for Simon Chapman’s ‘Kicking the Habit’ and Don Aitkin’s ‘Rethinking Education’ from the Education Policy Portal.
And, while hit rates only provide a measure of the number of times an article has been read, it has been the comments that subscribers have added to each article that have given us the most pleasure because it means that our readers have not just passively consumed, they have also been moved to contribute themselves. An article by Hugh Mackay spectacularly generated around 40 comments, but it was Jane Caro who regularly drew the most commentary to her writing over the last twelve months, closely followed by Andrew West, John Hooker and Julian Burnside.
From the fifty two issues published in the past year, we have had forty three articles reprinted in major metropolitan newspapers around the country. Always with a little advertisement at the end saying, ‘reprinted from New Matilda.com’. Sometimes articles were rejected by the major broadsheets: ‘Our readers aren’t interested in Iraq’ or ‘This article is anti-Fairfax and we use images provided by Fairfax …’
Our authors have been interviewed about their articles on ABC Radio National and on local ABC stations in Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart and Adelaide, plus innumerable community stations.
Our main goal has been to offer a refreshing challenge to the standards of social and political commentary in Australia, particularly by providing a unique portal for policy ideas that accompanies each weekly issue of the magazine. We believe this is a wellspring of ideas and change for a brighter Australian future.
We have also successfully broken news and beaten the major players to events. Our story,‘A late night removal operation’, about an asylum seeker who was deported by the Immigration Department with gaffer tape wound tightly over his mouth and face, beat the ABC story ‘Deportee incident causes human rights concerns’ and the Fairfax story ‘Deported man gagged and bound on flight: witness’, both of which reported it the next day.
The recent Sydney Writers Festival included a forum featuring Hilary McPhee and regular contributor Andrew West. Offline and in person, the auditorium was full. Amongst our subscribers, avid booklovers and some who had never heard of us but turned up anyway, a passionate discussion was had of the joy and complexities of online publishing.
The contributors, illustrators, subscribers, visitors to the site, staff and board — all these people are the face of New Matilda.
Exciting, challenging, with enormous potential ahead, New Matilda is growing and changing with each new issue — you wouldn’t be dead for quids.
As you can see, in the short time that it has been published, New Matilda has achieved a great deal. In order for our magazine to continue to be an independent, alternative media voice, we need to attract new readers and subscribers. You can help us do this by forwarding a copy of this article to your colleagues and friends to let them know what they’ve been missing out on for the last year.
Thanks for being part of the New Matilda family and we look forward to an exciting second year.
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