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We Mustn't Stop The Press When It Comes To Crinkling News

The future of media literacy among our children is at stake.

09/05/2017 1:00 PM AEST | Updated 09/05/2017 3:36 PM AEST
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"Crinkling must not die anymore than the Age or the Sydney Morning Herald should cease from publishing -- or be stripped of the capacity to do their job."

A funny thing happened on the way to the private equity bid for Fairfax: turns out loads of folks really care about journalism.

They care so much, they've started holding lemonade stalls and bake sales to keep their favorite masthead alive.

Some are even handing over their pocket money.

Okay, I am not talking about Fairfax titles, though with a $17 million valuation on the Sydney Morning Herald, who knows what might happen if we all get baking? The fundraising is happening for a paper that probably wouldn't be much of target for a private equity strip, float and sell.

I talk about Crinkling News, the nation's only paper for kids.

Last week, Crinkling was close to collapse. But thanks to the generosity -- and dare I say, good sense -- of hundreds of Australian kids and parents, it might well have a future.

It certainly has a loyal, caring and active fan base. As of midday today, Crinkling had raised almost $76,000 in five days in an online fundraiser. Here's the link.

And much of the dough is being raised by, er, making dough.

And crushing lemons...

And handing over pocket money...

To anyone who knows Crinkling, as I do, this outpouring isn't a surprise. Crinkling News knows its audience and its audience loves Crinkling.

Why? Because it treats kids with respect, publishing fair, balanced and well–written pieces about real issues, not pap about cats and pop stars. It sees its readers (the core readerships are 9, 10 and 11 year-olds) as the news consumers of the future. Which is, of course, what they are -- and it is why all journalists should be helping to save Crinkling.

You could argue that Crinkling isn't a special case and that it should stand and fall on its merits like any media company or, for that matter, any small business.

Fair enough.

Serving the public good -- as contested as the idea is -- does not confer on journalism an eternal get out of jail card. The journalism business (with the exception of those subsidized by the taxpayer) is not any more special than any other. It needs to know and service an audience.

So, Crinkling may not be a special case. But it is a right and just one. Without putting too fine a point on it, it is the one that can directly help improve media literacy among our children.

Here are the facts: two people (Saffron Howden and Remi Bianchi) take a Fairfax redundancy payout and, believing in journalism (and believing in kids and education), create a niche product.

That product takes root and grows. Steadily.

A year on from launch, Crinkling has about 800 school subscriptions out of a potential of about 9000. For a business with zero marketing spend, they've nailed down close to 10 percent of the market in a year.

That's a remarkable achievement.

Crinkling News isn't asking for a handout. All it needs is a runway.

The founders have ploughed in their own funds, made a great weekly product and, more to the point, proved there is a business -- a media business -- that with a bit more help has a future.

If Crinkling manages to hit the $200,000 fundraising target, Howden and Bianchi plan to spend the money on business development, on sales and marketing. The fundraiser ends in two days. There are options after that but nothing much can happen without an injection of funds.

If you can help, please do so.

Crinkling must not die anymore than the Age or the Sydney Morning Herald should cease from publishing -- or be stripped of the capacity to do their job.

All three are vital to the democratic discourse, to the coming of an understanding about how we might live or want to. I want them all to survive.

And you know what, after this past week, I think they will.

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