Publication Profile: The Illawarra Flame

Publication Profile: The Illawarra Flame

Answers submitted by Genevieve Swart, Co-Owner of The Illawarra Flame.

Tell us about The Illawarra Flame. How was it founded?
We're a grassroots publication named after a tree, an independent family business owned and operated by journalists who put quality first. It began in late 2013, when I was looking to fill in a few hours as my daughter started preschool. The owner of the Helensburgh Herald was selling up, and after 20-odd years of working at newspapers and magazines in Cape Town, London and Sydney, I thought taking on the local paper would be a nice alternative to the anti-social hours of a national newsroom.

My husband, also a journalist, and I launched a new community magazine in the old paper's place, printing just 3,000 copies of our first edition. Ten years on, after merging our three local titles and rebranding during the pandemic, our print circulation has almost quadrupled to 11,000 a month and we have a fast-growing digital division, including daily hyperlocal news, newsletters, socials and a digital-only Weekend magazine. My daughter is in high school and producing better video content than her parents.

What role does The Illawarra Flame play in the wider community?
We entertain, inform and foster a sense of belonging. We tell the everyday stories no one else is covering. We feature familiar faces, local business people and neighbourhood issues. We celebrate the people who shape our community, it's incredible how much is done by volunteers. Volunteers power community sport, arts organisations, social clubs, retiree groups, bush care, historical societies, food charities, surf clubs, council forums, fire brigades, and even the local electrification project. Our editorial recognises all these people. The Flame has become a much-loved voice for the not-for-profit sector but at a hyperlocal community level.

What are some key issues or topics you’ve covered so far this year?
So many! Local news is infinitely broad and endlessly interesting. Just in June, for example, we told the story of the local RFS group captain who won a commendation for bravery, how an Indigenous path inspired an archway of art, a school's plan to upcycle old clothes, the cost of living crisis, a band's new song and the local orchard's recipe for mulled cider. We've featured a Buddhist nun, an Illawarra drag queen and a new book by a celebrated scientist. We've shared news of a food co-op fundraiser, the start of winter swim season, and the campaign to Electrify 2515.

What are your best-performing stories? Any topics that you want to hear more about?
Stories about local people. People doing good, brave, challenging, innovative, artistic, and otherwise interesting things.

Any advice for PRs looking to reach out to work with you?
Look for the hyperlocal angle. We give priority to stories about volunteers, sustainability, and the arts. Businesses typically pay for space, either as advertorial or traditional advertisements.

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Genevieve Swart


The Illawarra Flame

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