Towards the end of the most difficult year in living memory Peter Hackney made the improbable move from his role as a magazine editor to that of a fledgeling publisher of a new online media outlet.
With the Sydney Sentinel now being online for just over two months, Hackney said that it is already “a progressive new voice in Sydney’s media landscape offering a different take on Sydney, with emphasis on local issues, news, arts and opinion.
“These are joined by dedicated queer, vegan and youth sections.”
Saying that it is a an interesting time to start a new publication is an understatement as so many mainstream and independent publications are going under, or are under threat, but Hackney sees a flip side with many opportunities also emerging.
“It means also that there is a levelling in the field as online has changed many things and has made it so that anyone can start up a publication and you don’t have the added costs of printing and distribution,” Peter Hackney said.
Any publication, online or hard copy, also needs to attract an audience in order to get the advertising that is its lifeblood.
“We are picking up a lot of readers already through social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“Last month we had 48,000 readers and several thousand followers across our various social media channels, and I think that the growth will be exponential as the more topics we do covering local events the word will spread,” Peter Hackney said.
“We are about the local sphere and there are not a lot of people doing this in Sydney.”
The Sentinel has already attracted many of the best writers in issue driven journalism and the arts, and in the new year will add specialist writers in health and youth.
“We look for writers to have kind of ethical drive and a progressive outlook,” Peter Hackney said.
“They should care about people, the community and the subjects that they write about.
“Technically they need to be able to do the work, as I see being a journalist is a profession and there are technical skills you need to have to be able to construct and tell an interesting story.”
From an early start as a writer and editor on Queensland based LGBTI magazines, Peter Hackney eventually made his way to Sydney where he gained further experience in the mainstream outlets of Fairfax, News Ltd, APN and Pacific magazines before landing the position as editor of the newly relaunched Star Observer.
“When Sydney Sentinel started I had already made a lot of contacts in my previous roles and was able to recruit many of them,” Peter Hackney said.
When asked how he sees the development of the publication Peter Hackney said, “The Sentinel is not a fixed concept, and it will evolve, and in six months’ time I will be as surprised, along with the readers, in what the Sydney Sentinel has become, as I am in this for the long haul.”