If you have been paying attention, you would have heard about the recent closing down of many regional newspapers and outlets across Australia.
You might wonder what that has got to do with you. You might be wondering why you should care.
It affects you immensely.
Do you rely on the ABC for your news? A lot of what the ABC can cover in the regions depends on smaller local and rural newspapers existing there to help cover the same stories in print. ABC journos often have a large area to cover in the regions – they can’t do it alone.
Do you rely on your local council for anything? All local government councils are required to comply with particular legislation that means notices of developments and other information has to be published in a paper. If there is no local paper, it may end up in a bigger paper that you don’t buy or get and then you won’t know what is happening in your neighbourhood. If you work in local government, it makes your job harder.
Do you play community sports? Or participate in community groups? Those clubs and groups, your local footy club, all depend on the local paper to make sure their members and fans are updated with what is happening. Consider that gone if the local paper shuts down.
Do you have a favourite local cafe or business? Do you own a business? Where will you advertise if your local paper shuts down?
But this is also important on a larger scale.
You depend on a national economy that runs on mining, energy and agricultural export and tourism.
These industries are all largely based in regional Australia and metro based broadcasters and papers struggle to cover regional Australian issues in any depth because they are not there on the ground, in the community, to know what is going on. It’s also impractical to try to cover regional news from a newsroom miles away under severe time constraints with minimal staff.
You need to know what is happening out there. You need to know what big companies, both Australian and foreign are doing out there. You need to know how that impacts the environment and the people and ultimately you.
And you need a physical paper – in many areas of the country, accessing the paper in an online format is not possible either physically or financially. Because we still are way behind in providing good infrastructure in internet technology and other ways to rural and regional areas.
Some of the stories shared so far are amazing and tell us so much about who we are as Australians.
Regional papers showed us how even people in the regions care about Indigenous lives as they organised marches in solidarity with the #blacklivesmatter movement. We would not have known that if not for a regional reporter.
We would not have had Walkley award winning coverage of the fallout of the Pell case coverage from Ballarat without regional reporting.
There are also untold stories that matter to everyone.
The ban on Fenthion for example has left the whole of Australia facing a food security as a lack of research funding means that farmers have no defense against two fruit fly species attacking crops. And that means farmers closing down farms and losing work, Australia needing to import food and the cost of food rising for customers like you.
Or the fact that researchers have pulled together cases of people dying in farming related accidents due to machinery that they only know of thanks to regional and local reporting, that they can study in order to influence policy makers and manufacturers on what needs to change to keep people safe.
Or that people are tracking the amount of seagrass growing in parts of the Australian coastline as it is massively important for storing carbon as part of addressing climate change but is often not thought of or considered.
This all shows that it isn’t just about journalism jobs. It is about you. Your community. Your lifestyle.
We are also starting to see similar things happen to smaller independent local metropolitan papers. So it needs to stop here.
And there are a few things you can do to help stop the closure of regional newspapers.
- Post a link to a regional story and a link to http://www.meaa.org/campaigns/our-stories with the hashtags #ourcommunity #ourstories
- Email your MP here.
- Share this information and tell your friends to do steps 1 & 2 as well.
- Keep repeating Step 1 throughout the week. Keep sharing any other posts you see.
- Subscribe to a local paper or your nearest biggest regional paper if you can. Support the journalists that keep you informed.