Save Our Voices: You wouldn’t let them take away your pub, so why let them take away your news?


Paul Bugeja

Guest Columnist

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After a rocky year for local media organisations, a group of important voices is calling out to save community news organisations.

It’s a tongue-in-cheek truth that the local pub is the beating heart of most rural and remote towns.

The pub is a place where locals have a drink (or two), grab a counter meal and share some gossip or argue local politics with anyone who will lend an ear.

But every heart needs a pair of lungs, and this is the role the community press has played for many communities for over a hundred years, supplying the oxygen so they have their voice.

Local newspapers have been the place to read about important local news not covered by the big newspapers, national TV stations or even regional TV stations, read or advertise in the classifieds and feel another connection (outside of the pub!) to the local community.

However, this much-loved voice is in danger of being silenced, or at the very least muted in a noisy digital world.

The rise of the internet

Although it may seem hard to imagine life without it, the internet hasn’t been around that long.

Conceived by Tim Berners-Lee back in 1989 to aid information sharing between universities, it wasn’t until the mid-late ‘90s that the web became available more broadly and the first web browsers (anyone remember ‘Netscape’?!) were rolled out.

Jump to now and just over 20 years later, and the internet is such a normal part of our lives that not having it is inconceivable for most of us. We do everything on it, from buying a new pair of socks to chatting to friends in far-off places to getting our news fix.

But unfortunately for the providers of that news, the internet has also been a massive shock to the way they operate.

The media gets left behind

While in many ways the internet has made life easier, it has also created it’s fair share of problems, with one of the more notable casualties of these problems being the print news media.

As the likes of digital behemoths such as Google and Facebook and Twitter rose to prominence, the “legacy” (traditional) media found their “rivers of gold” - the advertising-based revenue model - smashed because they were not quick enough to evolve with the fast-moving roll out of digital.

By the time the media began trying to roll out paywalls and subscription models and other ways of replacing the dwindling advertising revenue, it was almost too late.

And then in 2020, after years of the big daily newspapers located in major cities undergoing massive transformations and job cuts to try and get back into the game, community media organisations took a huge hit.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, which controlled a large swathe of community and regional newspapers across the nation, delivered startling news to these communities - it was stopping the printing of 112 community and regional papers through transitioning 76 to digital-only and closing 36 titles altogether.

This came on the back of a 2019 announcement by WIN TV that it was closing five regional newsrooms, which many media commentators fear could be just the beginning of more rationalisation of regional and community media.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Newsport, for example, has only ever been a digital media outlet, so in many ways we feel lucky to have caught the digital wave rather than be dumped by it.

Which doesn’t mean it’s all been smooth sailing, but 10 years after we first started, we remain proud of our place in the Shire community as a leading local news outlet and digital space for locals to read the local news, have their say about whatever is going on and advertise their businesses.

And we are just one of numerous local digital media outlets that are still similarly helping voice their local communities.

Saving Local Media Voices

But there is still grave concern from leading voices in the media landscape about a decline in community news and media organisations.

This has led to the “Save Our Voices” campaign, conceived to put pressure on the federal government to not turn a blind eye to what was occurring in the media landscape.

With TV news legend Ray Martin as its face, Save our Voices is encouraging individuals to reach out to their local MP and ask them what they are doing to support a sustainable, independent and self-funding local media presence in regional Australia.

As a proud and local media organisation, Newsport is highly supportive of this campaign and hopes you will take up the battle with us to save local media voices that have for so long been an important part of regional communities.

Because by “Saving Our Voices” you are saving YOUR voice.

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