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 COVID-19: the unintended but foreseeable consequences

25.03.20. Tens of thousands of jobs vanished as the clock struck midnight on Sunday. And those twelve chimes sounded the death knell for regional newspapers around the states. The domino effect. No sports to report. Businesses shut down—no reason to advertise—no advertising revenue for the papers.
Rural newspapers, which have been at the heart of their communities for well over a century, are falling victim to the crippling effects of coronavirus. In Victoria’s north-west Mildura’s only daily newspaper, the Sunraysia Daily, will close this weekend — a move that has shocked the community. This year, the Sunraysia Daily was supposed to be celebrating its centenary, but at a meeting today staff were told Saturday’s paper would be the last until further notice. 

Source: ABC

Mildura’s Sunraysia Daily and other regional papers close as coronavirus wipes out more than a century of tradition

Staff will also be stood down at three other Elliott Newspaper Group papers, including the Swan Hill Guardian and the Gannawarra Times in the Loddon-Mallee region of Victoria.
The owners of the Yarram Standard and the Great Southern Star in Victoria’s South Gippsland also today announced the two newspapers would go into indefinite recess.
Coronavirus update: Follow all the latest news in our daily wrap
And at the bi-weekly Latrobe Valley Express staff were told to expect their hours to be cut as management fights to keep the paper in print.
Papers that survived world wars crippled by virus
The Yarram Standard is 145 years old and the Great Southern Star was celebrating its 130th year in print this year.
Owner Helen Bowering said advertising revenue had ground to a halt.
“It is a heartbreaking day for all of our newspaper family,” she said.
“We are hoping to come back from this as we are proud of our local papers and serving our communities.”
The manager of the Latrobe Valley Express and Gippsland Times, Bruce Ellen, said a reduction in hours was a survival measure.
“Advertising revenue is down, catalogue inserts are down, classifieds are down and public notices are down because everything is cancelled. The impact on us has been significant,” Mr Ellen said.
“It is a crisis time for us.”
Mr Ellen said all rural newspapers were straddling a rapidly declining revenue stream at a time when readers were relying on local news more than ever.
“We’re looking at every single cost we have, and we’re making cost reductions wherever we can simply so we can continue to produce the newspapers and get the news to our communities for as long as we can.
“But I don’t think any business can make any guarantees at all at the moment.”
Mr Ellen said he had dire concerns about the future of community journalism.
“If we lose our newspapers, we lose community.
“The only place that a local community gets the news about themselves, their families, their local governments and local sport is their local newspaper, because nobody else does it.
Deb Lucas, who has worked as a journalist and photographer for the Yarram Standard for more than 20 years, said the shutdowns had left country newspapers in a black hole.
“All the events are cancelled, there’s no sport, advertising revenue is practically non-existent, so it makes it really difficult in these tough economic times,” she said.
“I feel like we are letting our community down.”
Government help needed to keep ink on print
Mr Ellen is also the president of Country Press Australia, which represents 140 rural and regional newspapers around the country.
The group is lobbying the Federal Government for immediate help.
“We are in contact with the Federal Government, which is considering what it can do to continue to support public interest journalism at this time,” Mr Ellen said.
Former journalist and Victorian Federal MP Darren Chester said he would like to see all levels of government support local papers through advertising and other measures.
“This is a perfect storm, where we’ve seen a downturn in some of our traditional industries,” he said.
“We’ve had bushfires and drought affecting advertising revenue and a disruption in the media market.
“It has changed to a more online platform so all of that has disrupted the way community newspapers operate.
Union says paper closures are premature
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, which represents journalists and media professionals, is concerned newspaper managers have jumped too early.
MEAA Regional director Adam Portelli said it was a disappointing and drastic step.
“While there’s no doubt this is a difficult environment, these papers have survived depression, drought and world wars — yet just a week of this current crisis has led them to shut their doors,” he said.
“Their decision is premature, there is going to be stimulus money available to these businesses imminently and there’s likely to be further stimulus after that.
“We implore these mastheads to wait for that funding. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of their community as much as it is of their workforce.”
Survival week-by-week
At the North Central Review, Whittlesea Review and The Free Press in the Macedon Ranges, editor Lauren Duffy said she was trying to ride out the economic impact of the virus.
“We’re a free newspaper. We are 100 per cent reliant on advertising so there’s no doubt we’re concerned,” she said.
“We’ve had several businesses call to cancel advertising already.”
She said the business would reassess the paper’s situation on a week-by-week basis.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • luk1955 25/03/2020, 6:54 am

    The stimulus money is available in the form of loans and tax reductions, not actual cash. My self employed son has already looked up all the rules. No direct cash. I am sure the disappearance of the regional newspapers will be a bonus to the powers that unleashed this virus. The control of information in the bush to be further consolidated in the Pravda press known as the ABC.

  • Penguinite 25/03/2020, 7:54 am

    Another long bow! The print media has been on the block for 10 years at least.

  • Lorraine 25/03/2020, 9:18 am

    A small newspaper , a country newspaper, sorry for any media and the constant lies from journalists , the love of the Greens and climate change, I care not. the push for SSM and the PC as defined by media . I care not

    • DT 25/03/2020, 10:51 am

      They can fool the people for so long and then we the people get angry, frustrated and turn away from the fake news media.

      Church of Climate Change scientologists warming hoax and all the propaganda that has generated.

      Imagine the media revival if journalists reverted to being investigative reporters and exposed the deception.

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