Why the Loss of Regional News is So Significant

The slow demise of local news has been an ongoing concern for regional communities and journalists since the birth of the new age digital era. Outdated business models that rely on newspaper headlines as a fundamental source of ad placement have been replaced with a digital framework, with most individuals choosing to acquire their news from online mediums.

However, this already injured sector has a new enemy, the current pandemic. The current economic state of the world has forced media outlets to drastically condense their various media platforms.

Unfortunately, regional newspapers have taken the brunt of the fall. The Australian Newsroom Mapping Project revealed that since March this year, over 200 regional media outlets have been shut down.

Over the last fine, ten, even fifteen years we’ve seen consolidation”, says Peter Fray, managing editor of Crikey News. “We’re seeing a rapid decline.”

To urban individuals, this may not seem to be a drastic issue. However, the changing media landscape in these areas creates larger issues for all. After a regional area is stripped of their local media, they become a news desert, meaning there is no community news outlets. Residents must gain their news exclusively from online platforms or television news delivered from an urban area. Prior to the global pandemic there were 16 distinct regional areas identified in Australia as news deserts. It is unknown how many there will be once the dust settles.

Saffron Howden, Co-founder of Crinkling News discusses her passion for the importance of regional media. Another impact of the shift away from local to urban news programs, is the creation of the “Centralisation of news”, Saffron explains. Where a once diverse news landscape is forced into a bubble of similar ideas, themes and opinions. Not only this, but regional individuals are more likely to swap completely to online news outlets, where fact checking is not always a guarantee. Meaning there is now a growing number of individuals that are obtaining incorrect news without contrary ideas and thoughts.

Not only this, but can online digital news replace the community created by local media? Unique voices like Carol Burns, founder of The Terrier in regional Victoria are being forced into the corner for the likes of over-saturated digital outlets. The sense of community culture and familiarity is not really seen in online mediums. Carol finds her readers appreciate hearing the voices of their town rather than that of unknown journalists in distant cities. She relies on her reader’s generous donations to continue her newspaper going.

“If I’m doing a good job let me know and tip whatever you can afford!… That means you’re keeping the stories coming.” She exclaims.

While there is a fine line between hearing important global topics and events to reading about a local community function, both serve valuable roles to an individual’s understanding of the world and their own sense of space. While the job losses involved in the shutdown of these outlets are a serious issue, there are other concerns involved when these platforms are forced to close.

News is changing, as well at societies’ understanding of news.

The fundamental concept of journalism and news is eroding … that is the idea that the news is from nowhere”, Peter explains.

With regional media centers closing their doors and shutting down their services, perhaps greater society will see the need to support these regional communities. Reliable and diverse news is something that many take for granted, however its absence creates an unsettling dynamic within the public. With the digital era only continuing to expand throughout the globe, it leaves a worrying concern for these smaller local mediums, as the current economic crisis may leave them in the dust.

Hear more from Peter Fray, Saffron Howden and Carol Burns on the Think: Business Future episode ‘All Quiet on the Regional Front’.

Friday 21st of August, 2020

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