Walkley Regional Journalism Summit: Industry experts fight for the survival of regional journalism | The daily leader of the North

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LOCAL newspapers are in the spotlight as the Walkley Regional Journalism Summit turned its attention to the crisis facing the industry and its struggle for survival. While major metropolitan newspapers focus their efforts online, the heart of the community – independent regional newspapers – have relied heavily on print to keep the public informed. Gunnedah Times and Narrabri Courier editor Dylan Smith said print journalism was the “bread and butter” of their business. “Residents turn to their newspapers for community news – they are the fabric of a rural community,” he said. “Print newspapers have a lot of gravity. When people see a photo in the newspaper, it carries more weight and feels more special. They tell a story about the community like no other medium does.” part of an emerging group Lucie, President of Country Press NSW and Editor-in-Chief of Gilgandra Newspapers” Peart launched The Nyngan Weekly in partnership with Dubbo Photo News. Physical newspapers are central to their business model. “It’s a tactile experience,” she said. “People don’t flock to digital platforms – they love the print edition and the ritual of reading the newspaper. This is not surprising, given that at least 30% of Australians live outside the big cities. cities, and connectivity remains a serious problem. The digital divide has left older people, those who o cannot afford or lack the knowledge to access the Internet effectively, out in the cold. This posed an interesting dilemma for regional newspapers, which wanted to continue providing a physical newspaper but needed to move into areas such as online subscription to stay afloat. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, more than 200 regional newspapers have closed, leaving communities without news when they need it most. While some mastheads eventually returned to print, others pivoted to digital platforms or were absorbed into larger publications. Business NSW regional director Joe Townsend said the newspaper closures had wide economic impacts. When newspapers close, businesses lose local advertising channels that offer “better traction, engagement and response rates,” he said. Concern over the future of regional news was at the forefront of the summit, which saw international and national speakers, like Kristy Hess, associate professor of communications at Deakin University, asking for more government support to keep regional journalism alive. Also read: She said her sustainability is a ‘huge issue’. “Printed newspapers have a revered function in regional communities – news is a public good, but it also has a very important social function – it forms the social fabric of connection and belonging,” she said. Ms Hess said the industry needed an “urgent and critical review” of public spending, with transparency on where funds are going. “There is no one-size-fits-all solution for local news,” she said. “You can’t impose a top-down approach, you have to consider the very context in which it exists, the geographic regions it serves, and the unique issues unique to those regions.” Without regional journalists, the stories that matter will not be told, said Guardian Australia rural and regional editor Gabrielle Chan. “Local reporters are nuanced, empathetic and have the best connections,” she said. “They represent regionally and reflect nationally.” This is even more evident in smaller communities like Uralla, where a special local election edition of the Uralla Wordsworth was one of the very few forums for candidates to air their views, the editor said. Louis van Ekert. “Another example is our COVID lockdown editions, where we were able to provide residents with a summary of services available in town,” he said. Despite the challenges of the past three years, the future of regional journalism in Australia is starting to look brighter, according to the chief executive of the Public Interest Journalism Initiative, Anna Draffin. “We’re starting to see renewed interest and investment in the regions…the Guardian has invested heavily in terms of the regional reporting network and the ABC is making similar commitments,” she said. ABC’s head of regional, rural and emergency coverage, Hugh Martin, confirmed that the national broadcaster is “fully committed to journalism, and has been for over 75 years”. “We’re doing more now than we ever have,” he said. “We are constantly training our staff and our reporters and reporters on new equipment and new ways of telling stories.” In 2021, the ABC invested heavily in converting and transforming regional radio stations into multi-content newsrooms. “It was a significant investment and it was a statement about how important regional Australia is to the ABC,” Mr Martin said. – With Kirsty Meyer and Lucy Eddy Our reporters work hard to bring local, up-to-date information to the community. Here’s how you can continue to access our trusted content: