Michelle Landry MP and Mayor Margaret Strelow were shocked by the decision to close CQ’s newspapers and shift to digital. .
Michelle Landry MP and Mayor Margaret Strelow were shocked by the decision to close CQ’s newspapers and shift to digital. .

Pollies launch petition opposing the loss of CQ’s newspapers

DEVASTATED by the news that CQ's newspapers will disappear, political leaders from all levels of government and political persuasions are determined to ensure that the Central Region doesn't lose its physical connection to the news.

They are led by Capricornia MP Michelle Landry who yesterday launched the Save Regional Newspapers petition which aims to save regional news and administration jobs and to implore News Corp to reconsider their decision to cease printing of CQ's regional newspapers.

The petition comes after New Corp's Thursday announcement that from June 29, the bulk of News Corp's regional and community titles will move to purely digital publishing, including the 159-year-old Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, the Gladstone Observer, Emerald's Central Queensland News, Mackay's Daily Mercury, with Yeppoon's Capricorn Coast Mirror and Biloela's Central Telegraph discontinued entirely.

Impacted by COVID-19, News Corp said the overhaul was necessary after a sharp fall in print advertising revenue and the fundamental shift of consumers to reading and subscribing to their news online and businesses using digital advertising.

The Courier-Mail, News Corp's major masthead in Brisbane, is intended to service the CQ region by becoming more state-focused with increased regional content.

Upset there wouldn't be a newspaper produced in the 1335km void between Townsville and Brisbane, CQ's political leaders have spoken out.

They believe the loss of the region's newspapers would exacerbate the disempowerment felt by many in the CQ region at being overlooked in favour of those living in urban areas.

A common thread raised by the politicians was concern for the region's older readers, who loved getting the paper daily but did not possess the technology or the skills required to access online content.

They also despaired for the loss of an estimated 50 staff from CQ's publications and the economic impact for the region's related businesses.

Varying responses were proposed, including lobbying, launching a campaign featuring a community petition and either establishing or repurposing a newspaper to cover Central Queensland.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry appreciates the role of The Morning Bulletin newspaper plays in keeping locals informed.
Capricornia MP Michelle Landry appreciates the role of The Morning Bulletin newspaper plays in keeping locals informed.

Capricornia MP Michelle Landry could barely contain her disappointment with New Corp after the decision to end production of CQ's newspapers and shed 650 of Australia's regional journalism jobs.

"They are newspapers that employ local people and they have been in the cities for generations," Ms Landry said.

"They are papers that people have their morning cuppa tea or cuppa coffee over, they catch up on the local events. In a time during the coronavirus pandemic, this is needed now more than ever."

With newspapers like the Wentworth Courier, the Mosman Daily and the North Shore Times, which are all based in affluent parts of Sydney left largely untouched, Ms Landry said this was another case of regions being overlooked in favour of the cities.

She said a lot of people in regional areas didn't use the internet to read the news or had poor internet coverage and many older people don't know how to use the internet to access their local news.

She said the proposed regional section in the Courier Mail would not suffice in meeting our region's news needs.

"What about the sports pages here? That's not going to be in Brisbane papers," she said.

"Even the local death notices in the paper, people like to be in touch with these things."

Ms Landry's online petition can be signed here: mailchi.mp/michellelandry/news-corp-petition

A former employee of The Morning Bulletin, Rockhampton Region mayor Margaret Strelow said she appreciated that the world was changing but New Corp's decision would hit our region, impacting not only on journalists' livelihoods but newsagents and residents who liked to go and physically pick up a newspaper who may never go online.

"We're not saying leave everything the same but there is so much material in place, so much equipment... surely a single Central Queensland hard copy newspaper is a model that could be worked," Cr Strelow said.

"Council's willing to talk to the owners, to talk with journalists recognising that the masthead is going online and that other mastheads are going online but I'd like someone to try and work up a model that might allow a hard copy newspaper that covers this great region to continue to be printed.

"It goes much wider than I think the business understands. The number of people who rely on the traffic at newsagents that is brought about because of the hard copy newspaper."

She was doubtful that the Courier Mail would satisfy CQ's need for news.

"Things are symbiotic and we are imploring News Corp to put on the table an option that might save a hard copy newspaper for us here."

News Corp management referred The Morning Bulletin to Executive Chairman of News Corp Australasia Michael Miller's explanation about changes. Read the full statement below:

Executive Chairman of News Corp Australasia Michael Miller has explained how New Corp’s extensive changes will impact on Regional Queensland. Picture: Mark Stewart
Executive Chairman of News Corp Australasia Michael Miller has explained how New Corp’s extensive changes will impact on Regional Queensland. Picture: Mark Stewart

News Corp Australia has today announced significant changes to its Australian media titles that will result in many of its Queensland and NSW mastheads becoming digital only publications.

The Executive Chairman of News Corp Australasia, Mr Michael Miller, said today that over recent months News Corp had undertaken a comprehensive review of its regional and community newspapers.

This review considered the ongoing consumer shift to reading and subscribing to news online, and the acceleration of businesses using digital advertising.

"Consequently, to meet these changing trends, we are reshaping News Corp Australia to focus on where consumers and businesses are moving and to strengthen our position as Australia's leading digital news media company.

"This will involve employing more digital only journalists and making investments in digital advertising and marketing solutions for our partners," he said.

Mr Miller said the portfolio changes being implemented would mean that from Monday June 29 the bulk of News Corp's regional and community titles would move to purely digital publishing.

"More than 375 journalists will be specifically covering regional and community news and information. They will continue to serve, and live in, their local communities with the majority in regional Queensland where we have most of our titles," Mr Miller said.

"More than 640,000 Australians, our latest figures show, are currently subscribing to News Corp's digital news content and subscriptions are growing at an annual rate of 24 per cent.

"Much of this growth is from local news, where subscribers have more than doubled in the past year. In regional Queensland more than 80,000 people have digital subscriptions and this number has grown by more than 40 per cent this year.

"I'm confident that these numbers will accelerate through dedicated and constant digital publishing and continuing to serve the local communities whose trust and community commitment the mastheads have developed over decades.

"Over the past 19 months News has launched 16 new digital only local mastheads. In total we will now publish 92 digital only regional and community mastheads, each offering readers rolling coverage, electronic alerts and newsletters, richer audio and video content and deeper local sport coverage and community debate.

"At the same time, News Corp's major mastheads in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide - The Courier-Mail, The Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and The Advertiser - will now become more state focused with increased regional content and will partner with our regional and community local titles in their states to ensure we deliver compelling journalism to Australian consumers regardless of where they live. Subscribers wherever they live will now have access to the best of News Corp's local, regional, state, national and international news, sport, features and columnists.

"Commercially, these portfolio changes will make News Corp less complex for its partners to leverage and will build on the innovations it already has in place."

Mr Miller further said: "News Corp remains committed to Australia's regions and communities and the initiatives we are implementing today represent a detailed, considered strategy to ensure we will better serve our journalism to Australians who live outside its major cities."

Consequently, News Corp Australia is announcing today that:

Major regional titles - The Hobart Mercury, NT News, Cairns Post, Townsville Bulletin, Gold Coast Bulletin, Toowoomba Chronicle and Geelong Advertiser - will continue to publish both in print and digitally.

The following Queensland and NSW regional titles will become digital only:

Queensland - Mackay Daily Mercury, Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, Gladstone Observer, Bundaberg News Mail, Fraser Coast Chronicle, Gympie Times, Sunshine Coast Daily, Queensland Times, Warwick Daily News, Central and North Burnett Times, Central Queensland News, Chinchilla News, Dalby Herald. Gatton Star, Noosa News, South Burnett Times, Stanthorpe Border Post, Western Star, Western Times, Whitsunday Times, Whitsunday Coast Guardian and Bowen Independent, news from the towns covered by the Atherton Tablelander, Northern Miner, Post Douglas & Mossman Gazette and Burdekin Advocate will continue to appear, as it does currently, under the regional sections of the Cairns Post and Townsville Bulletin; NSW - Tweed Daily News, Ballina Advocate, Byron Shire News, Coffs Coast Advocate, Grafton Daily Examiner and Lismore Northern Star.

The bulk of titles in News' community group, Quest in Brisbane, will become digital only. Community print editions were suspended early in April because of the impact of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Quest titles to be digital only are: Albert and Logan News, Caboolture Herald, Westside News, Pine Rivers Press, Redcliffe and Bayside Herald, South-West News, Wynnum Herald, North Lakes Times, Redlands Community News and Springfield News.

Some small print newspapers in Queensland and NSW will cease publication, but the local journalism coverage of their area will continue, feeding into the digital masthead for their regional community.

They are: Queensland - Buderim Chronicle, Caloundra Weekly, Capricorn Coast Mirror, Coolum News, Nambour Weekly, Ipswich Advertiser, Kawana/Maroochy Weekly, Gold Coast Sun, Hervey Bay Independent, Maryborough Herald, Balonne Beacon, Surat Basin News, Herbert River Express, Innisfail Advocate, Central Telegraph; NSW - Coastal Views, Northern Rivers Echo and Richmond River Express Examiner.

Additionally, some community titles in Queensland will cease publication. They are: Northside Chronicle/Bayside Star, North-West News, South-East Advertiser, Southern Star and Bribie Weekly.

The changes to News Corp's publishing portfolio will mean some job roles will change and regretfully, will lead to job losses. Mr Miller said that for those employees impacted by the changes, he wanted to thank them personally for their professionalism, dedication and contribution.

"They have provided News with invaluable years of service. Their passionate commitment to the communities in which they live and work and their role in ensuring these have been informed and served by trusted local media has been substantial," he said.

Ms Landry's online petition can be signed here: mailchi.mp/michellelandry/news-corp-petition