11 September 2019

Why free, good quality local media matters more than ever in this region

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Genevieve Jacobs, Group Editor for Region Media. Photo: Daniella Jukic, wearefound.

After two decades of tumultuous change in the news industry, local media is arguably more important than ever. Huge financial pressures have forced hundreds of redundancies and changed formats dramatically as traditional mastheads grapple with what the audience wants and how they can pay for their business models.

Yesterday, as a result of those pressures, the venerable Canberra Times went behind a digital paywall. It’s a long forecast move and comes on the back of multiple redundancies towards the end of the Fairfax era and the consequent diminution of a local institution.

Crashing reader numbers, a commercially unsustainable print model and changing audience habits have all played their role and from now onwards, readers will be limited to five free articles per month or annual subscriptions ranging from $180 to $228.80. The paper’s syndicated content deal with Fairfax also has a limited lifespan after its sale to other interests.

Regional publications in the same stable as the Times made the leap to subscriptions some time ago, including the Goulburn Post, Ulladulla Times, Bay Post, and Bega District News.

Any decent journalist passionately believes in the value of competitive, strong local media. Readers care first and foremost about their own communities, and credible journalism should play a role in calling power to account and providing balanced and fair coverage of the events and people who matter to us.

This week’s raids on a News Corp journalist in Canberra and the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters, seeking material related to potential wide-ranging powers to spy on ordinary Australians and on whether Australian special forces committed human rights violations, demonstrate how pressured the media environment can be.

And increasingly, mainstream mastheads who are struggling to pay the bills choose to rely on content from elsewhere. It’s cheap to produce and can provide useful access to national news if you care about that. But it also means multiple links to irrelevant stories from as far away as Perth.

Here at Region Media, we believe that grassroots local journalism is more important than ever. It’s absolutely fair to pay for quality, but there is more than one way to do that. Through our connection with the local business and community sectors, we believe we’ve found a way to fund high-quality, well-connected local journalism that will remain free and is without commercial or political bias.

When our Canberra platform RiotACT posed that question this week, the answer was unequivocal: when asked whether you would pay for news online, 86 percent of respondents voted to make the media smarter, not more expensive.

We also hire experienced journalists who live and work in their communities: this is a growth model and we are actively seeking strong contributors. We do not and will not syndicate material from other providers: our commitment is to quality local content generated by us in our Canberra and regional newsrooms.

About Regional’s parent company, Region Media has one of the largest and fastest growing digital audiences in the Canberra region. About Regional is now connecting with nearly 50,000 unique visitors (real people) each month, on top of the 300,000 unique visitors each month who take in RiotACT.

We are actively reinventing a local media business model in a company that is owned by locals and staffed by journalists who understand and live in the communities we wish to serve.

If you’d like to engage with us as a contributor, an advertiser or know more about what we do, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact me at [email protected], or our commercial team at [email protected] or find out more about us at region.com.au

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on The RiotACT.

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