The editor of a newspaper in Coonamble says towns that have lost publications should consider an independent model.
- The print editions of dozens of regional newspapers were suspended earlier this year
- Independent newspapers are now more common in regional towns
- The Bogan Shire Council hopes to attract a publication to Nyngan
Since the onset of COVID-19, regional newspaper publisher Australian Community Media has suspended dozens of non-daily titles and closed four printing presses.
Many of those titles have ceased hard copy editions and moved online.
Lee O’Connor, the editor of the independently owned Coonamble Times, said a large corporate model no longer worked in smaller towns.
She said independently run publications were becoming more common in rural communities.
“In the Barwon electorate, which is 44 per cent of the state, there are 12 local government areas and 13 independent papers,” she said.
“That’s 100 per cent of the newspapers in that region. Nyngan had the last, and it’s gone.”
Challenging but rewarding
Ms O’Connor said there was a significant cost in setting up a publication, but money could be saved if the newspaper was printed off-site.
“There is a cost in investing in your people because you need to have a good journalist and you need to have office staff. So it’s no different to any small business in that way.”
She said more newspapers had been established in smaller communities in recent years.
“There’s an organisation called the public interest journalism initiative that’s tracking that across the country,” she said.
“It’s a great opportunity for small, locally owned newspapers to get back into that niche they’ve held for hundreds of years.”
Council hopes to attract a new publisher.
The Bogan Shire Council is working to attract a new publisher to the town after the Nyngan Observer ceased hard copy editions.
Mayor Ray Donald said there had already been some discussions with one organisation.
“We have spoken to one regional publisher who was a bit interested in it, and while that hasn’t transpired yet, we’re still hopeful.”
He said the council spent about $13,000 a year on advertising and public notices in the Nyngan Observer and would commit to a similar spend with another publisher.
The loss of the print news edition has been compounded by the closure of Nine television’s single-journalist bureau in nearby Dubbo.
“We don’t see them coming here every day obviously, but there have been times when they’ve come to see us and helped us publicise situations, sometimes positive, sometimes not so good,” he said.
“In terms of responsibility to our community, I think we are tasked to make sure there’s an independent form of media in our shire.”