The devastating impacts of COVID-19 have not spared country newspapers; locally The Great Southern Star and Yarram Standard have sadly fallen, no doubt driven by diminishing readership and advertising revenue.
Sadly, the impacts of these losses are difficult to initially quantify, but make no mistake, the loss of a local newspaper will significantly diminish community cohesion and negatively impact social connection.
Many will remember the hub of activity on a Tuesday evening around the Sentinel-Times office in Wonthaggi, crowds patiently awaiting the arrival of the van delivering the past week of district news together with next week’s specials.
We have maintained a long and passionate love affair with our ‘local’, and the potential for these loses of such a critical part of our lives should fill us with dread.
The old adage that ‘you don’t know what you’ve got until you lose it’ rings so true for country newspapers.
The impacts are significant in maintaining a community voice, not simply the reporting of news, but recording sporting events and results, announcing births, deaths and marriages, publishing reader’s correspondence and highlighting achievements and issues.
Importantly, newspapers provide an indelible record of history, as anyone who has researched their family trees can well attest.
Local papers are the incubators of the industry; how many journalists, editors, photographers, graphic designers, production workers and advertising representatives have learnt their trade in the rough and tumble of country newspapers? I know I have.
As a community, what single entity has lifted us, amazed us, angered us, made us proud, brought such joy and motivation, than the emotions that we have all gained from perusing the pages of our ‘local’.
Can social media really hold a candle to the independence, local knowledge and the heartfelt commitment that local newspapers deliver in spades?
Can ‘clickbait’ replace the consideration, passion, and diligence that local newspapers have been delivering in their collective pages over so many decades? Certainly, I’ve seen little evidence of this.
Today we are faced with far more than simply an opportunity to support our ‘local’, rather we have a duty to ensure that those local papers that remain are best able to meet that challenging environment and fiscal constraints of increasing costs and competing news sources.
We all need to value our ‘local’, and commit to ensuring not only strong readership, but that the newspapers’ advertisers are rewarded for their ongoing commitment in facilitating the provision of local news and information into our homes.
Jim Barritt, Cape Paterson.