A new report from Australia’s Public Interest Journalism Initiative charts not only recent comings-and-goings of the country’s newsrooms, but those since it started counting.
Updating its records, it notes 494 changes in news production nationally since the beginning of 2019, 152 fewer than before. It lists 29 local government areas with no local publisher news outlets, with one area added to the September list and two removed.
Amid these statistics is noted the scale and growth of some of the country’s smaller publishers. Forget News Corp Australia for a moment, with its 115 consolidated entities (after closures), and consider the local growth of Today News Group and its associated Star News Group, with 34 and 24 entities respectively, sixth and seventh on PIJI’s list. Star publishes 18 papers in Melbourne’s suburbs and surrounds, and two in Geelong, and is for example, the publisher of Noosa Today, a member of the Today group.
Only Australian Community Media, Seven West and three broadcasting companies that appear higher on the list, from which six duplications from joint ventures have been deducted. PIJI notes that these entities operate 607, or half of the total outlets in Australia at the end of September, up from 576 last June.
The report presents a focus on each state and territory.
In the national capital, for example, news producers range from large media companies – such as News Corp which publishes Canberra Star, and Canberra Times publisher Australian Community Media – to small-medium ones focussed on the capital region such as RiotACT. Independents include the Canberra City News and the Canberra Weekly. ACM’s Queanbeyan Age also provides some coverage of the ACT, despite its location in NSW.
“Few changes in news production have been observed in the ACT since 2019,” the PIJI report says, noting News’ launch of the Canberra Star in June 2019 and ACM’s decision to merge the Canberra Chronicle into the Queanbeyan Age in early 2020.
Outside the ACT but affecting it, digital publication the Bungendore-based District Bulletin was suspended in July 2022. Region Group’s two outlets in the ACT are RiotACT and My Gungahlin.
Looking at New South Wales, PIJI notes 158 local print publications, almost 44 per cent of the 363 news “outlets”. PIJI says the number has risen in coastal areas since 2019, however it has fallen in the Murray, Riverina and Monaro areas in the south, the mid-coast and Northern Rivers areas and greater Sydney.
At least 22 ACM newspapers have closed in regional NSW, with 25 more “reducing their service in some way, either by reduced publication frequency, or in some cases, largely existing as digital shells that rerun network content produced at other papers without any original local production”.