Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by Executive Editor James Joyce.
Good morning from out here in the real Australia,
Much has been said this past week about the importance of local news for Australians who live in the marvellous-but-insufficiently-moist parts of this country that aren't the big metropolitan cities.
More in a moment on regional TV operator WIN's decision to axe four nightly news bulletins serving parts of NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
First things first: you know that sacked football star who is seeking public donations to pay for legal action he's described as "the fight of my life"?
Maybe you feel strongly about his GoFundMe bid for charity, like that friend of mine on Facebook who posted on Friday: "I'm setting up a GoF---Yourself page for the Ferrari-driving Israel Folau. Who's in?"
Or maybe, like courageous fundraiser mum Nyree Saxby, you feel strongly about what kind of fight might reasonably be described as the fight of someone's life.
Either way, Newcastle Herald editor Heath Harrison has a beaut idea if you feel strongly enough to act.
In case you've just joined us, Voice of Real Australia brings you news and views from around Australian Community Media's network of 160 news sites and newspapers beyond the big cities.
News, such as why it's deemed unsafe to serve hot tea or coffee on trains in parts of Victoria.
And views such as the heartache of moving a loved-one into residential aged care and then grappling with a house full of treasured possessions.
Our local journalists, photographers, editors and columnists in towns and regions in every state and territory strive to keep their communities informed, entertained and connected. And they take particular pride in celebrating the quiet champions of their communities - the real Australians who, in simply getting on with tackling life's challenges, inspire us.
People like Jarrod Emeny, a remarkable young man from Mudgee who shares his story with The Land for the first episode of "Hear Them Raw", journalist Lucy Kinbacher's compelling new podcast series about some of the "true warriors of the bush".
In July 2018 Jarrod, then 17, crashed his car on the way to rugby. His spinal cord was severed. To hear Jarrod and his family describe in their own brave, wise words what unfolded from that day is to be deeply moved and inspired.
Says his mum Carolyn: "When I get to heaven I have a number of questions for God. One is 'What happened to the dinosaurs?' and straight after that it's gonna be 'Why Jarrod?' And I think I know the answer, and the answer is 'Because he can'."
Supported by Akubra and State Wide Sheds, Hear Them Raw is available now to listen and download. Don't miss it.
From podcasts to broadcast, and last week's announcement by WIN TV that it would pull the plug on local news bulletins in Central West-NSW, Wagga Wagga, Albury-Wodonga and Queensland's Wide Bay from June 28, affecting the jobs of 40 people. The news came as a shock but it was not a surprise.
Media industry observers were warning three years ago that WIN was likely to be the biggest loser from regional TV's big switch of 2016, when Nine* cut its 30-year association with Wollongong-based WIN to sign a $500million content supply deal with WIN's regional rival Southern Cross Austereo.
When everyone's favourite shows changed channels in July 2016 WIN was stuck with the lower-rating shows of Network Ten. Nine later launched 15 regional news bulletins to compete directly for local news viewers, but WIN's Bermuda-based billionaire owner Bruce Gordon* wasn't going to surrender without a fight, telling Illawarra Mercury journalist Greg Ellis: "In my opinion the obligation of having a television licence is that you must provide a service to the community in news".
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said last week that while he appreciated WIN had to make a commercial decision, "as a former journalist and a former newspaper editor I'm saddened".
"We want to make sure the community hears the stories, hears the news and sees the local faces," the Nationals leader said. "We just don't want to be force-fed metro news from metro stations ... in our regional centres."
Of course, audiences have a choice in this - as Ross Tyson, current editor of The Daily Advertiser at Wagga where McCormack began as a journalist, told his digital subscribers on Sunday: "If you value local news, regardless of whether your preferred platform is online, print, radio or television, please support it".
Over the past year The Daily Advertiser and 40 other Australian Community Media local news sites have introduced subscriptions for online access. The Canberra Times is the most recent masthead in the group to ask its online readers to support its journalism by becoming subscribers.
It's the support of subscribers who value local information they can trust that helps journalists like Port Macquarie News editor Tracey Fairhurst do what she did for her community last week. Tracey provided live coverage from a marathon four-hour meeting of Port Macquarie-Hastings Council as it debated two crucial decisions for the region: the proposed route of an orbital road rejected by hundreds of residents; and action to revive ailing Lake Cathie.
With hundreds of residents jammed into the public gallery, and dozens more seated outside in the foyer watching via an audio-visual link, Tracey's epic live blog kept local ratepayers informed, connected and, yes, even entertained.
"Cr Levido wants to move a 14-part motion," Tracey's updated at one point. "Please hold ...."
Seriously, who needs Foxtel or Netflix when you've got drama, intrigue and comedy coming to you live from your local council meeting?
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Executive Editor, Australian Community Media
*For the record: as well as owning WIN, Bruce Gordon is the largest shareholder in Nine, which acquired Australian Community Media when it absorbed Fairfax Media last year. Nine's sale of ACM to private owners is due to be completed by July 1.
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