Supporting Our Community Media

In an age of information overload the importance of community newspapers and community radio cannot be overstated.

Social media and corporate media offer plenty of platforms for information but little of it is truly local. To find out what is going on in our neighbourhoods and our towns we need to keep supporting our local news outlets.

As a former community newspaper journalist and editor myself, I know it is local stories about local things that help keep us connected to our local communities.

Think of local sports clubs and emerging young champions, exhibitions that shine a light on local talented artists, council meetings that keep us informed about local projects and planning, traffic accidents and police round-ups, or even recipes from the CWA.

Stories don’t have to be blockbuster scoops or shock-horror stuff, they just need to be regular updates of the place we live in and the people we share our communities with.

And I think there’s still something pretty special about seeing your photo in the newspaper – it’s not quite the same when it’s a transient image on a website.

I pay tribute to the men and women across the Lyons electorate who work so hard to keep us all informed. Some are trained and paid journalists, others are volunteers. But all of them wear out shoe leather and attend meetings, games, exhibitions and other events. They’re on the phone asking for quotes and putting together newspapers or radio broadcasts.

There are many weekly, fortnightly and monthly newspapers and newsletters and a host of community stations across Lyons – at last count it must be at least 20.

Here in the Derwent Valley there’s the locally owned New Norfolk News and the Derwent Valley Gazette, one of a number of papers in the Font stable, and of course there’s the terrific Tyga FM community radio station.

I’m proud to support all three in various ways because they all have a role to play in keeping the community informed.

Across Australia, a number of newspapers in regional areas have closed their doors and it’s only after the papers have gone that those communities have realised what they’ve lost.

It’s not just the news, it’s also the advertisers – advertising helps pay the bills and wages of newspaper staff, but they also keep readers informed about what’s for sale and where in a community.

Last year, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland announced the Australian Government would provide $15 million to local and regional newspaper publishers to help absorb global newsprint price hikes.

And just last week, additional federal funding has been awarded to community radio stations, including Tyga.

We’ve got an ambitious media reform agenda that will include support for public interest journalism and media diversity.

I went on the public record in the parliament last week to express my personal support for mandated levels of Australian Government advertising in regional and independent newspapers, to ensure a better spread of government spending in the media so it doesn’t all end up in the hands of city-based corporate media giants.

I look forward to progressing that vision in the months ahead.

Meantime, please keep supporting your local newspapers – spend the few dollars it costs to buy a copy, support the advertisers who support them (the same goes for community station sponsors), and you’ll be playing a part in keeping alive a vital part of our community fabric.