Black day for News Corp – most of its Queensland presses to fall silent

Media giant News Corp has announced a gutting of its regional and community publishing business Australia-wide, with many of Queensland’s largest regional newspapers to cease print publication within weeks.

May 28, 2020, updated May 28, 2020
News Corp has announced the closure of almost 100 of its regional and community print publications. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

News Corp has announced the closure of almost 100 of its regional and community print publications. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

News Corp Australia announced the bulk of its regional and suburban community papers across the country will go digital only from June 29, putting hundreds of jobs on the line.

It has been reported up to a third of jobs at the company could be axed under the restructure.

“Today’s announcements … will mean some job roles will change and regretfully, will lead to job losses,” chief executive Michael Miller said on Thursday.

“COVID-19 has impacted the sustainability of community and regional publishing.”

News Corp’s major dailies, including the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph and The Courier-Mail, will become more state-focused, drawing content from regional and community journalists.

Queensland will be the most severely hit by the changes, with the likelihood of massive cuts to the editorial operations of many regional newsrooms.

In a statement, the company said Queensland publications Sunshine Coast Daily, Queensland Times, Mackay’s Daily Mercury, Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin, Gladstone Observer, Bundaberg’s News Mail, Fraser Coast Chronicle, Gympie Times,  Warwick Daily News, Central and North Burnett Times, Central Queensland News, Chinchilla News and Murilla Advertiser, Dalby Herald, Gatton Star, Noosa News, South Burnett Times, Stanthorpe Border Post, Western Star, Western Times, Whitsunday Times, Whitsunday Coast Guardian and Bowen Independent, would become digital-only titles.

More than a dozen smaller Queensland print newspapers will cease publication, and the company also said news from the towns covered by the Atherton Tablelander, Northern Miner, Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette and Burdekin Advocate would only appear under the regional sections of the Cairns Post and Townsville Bulletin.

Queensland publications The Cairns Post, Townsville Bulletin and Gold Coast Bulletin, as well as other mastheads News Corp Australia has described as “major regional titles” – Hobart’s Mercury, NT News, Toowoomba Chronicle and Geelong Advertiser – will continue to publish both in print and digitally.

News Corp’s Quest Brisbane community newspapers, which suspended print publication in early April, will also remain digital-only publications.

The company announced on Thursday that the company will invest in “digital advertising and marketing solutions”. It means some of the state’s largest communities would no longer have a daily local newspaper. Many of these mastheads were acquired by News Corp from APN in 2016.

On Wednesday night, The Australian Financial Review reported between 650 and 1000 jobs could go as part of a major restructure of News Corp Australia.

“COVID-19 has impacted the sustainability of community and regional publishing. Despite the audiences of News Corp’s digital mastheads growing more than 60 per cent as Australians turned to trusted media sources during the peak of the recent COVID-19 lockdowns, print advertising spending which contributes the majority of our revenues, has accelerated its decline,” News Corp Australasia executive chairman Michael Miller said in a statement on Thursday.

“Consequently, to meet these changing trends, we are reshaping News Corp Australia to focus on where consumers and businesses are moving and to strengthen our position as Australia’s leading digital news media company.”

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Miller confirmed that from Monday June 29, the bulk of News Corp’s community and regional titles would go digital-only. He said more than 375 journalists will cover regional and community news. There were previously between 1200 and 1300.

Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance chief executive Paul Murphy said the closures underlined the crisis faced by Australian media.

“The closure of so many mastheads represents an immense blow to local communities,” he said.

Murphy said the union was still waiting on clarity on how many jobs would go and expected fair treatment for any staff forced to leave.

In a statement, Miller also said the Wentworth Courier, Mosman Daily and North Shore Times, which Miller said served Sydney’s “most affluent suburbs”, will still be printed.

Some regional and community titles will no longer exist but their journalists will continue to feed copy into the local masthead.

In an email to staff seen by AAP, Miller pointed to the coronavirus’s impact on print advertising revenue for the changes.

He said there would have to be a fundamental shift in the way the company operated, including hiring digital-only journalists and focusing on online advertising.

Media companies across the country are making massive cuts or shutting shop completely during the coronavirus pandemic, with the latest including Buzzfeed Australia and 10daily.


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