In a further development for the changing Canberra media market, News Corp has announced it will be launching a digital news platform called the Canberra Star.
Kate Christian, who most recently worked on suburban Sydney newspapers the Wentworth Courier and the Northern District Times, is the Star’s journalist.
*Region has been told by News that Christian will be the sole journalist for now, utilising the Daily Telegraph’s existing photography staff in Canberra. News Local’s publisher, John McGourty, also confirmed that the site will be behind a paywall and will syndicate Daily Telegraph content along with locally generated material. Kate Christian is now based in Canberra.
The Canberra Star is described as “a local digital news platform covering Canberra and the surrounding regions. To be launched on June 10, 2019, the Star is News Corp Australia’s first ever website focusing on hyper-local news in the ACT”.
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The launch follows a similar platform in Wollongong called the Illawarra Star, which defaults to a Daily Telegraph masthead with some local stories. News has followed the same model with the newly launched St George Shire Standard, which sits with their NSW community newspaper division NewsLocal. Each masthead appears to have a single journalist as a contact point.
A statement from a News Corp Australia spokesman said that the Star would provide “a trusted, true local news source dedicated to the local, important, everyday issues that matter the most to the local community.”
News Corp Australia says it sees opportunities for further digital-only local community publications, following a strategy that’s also been executed by News in the UK, where former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks has spearheaded an expanded digital push.
News Corp Australia’s COO, Damien Eales told media analysis site Mumbrella last year that the company was seeing success with paywalls for its local publications which have recently passed 500,000 nationally. However, they’ve also sold their half share of the West Australian Community Newspaper Group this week.
The Canberra Star announcement follows the Canberra Times‘ sale to a consortium headed by former Domain boss Anthony Catalano as Nine divests multiple local media mastheads across the country.
Without divulging a great deal about his plans, Catalano has suggested he will look at new ways to monetise the larger ex-Fairfax mastheads, including the Canberra Times, Illawarra Mercury and Newcastle Herald. Although no announcements have been made at this stage, Catalano has flagged the possibility of “consolidation” for print operations.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance says that at least 3,000 journalism jobs have been lost in the past decade. Many of these have been in regional and rural publications, and in a submission last year to the Senate enquiry into the future of public interest journalism, the MEAA described the situation as a “crisis” for public interest journalism and democracy.
“Media organisations public and private have largely abandoned investing in their product and have resorted to seemingly never-ending cost-cutting. At the same time that our industry and its established business models have been under attack, our profession is too,” the submission said.
The submission also called for tax incentives and other forms of support for rural and regional news outlets, restored and increased funding to public broadcasting, more rigorous taxation of news aggregators and consideration of direct and indirect government subsidies to media, with safeguards to protect editorial integrity from being compromised.
*Updated to include commentary from News Local publisher John McGourty