Why free, good quality local media matters more than ever in this town

Genevieve Jacobs 2 July 2019 3

Genevieve Jacobs, Group Editor for Region Media. Photo: Daniella Jukic, wearefound.

After two decades of tumultuous change in the industry, local media is arguably more important than ever. Huge financial pressures have forced hundreds of redundancies and changed formats dramatically as traditional mastheads grapple with what the audience wants and how they can pay for their business models.

Today, as a result of those pressures, the venerable Canberra Times goes behind a digital paywall. It’s a long forecast move and comes on the back of multiple redundancies towards the end of the Fairfax era and the consequent diminution of a local institution.

Crashing reader numbers, a commercially unsustainable print model and changing audience habits have all played their role and from today onwards, readers will be limited to five free articles per month or annual subscriptions ranging from $180 to $228.80. The paper’s syndicated content deal with Fairfax also has a limited lifespan after its sale to other interests.

Any decent journalist passionately believes in the value of competitive, strong local media. Readers care first and foremost about their own communities, and credible journalism should play a role in calling power to account and providing balanced and fair coverage of the events and people who matter to us.

This week’s raids on a News Corp journalist here in Canberra and the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters, seeking material related to potential wide-ranging powers to spy on ordinary Australians and on whether Australian special forces committed human rights violations, demonstrate how pressured the media environment can be.

And increasingly, mainstream mastheads who are struggling to pay the bills choose to rely on content from elsewhere. It’s cheap to produce and can provide useful access to national news if you care about that. But it also means multiple links to irrelevant stories from as far away as Perth.

Here at Region Media, we believe that grassroots local journalism is more important than ever. It’s absolutely fair to pay for quality, but there is more than one way to do that. Through our connection with the local business and community sectors, we believe we’ve found a way to fund high-quality, well-connected local journalism that will remain free and is without commercial or political bias.

When we posed that question this week, the answer was unequivocal: when asked whether you would pay for news online, 86 per cent of respondents voted to make the media smarter, not more expensive.

We also hire experienced journalists who live and work here: this is a growth model and we are actively seeking strong contributors. We do not and will not syndicate material from other providers: our commitment is to quality local content generated by us in our Canberra and regional newsrooms.

RiotACT‘s parent company, Region Media, has one of the largest and fastest growing digital audiences in the Canberra region, now regularly connecting with more than 300,000 unique visitors each month and an additional audience through our About Regional platform.

Region Demographic

We are actively reinventing a local media business model in a company that is owned by locals and staffed by journalists who are from the Canberra region who understand our community.

If you’d like to engage with us as a contributor, an advertiser or know more about what we do, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact me at gjacobs@region.com.au, or our commercial team at sales@region.com.au.

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3 Responses to Why free, good quality local media matters more than ever in this town
Gilavon Gilavon 2:02 pm 07 Jun 19

“Good quality” media in this town: Yes well we do need it but Region Media/RiotACT will need to lift it’s game a tad. I expect the media to be impartial, free of bias. Regrettably during the federal election campaign RiotACT ran a couple puff pieces clearly biased to supporting Labor, didn’t impress me one bit and when the opportunity to comment occurred on a related article my comment must have been considered too harsh on what I call the “luvvoid” genre of this town.

Canberra Times used to carry the slogan “To Serve The Nation’s Capital and Through It The Nation”: Hmmm. Nowadays it’s “Independent Always” (If I got that wrong it’s because I haven’t gone near CT or “Fairfax” for a long time). Trouble is that it never lived up to either slogan because of Left biase. Similar criticisms are true of the ABC too hence I haven’t tuned into 666 for probably seven, eight years, nor views ABC Tube (since the 4 Corners program on the live export trade to Indonesia).

So yep, if RiotACT can stay truly impartial and balanced I’m all for it.

justin heywood justin heywood 10:34 am 07 Jun 19

Print media has become increasingly polarised over the past decade- The Canberra Times, along with The Age and the SMH, nowadays report almost exclusively from a Green/Left standpoint, while The Australian and other News publications promote a more conservative view.

This effectively cuts their potential readership in half. I can no longer read the Fairfax papers, and I’ll bet not many lefties can read The Australian.

To many, ‘independent’ journalism means freedom to promote one’s particular worldview, whereas it SHOULD mean freedom to step outside your worldview and fearlessly seek the truth, whatever the consequences for your political side.

Hats off to Region Media for success whilst allowing all sides of a debate to get a hearing.

John Moulis John Moulis 5:51 am 07 Jun 19

I had a subscription to RiotACT before Region Media bought it. I couldn’t believe it when I was told that I didn’t need to pay anymore and I’d be able to keep my picture avatar.

Since then RiotACT has improved greatly and I’ve hardly noticed the loss after we cancelled the subscription to the Canberra Times. I can get intelligent, contemporary commentary at RiotACT from people with a fresh perspective rather than jaundiced, biased nonsense from old Vietnam War protesters and former editors who were sacked by previous owners. Not to mention eccentric ANU academics who began contributing in 1975 and haven’t had an original thought since.

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