MEAA condemns ‘knee-jerk’ closures of regional titles amid coronavirus pandemic

The Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance has condemned the closures of several regional newspaper titles, calling it a ‘knee-jerk reaction’ and saying news reporting is more important now than ever.

Some of the titles have been reporting on local news and events for more than 140 years.

The Sunraysia Daily has closed and stood down its staff

Mildura’s Sunraysia Daily, which is the only daily newspaper in the region, will close in the year that was supposed to be its centenary. Its staff have all been stood down until further notice, with the title saying it hopes to return sometime in the future.

The closure will also impact the three other Elliott Newspaper Group titles, including the Swan Hill Guardian and the Gannawarra Times in the Loddon-Mallee region.

The titles are joined by the Yarram Standard and the Great Southern Star in Victoria’s South Gippsland which have also closed indefinitely. The Yarram Standard is 145 years old and the Great Southern Star is 130.

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“We would like to thank all our loyal readers, advertisers and contributors for your support. We urge you all to stay safe and look forward to serving the local community in the future,” read a statement from The Star.

“The Star is not the only business being affected with many others in South Gippsland wondering about their futures. All Victoria’s hospitality industry and schools were forced to shut down yesterday along with pubs, clubs, gyms and cinemas.

“It seems likely more businesses will be forced to close in the coming days.”

MEAA media president Marcus Strom said communities are in a ‘crucial time of need’.

“The media is an essential service right now. Media outlets have a heightened responsibility to their communities. They provide a lifeline that binds a community together and bolsters resilience. Their local knowledge cannot be replaced by media outlets in the bigger cities,@ said Strom.

“Without doubt this is a difficult operating environment but many of these mastheads have a long and proud history – they have survived depression, drought and world wars. And yet a week of this current crisis has led them to close their doors. Shutting down in advance of the benefits they are to receive from the government stimulus packages, is a knee-jerk reaction.

“The stimulus money available to these businesses include lines of credit, relaxed insolvency regulations and business cash flow measures. Pulling down the shutters only piles more pressure on communities that already have limited employment opportunities and that can ill afford more people on welfare.

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“Furthermore, if the papers can’t survive, the government must step in and financially support them as an essential service until this crisis has passed.”


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