- Closure of WIN newsrooms in Charles Sturt regions will impact local news production
- Opportunities still open for talented and enterprising graduates with increase in demand for digital content
- Funding for public broadcasting becomes even more important.
Charles Sturt University (Charles Sturt) journalism academics have expressed concern at the news that four regional television newsrooms will close, including three in the Charles Sturt campus footprint.
WIN News announced this week that it will close newsrooms in the New South Wales cities of Orange, Wagga Wagga, and Albury and Hervey Bay in Queensland.
WIN has cited technological change and the flow of advertising to digital platforms as a key reason for the closures.
Kay Nankervis, a former broadcast journalist and lecturer in Creative Practice at Charles Sturt in Bathurst, said the closure of the newsrooms is due to fewer advertising dollars to support commercial news operations.
“In WIN’s case the 2016 switch from its Nine network affiliation to Ten was always going to undermine its audience share. To make it harder here in the Bathurst-Orange region, a third local player entered the mix – in addition to Seven/Prime – when the Nine network began its hour long Central West bulletin combining local and national news in one program, “ Ms Nankervis said.
“This steady decline in traditional media jobs over the last decade – especially in the regions – is a sad transition to witness.
“What this means for journalism jobs nationally is not simple: there are lots of new platforms emerging where journalistic reporting work is done – including production of audio visual content not unlike that seen on our traditional television bulletins.
“That is where Charles Sturt University sees many of our graduates headed, while others set on traditional television careers are still finding traditional roles with major networks in capital cities: we continue to see them every night on ABC, Seven, Nine and Ten network bulletins.”
Jock Cheetham, Charles Sturt’s senior lecturer in Journalism, said:
“There are three ways in which this decision is seriously disappointing.
“Firstly, the loss of regional jobs is a blow, as every job in a regional area is precious. With WIN's decision, up to 40 regional jobs are lost.
“Secondly, the decision affects regional news coverage. The loss of a community voice is a blow to media diversity. But more than that, the community will now hear less of itself. Local news is about the community talking to the community.
“This conversation and its social benefit is now greatly diminished. Cuts such as these come on the back of many other cuts to local news all over Australia, including in local and community news, this decade. We live in a world where we know more about Donald Trump, on every level from personal to political, than we do about our local mayor.
“Thirdly, the decision reduces the opportunity for local journalism internships, training and early career jobs. Many journalists have got their start at WIN news, especially in Orange, but elsewhere too.
“While digital disruption and local factors such as changing content-sharing arrangements play a part, ultimately this is a commercial decision made by a company for a range of reasons. Government cannot do a lot to prop up a sector of a market that does not want to continue operating, beyond support such as recently given to assist in transitions of various kinds, such as to digital technologies.
“But the federal government can contribute better by properly funding public broadcasting, particularly the ABC, which has a strong local presence all over Australia. Recent cuts to the ABC have come in two stages and both have been to the detriment of Australian communities.
“The government needs to reverse budget cuts and show strong support for the ABC in its role hosting important community conversations. While WIN might have given up on some of the communities it serves, it's more important than ever that the government does not do the same by underfunding the ABC.”
Charles Sturt’s course director for Communication and Creative Industries, Dr Travis Holland, said that despite the job losses, there are still opportunities for enterprising and talented graduates.
“In the Central West, we still have television reporters for the ABC, Channel Nine, and Prime news, while there are also journalists in local radio and community newspaper roles,” Dr Holland said. “Our graduates are skilled across all media platforms.”
“Nonetheless, the loss of any local jobs in communities and industries hurting from economic transitions are concerning,” Dr Holland added.
“We feel for the fine journalists impacted by this announcement. We know the value their work has for our local communities.
“While technology and global platforms have certainly diverted advertising spend, the significant population in all of the central western towns combined, as well as those in the Riverina, should be a viable audience for commercial operators willing to invest wisely.”