The original contribution presented for the first time here is drawn from a recent survey of local government media managers, conducted by the Public Interest Journalism Initiative, is supported by the Australian Local Government Association. This survey offers indicative information about the amount of journalism available to the public on local events and issues in the regions of Australia, including the reporting of local government. As we report, it corroborates the other data presented with a picture of overall decline, which is in some areas alarming and with serious implications for the agency and health of members of Australia’s regions.
Obtaining an accurate picture of the state of news media in the regions of Australia is not easy. There is no central repository of information about the numbers of journalists employed, or the tasks to which they are allocated. As we discuss below, Australian Bureau of Statistics data is of limited use. Nor is measuring the impact of emerging deficits in journalistic capacity a simple task – something on which one of the current authors has written at more length elsewhere (Simons et al 2017).
Nevertheless, the state of rural and regional news services in Australia has been repeatedly highlighted as a cause for special concern, and even government action. The 2012 Finkelstein report found that regional news service “requires especially careful monitoring” and that there “is some evidence that both regional radio and television stations and newspapers have cut back substantially on their news gathering, leaving some communities poorly served for local news.” (Finkelstein and Ricketson 2012:11).