Australia’s Media Landscape: The 15%

Australia’s media landscape is one of the leading free countries in terms of the World Press Freedom Index, jumping six spots to 19, from 25 in 2016. However, two major news corporations own 85 percent of the media: News Corporation (owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch), and FairFax Media.

Interestingly enough, all the sites owned by each particular company have the same layout, which makes the “freedom” of what they report on somewhat questionable. There are still the additional 15 percent of news corporations that are separate from the major corporations, though, which is where I decided to focus my attention.

East Gippsland Newspapers was founded over 100 years ago by the Yeates family, where Robert Yeates is currently a fourth generation employee working as the managing director and editor. These newspapers, owned and operated under East Vic Media, include the Bairnsdale Advertiser, Lakes Posts, Snowy River Mail, and East Gippsland News. Furthermore, these papers help bring the locals news across all of East Gippsland, focusing mainly on community, or “country” journalism.

East Vic Media is very active on Facebook, with 962 “likes” and up-to-date posts on their wall. Their interaction level with the consumers varies from post-to-post, depending on if people in the community comment. However, if someone does, they’re quick to respond with more information.

Their Facebook also differs from their website. Most of their Facebook posts are focused on local sports teams and their scores during games, which their website fails to include (at least from what I’m able to see.) Their website, however, offers a far broader array of topics. It’s unclear whether all the articles published in the four newspapers are published online as well, or if only a select few are (which it seems to be.)

For all four of the East Gippsland Newspapers, there is only one website that electronically publishes stories from the week’s news. Three out of the four papers are published on Wednesday, with the exception of the Bairnsdale Advertiser being published both Monday and Friday. All together, these publications reach a circulation of roughly 34,000 people.

Since these newspapers focus heavily on the local community, their stories and menu bar clearly reflect that. The menu bar online offers categories such as: Home, News, Advertising, Gallery, Tourism, Fishing, Wedding Expo, and Events, just to name a few. Additionally, their stories are mainly about local events going on such as charity events, weather, or honoring Veterans, with the exception of a rare political story, or the journey of an “eel migration.”

These stories are written with a local perspective, as well. In each story, you can hear the journalist’s voice while still following traditional journalistic standards. However, at a community level, this might not necessarily be a bad thing as it reflects upon their freedom of expression while being included in the minority of newspapers in Australia that aren’t owned by a major corporation.

For example, the story about honoring the Veterans of Australia. Although the article included all the basic information about Who, What, When, Where, and Why, you could clearly hear the journalist’s voice through his choice of patriotic words.

To further expand on the community-level writing, there are hardly any stories published of wrongdoings in these papers. The only one I came across was the story of a local Wildlife Rescue car being vandalized by having her business stickers ripped off the car. The journalists did include her name and opinion of the matter in this story, but failed to include if police were contacted or if there was any information on the suspects. This might reflect a type of community level “safety net” reporting, by informing people of mishaps in the community but not singling out a particular person.

There are endless amounts of stories positively reflecting the community, though, most of them focus on charity events. In this week’s publication, it highlighted two such stories. One being an annual breakfast held to raise money for the centenary house, and the other being a local competition to raise money for different charities and clubs.

Interestingly, I noticed throughout the majority of articles, there are not many sources quoted. While all the important information is listed throughout, not many include commentary from those attending the events, which I found surprising, especially from events such as the fundraising events listed above.

As Yeates stated in an email, “I have a view that no one is interested in who writes what, local community members only want information that is honest, accurate, informative and balanced.” This could go to show that community members aren’t as interested in the commentary, and are more focused on the facts.

Overall, the stories published in these newspapers highlight important events going on in the local community known as East Gippsland. While although it fails to include a lot of “hard news” stories, it’s clear its focus is on the community and events they can be involved with. These publications are extremely well written and definitely fulfill its job as a community newspaper(s).