Moree Champion one of several non-daily papers closed until the end of June

NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has expressed concerns on behalf  of the community and thrown his support behind hundreds of Australian Community Media (ACM) journalists and staff whose employment is in up in the air after the temporary suspension of all the company’s non-daily newspapers, including the Moree Champion and Inverell Times.

Mr Marshall said Tuesday’s shock announcement by ACM’s CEO Antony Catalano had left almost all communities north of Tamworth without a public journal of record.

“The news that ACM will cease publishing the Armidale Express, Moree Champion, Glen Innes Examiner and Inverell Times until at least June is devastating and my heart goes out to the region’s journalists and staff, who have had their lives turned upside down,” Mr Marshall said.

“I understand COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the bottom line of regional media but in one fell swoop and without consultation with staff ACM appears to have taken the first steps towards shutting its smaller newsrooms and leaving many without any local source of information.

“Good journalism is vital for maintaining a healthy democratic society. Mastheads like the Armidale Express, which have been in circulation since 1856, have been pivotal in holding local leaders and authority figures to account, while at the same time giving the people a voice on local issues.

The Moree Champion was last week helping promote local businesses that were still open during the COVID-19 crisis; sadly, the iconic local paper, along with several other country mastheads, is closed until the end of June, when their collective future will be “re-evaluated”.

“It saddens me to think the hard working journalists in ACM’s non-daily papers have been asked to give up everything for the business during this difficult time, while for dailies in larger places like Tamworth, it’s just business as usual.”

Mr Marshall, a former print journalist, issued a rallying cry to the community to get behind their local papers.

“The survival of regional news rooms is in the balance and now is the time for us as community to step up and support our those publications which have stood by us over many years as employers, sponsors of local sporting teams and recorders of history,” he said.

“As is always the case when any service closes there will be some in the community who are vocal, but actually do anything to help turn the situation around.

“I’m urging those who can afford it to take out a subscription for their local paper, either digital or online, and show ACM’s bean counters that they are still important parts or regional communities.

“Local journalists have told me the decision to stop publishing will be in place until June when it will be revaluated again. Until then they are being asked to take annual leave or go onto Centrelink.

“Hopefully the company qualifies and chooses to access the JobKeeper program so we don’t lose any further skilled journalists from our region.

“ACM cannot use this as an excuse to close down these publications for good, but must get their journalists back in the field and the printing presses rolling again once COVID-19 passes.”

Media Release: April 15, 2020