Newspaper closures severe blow to local communities

By Zoe Morris

(Picture: Local and national papers available in the wider Riverina region. By Zoe Morris)

While internet access has more than doubled in country areas since 1998, there remains a regional dimension to the digital divide. The basic parameters of digital inequality in Australia – age, geography, education, and income continue to define access to online resources.

In the decade to 2018, 106 local and regional newspapers closed in Australia, leaving 21 government areas, 16 regional areas without a local newspaper. These regional spaces became digital black holes. Here it was easier to find out about Donald Trump’s breakfast than the mining acquisition down the street.    

The loss of regional voices and the written history of these regions have a significant cost to so many regional people and communities, especially those overwhelmingly dominated by elderly.                                                                                                 

Bridging a digital divide means accommodating diversity and without the inclusion of local representation and public discussion in our communities, our democracy, our voice and our autonomy are likely to be the greatest casualties against COVID-19.