News / Media

Calls for council to support new local media

Lack of local media is a threat to democracy, says Cr Adam Pulford

Print copies of the now defunct Moreland Leader.

Mark Phillips
Monday, March 8, 2021

THE dearth of independent media in Brunswick and neighbouring suburbs has led to one Moreland councillor suggesting the city must look at ways to support existing and new journalistic voices and startups.

North-East ward councillor Adam Pulford will seek support at this Wednesday’s council meeting for a report into how the council can support local news outlets, journalists and journalism students to fill the void left by the closure of print publications over the past couple of years, including the News Corp-owned Moreland Leader in mid-2020.

He argues the lack of local media is a threat to local democracy.

“The pandemic has seen many residents reconnect with their local neighbourhoods and communities throughout Melbourne’s lockdowns,” Cr Pulford explains in a submission to accompany his proposal.

“With the increased interest in local issues and the decline of local news sources, there is an opportunity for Council to step in to help improve access to local community news for residents.

“By increasing residents’ access to local news, Council has the opportunity to create a more connected (and better informed) community.”

The Leader initially suspended printing in April last year, then made that permanent in May, along with dozens of other mastheads around Australia.

While News Corp insists it is maintaining an online presence in Moreland, readers can now only access the Leader by paying an annual subscription for the Herald Sun website, and even then Moreland specific content has been sporadic at best.

Cr Pulford says the closure of the Leader is part of a national trend that has seen more and more traditional media outlets shut up shop as their business models have been disrupted by the rise of Google and Facebook.

Cr Adam Pulford

“We have also seen the danger of these giant tech companies controlling what information people can access through their platforms, like when Facebook banned news for Australian users. Access to credible, local news is critical to a well-functioning democracy.”

The abandonment of Moreland by traditional media businesses, and the requirement to keep the community informed during the pandemic, has seen the council increase its own communications through social media, printed and home-delivered newsletters, increased advertising in culturally and lingquistically diverse newspapers, and electronic direct mail.

But none of these is a genuine substitute for the loss of independent media.

If supported by other councillors, the report on the future of local media in the city would be presented to the April council meeting.