JOB cuts in regional journalism at WIN News are a blow to Central West communities, Charles Sturt University's (CSU) Dr Travis Holland says.
Journalists, camera operators and editors in Orange's WIN newsroom were told on Wednesday afternoon that their bureaus would be close for good on Friday, June 28.
Three other newsrooms will close, they include: Albury, Wagga Wagga and Queensland's Wide Bay (which covers Hervey Bay and Bundaberg).
In a letter to its staff WIN said the decision to cease production of the bulletins was based on the "commercial viability of funding news in these areas".
"Changing content consumption habits and increased competition from digital content providers, that don't face the same regulatory conditions that challenge traditional media, has led to a reduction in demand for local news bulletins in these regions," the letter read.
CSU Communication and Creative Industries course director Dr Holland said it would be easy for regional communities to think that they don't matter following this decision.
"There's actually 288,000 people in the Central West/Orana regions which is bigger than the Illawarra," he said.
"I think the commercial opportunities really need to be taken into account of as far as investment goes.
"It's really disappointing that a company like WIN sees that some of the most vibrant cities are not viable."
Mr Holland said the closure of the office will have an impact on CSU's journalism graduates.
"I know that our grads will be impacted and the communities they serve will be impacted," he said.
Dr Holland said the media landscape had undergone significant changes in recent years and CSU was equipping its journalism students with the best skills to still find work.
WIN management have told staff they will "attempt to redeploy them" into other roles in the network.
Government must act on loss of regional media: Union
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) director Katelin McInerney said the steady ongoing decline of journalism in regional Australia means there is a decline in the public information needed by regional communities.
"Homogenised news sourced from the big cities is not a replacement," she said.
Ms McInerney urged MPs and community leaders to take a stand against the decline in local news.
"MEAA calls on the Morrison Government to work with media stakeholders and local communities to urgently develop an action plan to arrest the loss of public interest journalism and to encourage and promote the development and growth of local news media," she said.
"Reporting of local news is essential to regional communities. It goes to the heart of the role the fourth estate must play in informing and promoting a healthy functioning democracy."
Former WIN bureau chief slams executives for declining ratings
A former bureau chief at WIN News says he is "saddened" to see the end of news bulletins which have covered the region for nearly 30 years, and slammed executives up the chain for contributing to declining ratings.
Former WIN News chief of staff Allan Reeder, who was in the Orange newsroom from 2005 to 2012, said while some of the dipping news viewership was due to a long-term industry decline however management decisions also played a role in the bulletins' demise.
Mr Reeder said "serious questions" need to be asked about the decision that led WIN to swap from Nine, which currently owns Australian Community Media, to Ten.
"Local news, produced well, still rates well. Burying the local news bulletin after TEN's The Project, and expecting locals to go hunting for it has not been a good business decision," he said.
NSW Nationals pulls all advertising following WIN closures
People need to realise that regional media is more connected to their audience than city media is. We'll work with our Parliamentary members on steps to help ensure regional news is more viable, including possible tax concessions.— NSW Nationals (@NSWNationals) June 20, 2019
NSW Nationals state director Ross Cadell said he was concerned the WIN would close down newsrooms in the bush.
"We believe in the important role journalism plays not only in our democracy, but in our communities, bringing people together and keeping them informed," he said.
Because of this, Mr Cadell said the NSW Nationals would "immediately cease" advertising with WIN
"In the first six months of this year we spent close to $3 million advertising on regional television in NSW, but as of this moment I have instructed our party to immediately cease all advertising with WIN TV until they reverse the decision," he said.