The Independent spoke with Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) general manager, Ashley Lindsay, regarding Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis’s speech to the NSW parliament, which addressed the importance of regional newspapers and why governments should support those newspapers by advertising within their pages.
During his speech, Mr Gulaptis alleged that local government general managers had lobbied the Office of Local Government (OLG) “to remove the requirement for council notices to be advertised in newspapers and, instead, allow the relevant notices to be published on the council’s website”.
Mr Gulaptis also said that “governments in Canberra and Sydney were lobbied by the big players: News Corp, Fairfax Media and APN”, which made it “much easier for the bureaucrats organising the advertisements to execute state-wide advertising buys” at the exclusion of “independent publications”.
Independent: Was CVC party to one of these agreements?
Ashley Lindsay: “No.”
I: Mr Gulaptis said the OLG’s decision to change the regulations, regarding having to publish statutory [planning] information in print media, was driven by lobbying from council general managers. Were you one of those general managers?
AL: “No, I wasn’t a part of that. I didn’t even know about the planning information [changes]; The first I knew about it was when it was announced.”
I: In general terms, what is your take on what Mr Gulpatis has said?
AL: “I think Chris Gulaptis has captured the sentiment of many regional communities.
“I think that getting the message out in regional Australia is probably less of a focus [for those advocating] the digital world.
“Social media plays a part in regional NSW but, traditionally, the local newspaper has been the vehicle by which community information is disseminated.
“I think he has captured the sentiment of regional NSW, perfectly.
“My personal view is that I certainly was disappointed, particularly when the Independent was no longer in print.
“You guys went into hiatus for a couple of months.
Note: each of the newspaper’s staff was given separation certificate the day before the Australian Government announced the JobKeeper scheme, which kept the paper going digitally until printing resumed.
Mr Lindsay said the Coastal Views [no longer printing] had also “played a significant role in getting the information out in the Lower Clarence”.
“We’re very much an aging community; that demographic over the age of 55 to 60, we certainly didn’t grow up with social media or phones,” he said.
“There needs to be a combination [of methods], obviously we have to cater for people who don’t read the newspapers; that would be council’s position going forward.
“We intend to advertise in the Independent … we are organising a weekly slot in the Independent for six months.”
However, Mr Lindsay said he doubted that newspaper advertising would cease by the end of six months.
“So it will be more likely, twelve [months]; and we’ll keep that up in the Independent, but we are looking at putting together some other information – hopefully the Independent is still going [at that time].
“As I said, council’s messaging needs to be a combination of print media, social media stuff and direct via email [and letters].
Gulaptis urges NSW government support of regional press: www.clarencevalleynews.com.au/gulaptis-urges-nsw-government-support-of-regional-press