Fourth estate’s role becoming paper thin

media dinkus

This is not so much an error-pinpointing, snickering edition of the Glass House but a nostalgic one tinged with much sadness.

In just a few days, many much-loved and historic print media mastheads will roll off the presses around Australia for the last time.

Not far from The Bug‘s multi-level, central office complex, the final Saturday edition of the long-standing Northern Star in Lismore will hit the front footpaths and lawns. Rolled up, it presumably will be as thick as a donkey’s dick and chockablock as usual with ads.

Up in the Sunshine State, by month’s end, the Mackay Mercury, the Gladstone Observer, the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, the Gympie Times, the Sunshine Coast Daily and the Queensland Times in Ipswich will all switch to online editions only.

In all, more than a hundred titles across rural and regional areas in most other states will cease their print runs; quite a few will shut completely.

Gone with all these mastheads, many with the rich and lengthy history of great service to their local communities, will be plenty of journos, office staff and printers’ jobs.

Combine all that with further staff cuts at the ABC announced just today and on-going belt tightening at even the supposedly profitable city mastheads owned by Newscorp Australia and Nine Entertainment and it portends a bleak future for the fourth estate in Australia and the so-called rights of its citizens to be kept abreast of world, national and local news.

Take Nine’s SMH that looked decidedly shaky even before COVID-19 struck.

Its three editions so far this week have told a sad tale:

Monday: In a 40-page main book: less than six pages of display and classified ads.

Tuesday: In a 40-page main book:  less than five pages of display and classified ads.

Wednesday: in a 36-page main book: just a smidgen over four pages of display and classified ads.

They all represent appalling ad content percentages and, the Glass House repeats, they are not all that much different from the way things were for a long time before coronavirus struck.

People in northern NSW will be picking up their last Northern Star Saturday edition in three days time.

How much longer can we expect to see Monday to Friday editions of the SMH rolling off the presses?