Updated: 'Nothing so dire as this': Broken Hill joins Mildura in production halt

Newsmedia in Australia's southern state of Victoria are doing it tough, with one daily and numerous weeklies pausing print production during the COVID-19 crisis.

This was to have been a year of celebration for Mildura's Sunraysia Daily, which is approaching its centenary on October 15. Instead publisher Elliott Newspapers has decided to stand down all staff, making this Saturday the last printed edition "until further notice".

Operations in Mildura, Swan Hill and Kerang are being suspended because of the economic effect of the coronavirus crisis, staff were told today. Elliott Newspapers also publishes Sunraysia Life, the (Swan Hill) Guardian, Gannawarra Times and Loddon Times.

Managing director Ross Lanyon - whose family have been involved in the business for more than 100 years - says the "current intention" is to resume the printed publications when the crisis subsides.

He said the fact that clients were continuing to cancel advertising "gave us no option". Newspapers had not received "anything near the usual commercial support" over recent weeks, across all advertising sectors, and not enough to remain viable.

"It has been terribly disappointing to see many multinational companies use metropolitan press across the nation to inform readers but ignore their readers in regional areas by not displaying those messages in the most read papers in those markets."

Another family-owned publisher facing a similar crisis is Giles Newspapers in Leongatha, where the 130-year-old Great Southern Star is led by fourth-generation family members Tony Giles and Helen Bowering.

The Star and the 145-year-old Yarram Standard will go into "indefinite recess" they announced today. The ABC quoted Bowering that advertising revenue had "ground to a halt.

"It is a heartbreaking day for all of our newspaper family. We are hoping to come back from this as we are proud of our local papers and serving our communities."

The closures have been criticised by journalists' union the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance as "premature", given that stimulus money would be available to the businesses "imminently". Regional director Adam Portelli was quoted describing it as a "disappointing and drastic step" after publishers had survived depression, drought and world wars.

In a message to Sunraysia Daily readers, Ross Lanyon said no event had had such an immediate impact on viability as the current situation. "Our priority at this difficult time is to provide as much assistance to existing employees as is emotionally and financially possible."

• In the US, commentator Ken Doctor is predicting the toll on newsmedia on newsmedia could be worse than the 2008 financial crisis. In a Buzzfeed article, he reports advertising revenue being "just wiped out" and for some "truly it is the full extinction event. I don't know how they come back."

• On Thursday, Broken Hill's Barrier Daily Truth announced it will suspend daily printing operations from Saturday. The publisher says management, in consultation with staff, made the decision yesterday, in order to give the outback Australian newspaper every opportunity to resume normal operations once the coronavirus crisis subsides.

Pictured: Elliott Newspapers' modern Goss Community pressline

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COPING WITH COVID-19 | UPDATE
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