News Corp suspends 60 community papers

By AAP Newswire

The Australian media industry has taken another hit from the coronavirus, with News Corp suspending the printing of dozens of local newspapers with likely job losses.

News Corp is making 60 suburban and regional titles across NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia digital-only from next week.

Executive chairman Michael Miller said the decision had been forced on the company due to the rapid decline in advertising.

The newspapers depend heavily on advertising related to real estate auctions, house inspections, community events and restaurants.

Sydney suburban papers like the Manly Daily and Wentworth Courier and regional titles including the Northern Star and Coffs Coast Advocate will be affected.

Quest papers in Queensland, which include the 142-year-old Albert and Logan News, Leader titles in Victoria and the nine suburban Messenger newspapers in Adelaide are also going to be hit.

"In coming days, the direct managers of affected staff will discuss the impact of this suspension with individuals and teams," Mr Miller said in an email to staff.

"I want to stress strongly this decision should in no way suggest we are walking away from community journalism. In fact, the opposite is the truth."

It is understood this will mean job losses for the papers, with staff warned cuts were inevitable.

Mr Miller said that during the COVID-19 emergency, News Corp's main priority was to preserve jobs and position its business to counter the crisis.

"During this unprecedented time it is imperative that we reduce costs while continuing to keep the community informed and doing all we can to retain jobs," he said.

"The print suspension will allow us to assess the shape of the market itself and future conditions, taking into account how the coronavirus situation unfolds in the coming period."

Nine newspapers have suspended several of its lift-outs, including its real estate and travel magazines, and reducing the size of some sections in light of the pandemic.

Magazines such as Sophisticated Traveller, Luxury and Executive Style as well as the popular Good Food have been suspended.

Nine is also reducing the number of editions of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age it publishes each day

More than a dozen other regional newspapers have also been forced to close or suspend operations due to the downturn.

The latest was the Bunyip, a weekly in Gawler, South Australia, which printed its last edition on Wednesday.

On its front page, editor Ben Taylor said the industry had been lobbying governments for help for years.

"This has fallen on deaf ears as governments continue to shift their ad spend to online platforms," he said.

"We certainly hope we can publish again once the COVID-19 pandemic is over."

The media union wants the government to reallocate a regional newspaper grants program as a coronavirus "survival fund" to save more local publications from folding.