The 7.30 Report‘s feature on newspapers last night did not elicit the same level of access from the two main print media companies in Australia. It’s not surprising, given recent circulation figures, that News Ltd was more forthcoming, providing access to Campbell Reid, group editorial director, on camera. Fairfax refused the program’s request for access.
“Fairfax, in the last few days, have confirmed that those two newspapers (The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald) are barely making a profit,” says Crikey publisher (and former Fairfax editor) Eric Beecher.
Fairfax risks seeming out of touch with ABC viewers, who are likely to also read broadsheets.
Surely the viability of newspapers is an important element of the democratic process? As Eric beecher points out, like the arts in Australia generally, news could be the recipient of government funding. It already is, in the form of the national broadcaster - which broadcasts this program - the ABC.
The Australian saw circulation rise - again - “growing its average weekday sales by 3.6 per cent year-on-year to 138,765 and its weekend sales by 3.7 per cent to 316,194”, according to a 15 May story in the News Ltd flagship broadsheet.
“News Limited has a proprietor who loves newspapers and has worked in them all his life, and that's in stark contrast to Fairfax,” says Beecher.
Farifax’ “The Sydney Morning Herald experienced little change in its circulation” over the same period, according to the story in The Australian.
News Ltd’s The Daily Telegraph “fell 1.5 per cent on weekdays and 0.5 per cent on Saturdays” it went on.
The 7.30 Report program highlights US problems, too. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has relinquished a print version and is now solely an online vehicle. Two major US broadsheets - The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune - have either gone bankrupt or are in the throes of bankruptcy.
News is in a pickle globally. British national papers are suffering too, as are regional titles in the same country.
“I think people who think that the internet is responsible for the death of newspapers are searching around and blaming the wrong person,” says Reid. “Poor management, poor newspapers, I think are responsible for the death of some newspapers."
Will newspapers be around in 50 years? Reid thinks they will.