Newspaper move decried

Ditched publications ‘lifeblood’ of rural communities

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Wellington
Stuff’s decision to ditch 28 publications is shocking and will further isolate rural communities, Rural Women New Zealand says.
Media giant Stuff, previously known as Fairfax, yesterday announced plans to ditch 28 of its community, rural newspapers and magazines.
Stuff said the change was a sign of the revenue challenges affecting print publications, and was part of a strategy to increase the digital side of the business.
Rural Women’s president Fiona Gower said it was disappointing.
“There’s a lot of people out there who are quite shocked about this and quite disturbed because to a lot of people out there in rural communities it’s their lifeblood. That’s how they get to hear their community and rural news.
“A lot of New Zealander’s don’t have access to decent internet, either because of where they live because they can’t afford it, and then for a lot people who aren’t digital savvy, like if they’re old or unsure of it
. . . they will not have access to their local news.”
Ms Gower said she understood the difficulties newspapers were facing but, because of centralisation, many stories were not covered.
“There’s a lot of great news out there in our communities that they’re just not telling.”
Stuff could make more of an effort, she said.
“I’d like to see Fairfax talking to communities. It’d be great for Fairfax to actually say, ‘What do these communities need?’.”
She said it was vital there was strong competition and content from rural newspapers.
Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher said the business was not immune to the forces which have affected print companies around the world.
About 60 jobs would be affected, but exact job losses have not yet been confirmed.
Options were on the table for Stuff’s exit from the 28 publications, she said.
“We’re hoping to do that through sale wherever possible or closure if not.”
When asked how Stuff will serve rural communities, she said daily newspapers and on-line platforms such as Stuff and Neighbourly were the solution.
“I’m confident we’ll still be able to serve rural communities around the country really well.”
Ms Boucher said she could not specify whether agricultural papers, such as NZ Farmer, had a drop in readers, but that the overall trend for print was a decline in advertising and reader interest.
She said some of the 28 publications were strong businesses and she was confident they could be sold.
“I’m hoping that will be minimising the number that end up being closed. Since yesterday we’ve had a really good flurry of interest once the news went out.
“Some of it (buyer interest) is internal but a lot of it is external, some from existing publishers or people who have complimentary businesses.
“Over the next couple of weeks we will be working through that with all the people who have been in touch with us, and hopefully come to a landing pretty quickly.”
Ms Boucher said she had an idea of which papers would be sold and which would close, but could not discuss it yet. RNZ