Jane Nethercote writes:

It’s not that easy getting the news in a one-paper town. Just ask
the residents of Mt Gambier.

On early Tuesday morning, a liquid gas
tanker flipped
on its side on the busy Riddoch Highway, just near Mt Gambier’s
airport. Although the driver emerged unharmed, the road took at least
five hours
to clear with the help of a
crane, and the truck sustained $150,000
worth of damage.

Pretty big Mt Gambier news and yet there wasn’t a sniff of the story in the local paper The Border Watch nor on local WIN TV.
But it’s clear that local news outlets couldn’t have missed the story – Crikey hears that several
journalists were on the scene, not to mention the fact that a major road was blocked. So
what’s going on?

It’s perhaps not surprising that the story didn’t get a run in The Border Watch.
Mt Gambier’s local – and only – paper is owned by the Scott Group,
the company of South Australian trucking magnate Allan Scott. The
tanker
which overturned was a Scott truck.

This story might sound familiar to regular watchers of ABC’s Media Watch program. And with reason. Only a few months back, the ABC watchdog reported how Border Watch editor Frank Morello was “stood down” for
publishing articles that were critical of local
Liberal candidate Peter Gandolfi, who was supported by Allan Scott.

Since then, Mr Scott has resigned as chairman of the paper,
but today’s story indicates that his influence is still alive and
well. Hardly surprising given that his family still owns The Border Watch.
Not only that, but Scott’s replacement as chairman, Bruce Grubb, is the CEO of the Scott Group.

As for the lack of TV coverage, WIN network news director Allen
Clark says that the story “really wasn’t anything exciting”. And given
that it happened in the small hours, and no-one was hurt, getting a camera to the scene would
have meant over four hours’ overtime. In the end, the severity of the incident didn’t
justify that cost, says Clark.

But yesterday, the story did make it to page ten of The Advertiser – and it was written by former Border Watch chief of staff Lechelle Earl who resigned in the wake of Morello’s resignation.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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