What a difference a week makes in country newspapers, especially in South Australia’s South East.
Last week it seemed some media folk in the region had their heads stuck in the sand when it came to news of a paper sale. But this week they are singing the news from the rooftops, or from their own papers to be exact.
The severe case of “ostrich-itis” followed the revelation last week that South East trucking tycoon Allan Scott was expanding his media empire, purchasing his third country newspaper.
The Scott Group of Companies on Monday finalised the purchase of Millicent’s South Eastern Times, previously owned by the McRostie family.
Mr Scott now owns three newspapers within a 50km radius of Mt Gambier, after adding the twice-weekly Millicent paper to his stable, which includes The Border Watch and Penola Pennant newspapers.
It will be interesting to see if Mr Scott takes the same approach with the Times as he does with The Watch, where he often features in editorial content.
Most recently he used The Watch to flag a threat that he would move his operations interstate after becoming upset by the SA Government’s failure to cut payroll tax costs, claiming the Scott Group of Companies would save millions of dollars if it moved to Victoria or Queensland.
Scott used the newspaper to criticise the Rann Government as “the worst we’ve ever had” and voiced his frustration at what he described as the continued neglect of the South East in the State Budget.
It seems last week his staff were not taking a leaf out of his publicity book, as when I did the rounds, South Eastern Times editor Michael McRostie took the call and simply said “no comment” before hanging up.
His Border Watch counterpart Tim Lewis, who manages the Mt Gambier paper, was not as polite, simply stating he would “absolutely not” make any comment before he too slammed down the phone.
Lewis’s boss, Scott Group of Companies chief executive officer Bruce Grubb, went one better, ignoring phone calls and emails to his office asking for comment on the sale, taking the head in the sand approach.
And one of the paper’s editors even went as far as to deny reports of the sale were true to a South East radio journalist.
But this week it’s splashed across the front page of The Border Watch, with Mr Scott himself spruiking that the South Eastern Times “is Millicent’s newspaper and will always remain Millicent’s newspaper”.
Messrs Grubb, Lewis and McRostie also go on to comment in warm, fuzzy terms, with Lewis going as far to say that it will be important that the SE Times “remains an independent entity in its coverage of local news”.
And it seems they’ve all taken umbrage at the fact news of the sale was made public, after The Adelaide Advertiser broke the news last week, with Watch management warning staff that they will be instantly dismissed if it’s discovered they’ve leaked the news.
It’s a shame that I found out about it from other sources.