Nov 28, 2011

Canberra Times facing down a tabloid future?

Canberra Times management are knuckling down to develop a strategy to preserve the storied broadsheet in its current form as circulation and profit plummets.

Andrew Crook — Former <em>Crikey</em> Senior Journalist

Andrew Crook

Former Crikey Senior Journalist

Canberra Times management are knuckling down to develop a strategy to preserve the storied broadsheet in its current form as circulation and profit plummets.

Newsroom insiders say a brainstorming session at a lakeside Canberra hotel last week discussed several options including moving the paper to a tabloid and the closure of the low-selling Sunday Canberra Times to cut costs.

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6 thoughts on “Canberra Times facing down a tabloid future?

  1. Margo

    The erosion of Canberra Times readership probably reflects a series of issues, and not just the rise of the internet — a medium that the Can.Times seems uniquely unable to grasp. Just compare its website to that of other major broadsheets such as The Age and the SMH. The Can. Times has never really understood, or hasn’t cared, how people use newspaper website. But the core of the problem is really what the paper has to offer readers, and there is little doubt that that has seriously diminished. The plethora of young, inexperienced, journos with little understanding of what they are writing about, together with lackluster writing skills, simply makes for a non-compelling read. Other so-called journalists are laughably biased in their coverage of issues such as planning & development, and the weekend ‘magazines’ are padded with articles reprinted from US and UK newspapers, with questionable relevance to Canberra audiences. Meanwhile, Jack Waterford continues to provide informed and intelligent commentaries on everything from local government to Indigenous issues. But it is simply not enough. Rather than having staff pow-wows, I hope the paper will start consulting readers about how the paper can live up to its motto (for years on the front page, but no longer!): ‘To serve the national city and through it the nation.’

  2. Bartholomew Beswick

    I believe the attempt to focus on the national means that local issues are not covered very well. I took a month subscription when I landed in Canberra 5 years ago, and found it to be as dismal and out of touch as my previous rag, Brisbane’s The Courier Mail. I soon spoke to the locals and got my excellent local coverage from the website ‘The RiotACT’ and continued getting national coverage from Crikey.

  3. moncur doug

    We used to subscribe to the Canberra Times. We now don’t.

    After an attempt to do without a print newspaper in the mornings we finally admitted we were hopeless print addicts. After a flirtation with the Australian we settled on the SMH as the best combination of of left of centre small ‘L’ liberalism, decent world coverage and literate content even if the wall to wall coverage of Mr O’Farrell is not particularly relevant.

    I live in hope that one day the Canberra Times will become the Canberra and NSW edition of the SMH with a couple of pages of ACT news added into the National news coverage

  4. Margo

    As a resident of Canberra for 22 years, and as a one-time resident of other capital cities including London, Oslo and Washington DC, I have some sympathy for those comments. There are, however, models of successful capital city newspapers, and the Can. Times needs to learn from them. The Washington Post always did particularly well at being both a local and a national paper, but this requires quality journalists and a belief that you can really do it. Although there seems to be little that one would call ‘investigative journalism’ any more, the Can. Times had a win with its campaign for greater transparency around food hygiene (although this has so far resulted in only promises). Campaigning journalism might not be what everyone wants, but it’s an example of what can be done to make newspapers interesting.

  5. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    I live in the second Murdoch city in a Murdoch state (Queensland). News Ltd is our only local, state-based or national daily newspaper source. There is a very large and new News Ltd printing operation in Townsville, a serious investment on a greenfield site in a newspaper future.
    A few years ago the Townsville Bulletin (News Ltd since the early 1980s) converted from a broadsheet to the colour-filled tabloid format seen around the world – or is that only the Murdoch world? I presume the Bully is making money so one could argue that the tabloid business model works for them. It’s just a business model.
    From the above comments it seems that no one loves the Canberra Times as a broadsheet. Perhaps colour tabloid is the next sustainable formula for the Canberra Times? Darwin’s got the croc wrestling NT News, Canberra can choose its own image.

  6. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Colour tabloid. The daily newspaper you get when you don’t need a daily newspaper.

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