An era has come to an end with WIN News Mildura broadcasting its final bulletin last week. Many journalists, cameramen, editors and producers cut their teeth in this newsroom. It was my first job out of university, and I credit this station in my childhood home town, and my time at other WIN News bureaux, for providing me with exceptional grounding in all areas of broadcast journalism. As a newsroom it was minimally resourced — just three journalists to write a 30-minute bulletin, including two to three packaged stories per night, briefs and regular updates. The journalists were also the newsreaders, producers and even autocue operators.
I remember arriving on my first day as an intern to find one junior journalist frantic. She told me the senior journalist was sick, another on assignment 100 kilometres away and there was a press conference that I had to attend in 10 minutes. I muddled my way through two packaged stories on day one, wrote briefs, updates and assisted in producing the bulletin. I won’t say each day got easier because it was an under-resourced, regional newsroom, but the lessons learned were invaluable. WIN News taught me to value my contacts, to write good copy under pressure and to hone my news sense.
The sudden closure of WIN News Mildura and other regional newsrooms in its network is a loss both for these communities and the Australian media in general. Although they might not be commercially viable, local news bulletins are appreciated among their communities. For areas like Mildura, where the closest capital city is more than 400 kilometres away, local news bulletins build identity and are a powerful, engaging medium for community issues to be explored. The local media are seen as being not only informative, but champions of issues affecting people in their communities.
Regional newspapers, radio and television stations are an excellent opportunity to develop a broad range of skills for media professionals. You become a vital part of a community, learning to understand issues affecting locals, developing your news sense and building a strong contact base along the way. Writing fast and accurate copy is vital because if you get it wrong, you’re sure going to hear about it at the pub on a Friday night.
My bond with regional Australia will always be strong, and it saddens me to see services, including news, in these areas reduced. While the media landscape continues to evolve, it is my hope cuts to local new bulletins are minimal. Mildura now does not have a local television news bulletin for the first time in 60 years. Local newspaper Sunraysia Daily has been covering the story, with overwhelming comments from disgruntled locals on its Facebook page. I have spoken to former colleagues and locals who have expressed their dismay at the loss. Executives, take note: regional news remains a vital part of the Australian media landscape, so let’s innovatively work to find a way to make bulletins commercially viable again.
Signing off for old time’s sake as Nadine McGrath, WIN News.