New South Wales regional newspaper the Wingham Chronicle no longer has a physical office, with journalists now doing their work “from all over the town”. The Fairfax-owned paper closed its office in Wingham on Friday, with its two journalists and one advertising representative now working out in the community.
In a story on its website, the paper said the change was at least in part because of changes in technology: “Many of our readers and advertisers have already moved with the times, and are increasingly using mobile phones and email to reach us, do business, write letters and engage.”
Its two journalists will now be contactable only by mobile phone and email, and will go to people’s houses and businesses for interviews, rather than be able to host them in their office. The paper will continue to be published weekly.
A Fairfax spokesman didn’t respond directly to Crikey’s query as to whether this would be a model rolled out in any of Fairfax’s other regional titles, but did say it was “not a one-size-fits-all” approach:
“We are confident that this new, modern approach to working will work for the Wingham Chronicle … We remain as committed as ever to the Wingham Chronicle’s local audiences and advertisers,” he said. “There are no related job losses and no changes to our newspapers and websites, which will continue to deliver the local news and information their communities know and trust.”
What Fairfax hasn’t mentioned is another, surely, significant factor: overheads. The cost of an office space is not insignificant, and Fairfax hasn’t been shy in the past in making cuts to its regional newspapers. The fate of the Fairfax regional newspapers has been hotly debated since Nine and Fairfax announced their impending merger — due to be confirmed by Fairfax shareholders on Monday.
Since Fairfax took over the Rural Press group of newspapers in 2006, revenues and circulation have dropped at alarming rates. It told the competitive neutrality inquiry into the ABC and SBS that its regional papers were not commercially viable, and that regional news should be covered by the ABC instead.