Michael Giles is the publisher of The South Gippsland Sentinel-Times, covering the towns of Wonthaggi, Leongatha, Korumburra, Inverloch in south-east Victoria. He has been a journalist in the area for over 40 years. Here he tells Inq what the last few months have been like. For more of Inq‘s coverage of the crisis in regional media, go here.
The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic was the last straw for the 145-year old Yarram Standard and 130-year-old Great Southern Star, published by my brother and sister at Leongatha, and temporarily forced the South Gippsland Sentinel-Times into hibernation.
The decision to stop printing the Sentinel was partly financial, until JobKeeper kicked in later, but was also for health reasons. The area has an older age demographic and with local health services expressing fears initially that they wouldn’t be able to cope, we decided to do our bit by going online with a free newspaper instead of asking our older readers to make a special trip to the newsagents each week.
With health services now prepared for what might eventuate and schools, sports and other community activities resuming, we have decided to recommence printing the Sentinel on Tuesday, June 2. Sadly, the Star at Leongatha and the Standard at Yarram will not be resuming.
We have had a lot of feedback that readers have missed getting the local paper and that it is needed in a country community but they’ve also embraced the online newspaper as well.
While the paper has been in recess, journalists have been expanding their skills online, also using video and social media to engage with the audience. We will continue to develop our online presence even with the return of print.