News Corp Australia on Thursday announced the closure of more than 100 regional and community print titles as part of a major restructure aimed at cutting costs and moving to digital publishing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement, the media giant said the bulk of its regional and community papers will go digital from June 29, reports Xinhua news agency.
“COVID-19 has impacted the sustainability of community and regional publishing,” said News Corp Australia Executive Chairman Michael Miller.
“Despite the audiences of News Corp’s digital mastheads growing more than 60 per cent.”
He also noted print advertising spending which contributes the majority of the company’s revenues accelerated its decline.
In order to meet these changing trends, Miller said the company would employ more digital only journalists and make investments in digital advertising and marketing solutions.
But at the same time, the portfolio change will “regretfully” lead to job losses.
The number of journalists covering regional and community news will drop significantly from between 1,200 and 1,300 to around 375.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) said it was a huge loss for communities in regional and suburban Australia.
“The closure of so many mastheads represents an immense blow to local communities and, coming off the back of hundreds of previous regional closures during this period, it underlines the seriousness of the crisis facing regional and local journalism,” MEAA Chief Executive Paul Murphy said.
“We are determined to see proper consultation and fair treatment for any affected staff.”
The COVID-19 pandemic had already forced News Corp to suspend printing of some of its newspapers in April.
The company has launched 16 new digital only local mastheads and is planning to expand the number to 92.
According to the statement, major mastheads including The Courier-Mail, The Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and The Advertiser, will now become more state focused with increased regional contents.
The Hobart Mercury and NT News are among a very small number of regional papers that will continue to publish both in print and digitally.
Some small print newspapers will cease publication, but the local journalism coverage of the area will continue, feeding into the digital masthead.