Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Examining the Social, Civic, and Political Impact of Local Newspaper Closure in Outback Australia

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Abstract:  Scholars across the globe have focused intently on mapping news deserts and gaps where public interest journalism is lacking or in peril. However, little attention is paid to understanding the impacts and changing media-related practices of people who live in communities that lose a designated news service—notably a local newspaper. This article draws on a focused ethnographic study of a small outback mining town, Lightning Ridge (population 2,284), in central New South Wales, Australia. The research was conducted over a two-month period and involved participant observation, 31 interviews with residents and relevant stakeholders, and examination of several media platforms relevant to the town. The article begins with an overview of Australian policy interventions to address the decline of public interest journalism. It then discusses the impact of a local newspaper’s closure via three themes—social, civic, and political. This is important because much of the policy focus in Australia is on the threat “news gaps” present to democracy. However, it is also necessary to understand the nuances of local media’s role in shaping everyday social connections and ritualistic practices and elevating issues to local networks of power. The article concludes by considering how current policy interventions can learn from failed attempts to fill the news gap in Lightning Ridge.

Keywords:  local journalism; local newspapers; news gaps; news deserts; rural media



© Marco Magasic, Kristy Hess, Julie Freeman. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.