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Death sentence for regional papers underlines need for ‘our voice’

By AgForce General President Georgie Somerset

Drought, flood, fire and now COVID have made life on the land extremely tough, albeit that the silver lining to the COVID cloud has been the focus on the bright prospects our industry and communities continue to have.

But despite these opportunities, 2020 has thrown at us significant challenges with many believing the biggest blow is the closure of our rural and regional newspapers.

Hundreds of papers – many of which have been reporting local news and opinions for more than a century – are no more.

Like many country people, I grew up reading my local paper, but I also had the opportunity to work as a journalist at the South Burnett Times. It was here that I really learnt how much our journalists and staff are valued members of our community.

This brutal commercial decision is a staggering blow to rural and regional Queensland.

Our newspapers – including this final ever copy of the Rural Weekly – have been the backbone of many rural towns and regional cities for years, decades, generations.

They have told us what we need to know and what we want to hear, local news delivered by local people in our voice, a unique viewpoint not available anywhere else.

And they have been summarily executed by a global corporation for profit.

This blow can’t have come at a worse time.

The once-strong connection that city people used to have with the country has never been more in need of repair.

The ideologically-driven agendas of a small number of urban-bound single-interest groups, representing an even smaller number of people, seem to have hijacked the Government’s agenda.

Less than a year ago, I stood at the Ekka – where the city meets the country – to launch AgForce’s Stand With Regional Queensland campaign.

Our intent was to give regional and rural Queensland back its voice, particularly in the cities.

Rural Weekly was a vital part of sharing our stories – one family, one business, one community at a time – we will miss this.

This job is now going to be harder, but we need to make sure this work continues.

Now, it’s up to you.

Join your community Facebook page and take part in local conversations, write to your Federal and State MPs about issues important to you, post your thoughts on their Facebook pages, and perhaps most importantly, join our Stand With Regional Queensland campaign to make sure your voice is heard in George Street.

Please don’t sit back and just take this.

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