The news is good (and bad) for ‘chip wrappers’

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Cartoon: Paul Dorin

Who doesn’t love their local paper? The publishers of some of them, it seems. Here’s another “Seven Days” with IAN MEIKLE.

HERE’S a curious irony. In new research from the University of Canberra more than three-quarters of Australian news consumers say they’ll miss their local newspaper if it shuts down, while big publishers are taking an axe to their titles.

Ian Meikle.

To be clear, “CityNews” and citynews.com.au thrives on our readers’ (and advertisers’) support and, despite the malady of recent months, we haven’t missed a beat – same great writing showcased on the same great paper. 

However, I don’t recall a single local politician standing up to ACM, the out-of-town publishers of the out-of-town-printed “Canberra Times”, when its suburban weekly “Chronicle” closed at Easter. ACM also shuttered venerable newspapers around us in Yass, Goulburn and Queanbeyan. More recently, News Corp turned off 100 regional and suburban titles across the country. 

The “Digital News Report” from UC’s News and Media Research Centre surveyed more than 2000 adult Australian news consumers and found that 76 per cent would miss their local newspaper if it went out of business. 

Lead researcher A/Prof Sora Park says: “The data shows that local newspapers are the main source of information for almost half of regional news consumers about their community.” 

Soberingly, to an old news hack like me, only 54 per cent of news consumers said they preferred impartial news (46 per cent don’t want to know the truth, really?). However, 62 per cent said independent journalism was important for society to function properly.

And as the bully publishers force digital offerings in lieu of the chip wrapper, the survey reports only 14 per cent of people pay for online news. Hardly a golden, new dawn. 

CANBERRA’S top traffic cop has had a disappointing week, “disgusted” at the idiotic behaviour of some speeding drivers and “shocked” by a video of a person riding a trail bike and a child riding a quad bike, without a helmet, on Melba Oval.

Here’s what’s getting the goat of Inspector Marcus Boorman:

 

  • On the 100km/h stretch of Majura Parkway there was the 23-year-old from Florey, nabbed one afternoon driving a white Ford Falcon with three passengers at a staggering 214km/h.
  • Two hours earlier, a black Ford ute, driven by a 39-year-old Gowrie man, was caught travelling at 154km/h.
  • And a Franklin man was clocked early one morning travelling 163km/h.
  • On Gungahlin Drive a P-plater was recorded driving at 125km/h in an 80km/h zone.

 

“It is idiotic, dangerous and completely indefensible. We have seen too much of this behaviour lately. Do these people have a death wish or do they want to kill someone else?” bemoaned the inspector.

ANOTHER election, another rates break from the Treasurer, Andrew Barr. Last election we got a rates holiday with a rise of only 5 per cent, this time – compliments of coronavirus and political nervousness – the Chief Minister has frozen residential rates this coming year. 

Opposition Leader Alistair Coe should hardly be surprised, having announced pre-virus that the Libs would freeze the rate rises for four years in the event of their being elected in October. 

It’s part of a COVID recovery plan for the ACT, says Barr, but Coe says it’s a “cynical” admission of an unfair rates regime.

BUT who knows what’s going on under the bonnet of the ACT Budget right now. Certainly, the Treasurer won’t tell. In a “heated debate” in the ACT Legislative Assembly on a government motion to postpone the 2020-21 Budget until after the ACT election in October, the Libs fruitlessly moved amendments calling for a look at the government’s operating statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement at April 30.

Given the cataclysmic events of the past year and the political posturing aside, I reckon we’re all entitled to know where the finances stand, especially before we’re asked to vote. Dodging it until after the election seems disingenuous. 

VETERAN TV newshound Ken Begg was startled to receive a form letter from the ACT government saying he has been assessed as a “high risk to road safety” for one or more of the following reasons:

 

  • You have a medical condition that requires review by a specialist. 
  • You are a police identified driver. 
  • You drive a heavy vehicle. 
  • You hold a public vehicle condition and have a medical condition and 
  • Your visual acuity does not meet the fitness-to-drive standard.

 

“NONE of these reasons apply to me,” protests credible Ken.

“As an older driver, I’m probably a ‘potential risk’ but my annual medical and eye tests advise differently.” 

He says the letter goes on to demand he submit a “specialist report”. 

“For what? This letter offends and is wrong,” he says. 

“I registered my complaint (along with many others, I was told) and advised to disregard it.” 

But he wonders about the bigger questions: How did the government make this assessment? What information, if any, is it holding about personal health? 

ICON Water has been making a self-congratulatory fuss over its decision to freeze the “combined water and sewerage price” for 2020-21.

“This has been a really tough year for everyone, so we have been looking at ways we can support the Canberra community and make life a little easier for those who may be struggling,” says Ray Hezkial, Icon Water managing director.

Wow, thanks, Ray. The $18 saved this year amounts to about 35 cents a week. 

And while they were making things easier for struggling ratepayers, how’s this sleight of hand: Icon’s increasing the water supply charge by $6.21 to offset an imposed reduction in the fixed sewerage charge of $6.21 by the ACT Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission. 

AND this edition is something of a family affair: we have articles from Robert and Wendy Macklin, Nichole Overall and her son Nick, and my daughter Kate’s column has made it this week. As my radio mate Rod Henshaw says: “Nepotism is fine provided you keep it in the family!”

Ian Meikle is the “CityNews” editor. He can be heard on the “CityNews Sunday Roast” news and current affairs program, 10am-noon on 2CC.

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Ian Meikle, editor

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Ian Meikle
Ian Meikle is the owner and editor of "CityNews".

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