Local Media Matters

 

SHARON BIRD

 

I want to report to the House about a rally that was held at the Wollongong mall on Saturday with about 300 locals. We gathered to express our extreme displeasure at the decision by Fairfax Media to cut 50 jobs from papers across our region, including a savage 24 from the Illawarra Mercury, and combining the local papers the Wollongong Advertiser and the Lake Times.

 

The jobs include journalists, photographers and commercial staff. The rally was addressed by Andy Zakeli, the MEAA rep at the Illawarra Mercury; Kirk Gilmour, a Walkley-winning photographer; Sylvia Liber, another Walkley-winning photographer there; Antony Field, editor of the Wollongong Advertiser, Geoff Morrell, Federal President of Actors' Equity; me and the member for Throsby; and Gareth Ward, the Liberal member for Kiama. Also there was Anna Watson, the Labor member for Shellharbour in the state parliament. Mayor Gordon Bradbery spoke. Marianne Saliba, the Mayor of Shellharbour, was there as well.

We sometimes lovingly call the Illawarra Mercury the 'mockery'. We do that because we are happy to take issue with them when we need to but, like a family, we gather when they are attacked from outside. I note that the member for Gilmore is here, and I am sure she endorses those sentiments. It is a great local paper. It has been doing great work for us as a region for 160 years. These cuts are way beyond anything that is acceptable. We absolutely call on Fairfax Media to reject them and to rethink this very stupid decision.

 

STEPHEN JONES

 

For 160 years the Illawarra Mercury has been telling local stories that matter to the people of the Illawarra and the South Coast. We hope that it is able to do that for 170 years. Last Saturday the member for Cunningham and I had the great pleasure of addressing a community rally in Wollongong.

 

It is an unusual event that attracts the support of Labor members of parliament, state and federal, together with Liberal members of parliament from New South Wales, and independent members of the local council. The rally to support the Illawarra Mercury, the Wollongong Advertiser and the Lake Times is such an important cause that it managed to bring together members of those three disparate persuasions. Whether it is stories of mine disasters or celebrations of sporting events, whether it is local stories about a student doing something extraordinary, or whether it is celebrating the effects of community coming together to support a local charity, the Illawarra Mercury has been there.

We call on the directors of Fairfax to meet with the local community representatives, including the member for Cunningham and me. There are newspapers out there that will campaign for a political party, but there is no newspaper, except the Illawarra Mercury, that will campaign relentlessly for the Illawarra.

It must be saved.