Local journalism serves as the heartbeat of rural and regional communities across Australia, reporting on stories many big metro outlets do not cover, keeping regions connected and informed and holding power to account.
But nor has it been smooth sailing in recent times, with the closures of dozens of long-established local mastheads raising fears that large parts of regional and rural Australia are becoming local news ‘deserts’.
However, amid calls that regional journalism is too important to lose, a number of journalists are taking brave, innovative and entrepreneurial steps to fill the void by launching and operating their own publications to keep the news flowing.
On Friday, February 16 the Rural Press Club of Queensland will celebrate excellence in rural and regional reporting with the presentation of the annual Queensland Rural Media Awards.
A panel discussion at the same event to be moderated by rural reporter for The Australian and Rural Press Club of Queensland committee member Charlie Peel will also shine a light on the stories of three journalists who have launched new mastheads in regional Queensland in recent years – Harry Clarke from the Country Caller, Jess Howard from Bush Journal and Matt Nicholls from the Cape York Weekly.
The panel session will explore what drove each journalist to start their own media business, the challenges and successes they’ve had along the way, how various business models have fared in helping to fund the creation of original journalism, and their thoughts on the future of journalism in rural Queensland. (See short bios of Harry, Jess and Matt below):
Jessica Howard is founder and editor of Bush Journal. She was born and bred on a cattle property near Biloela in Central Queensland and is the only member of her family not still living there. She’s spent the past two decades telling stories—first for television news organisations in Australia and the UK, then through photography and feature writing for some of the country’s biggest magazines. She’s one of the co-founders of Beauty in the Bush Collective and wrote and edited a book for the group, Bush Life. She was recently awarded the Walkley Foundation’s inaugural Esme Fenston Fellowship.
Harry Clarke is the founder and editor of the Country Caller, an online, multimedia news service which advocates for rural and regional Queensland. Harry launched the publication in 2020 following widespread closures of community newspapers, and following 10 years of working in various reporter and producer roles for the Nine Network, News Corp and APN. Harry is based in Chinchilla and Country Caller employs two casual journalists who are based in Toowoomba and Brisbane respectively. Although the Country Caller’s stories relate to rural and regional Queensland, the bulk of its audience is based in major cities. The publication has received various journalism industry awards including a Clarion Award, the LGAQ Journalism Award and the Digital News Award from the Australian Council of Agricultural Journalists.
Matt Nicholls is Region’s Far North Queensland-based editor for Cape York Weekly. He has spent the last decade in Far North Queensland, having grown up in country Victoria. Prior to starting his own newspaper in Cape York, Matt worked for a number of independent publications, along with Fairfax Media. A tragic Fremantle Dockers fan, Matt loves racing and sport, especially golf, cricket, AFL and rugby league. He’s passionate about community journalism and, in 2022, was the recipient of the LGAQ’s Bean Lockyer Ticehurst Award for Excellence in Regional Journalism.
PRESENTATION OF THE ANNUAL QUEENSLAND RURAL MEDIA AWARDS
The presentation of the 2024 Queensland Rural Media Awards at the same lunch will recognise excellence in reporting of rural and regional issues through the mediums of television, radio, digital online (multi-media), print (written media) and photography.
The presentations will include overall awards for the Queensland Rural Photo of the Year, Queensland Rural Story of the Year, and Queensland Young Rural Journalist of the year which is open to journalists aged 35 years or younger showing professional and leadership potential in rural journalism. The events of the day will run as follows:
|Guest arrival and networking
|Guests seated for lunch
|1.35pm – 2.15pm
|Presentations to Qld Rural Media Award winners
Tickets are still available but selling fast. To secure individual tickets or a table of 10 this event click ‘register to attend’ below:
|Friday 16 February 2024
12pm – 2.30pm
Tattersalls Club, Queen Street Brisbane
Monday 12 February 2024