When you work in the media, you can often get bashed up in the court of public opinion.
That’s fine. We deserve it sometimes. After all, our job is often to annoy someone.
The old adage that news is something, somebody, somewhere doesn’t want published, still rings true.
On the list of most trusted professions, journalists are down the bottom somewhere above the politicians and car salesmen.
That attitude comes from the idea of “the media”, an amorphous, nebulous beast that wants to exploit and destroy people.
It is amplified by the foot in the door, microphone in the face modus operandi of commercial television news. That is not The Examiner. That is not The Advocate.
The Examiner is the state’s oldest newspaper, dating back to March 12, 1842.
On a Saturday afternoon in Brisbane Street, the first edition of The Examiner rolled off a press smuggled into Van Diemen’s Land disguised as brewery equipment. (I’m pleased to report the relationship between journalism, business and beer has continued to this day.)
The Reverend John West, a driving force in the new colony, wrote that the press was the shield of the people - its only shield.
Its various charitable appeals have raised millions of dollars for those less fortunate.
The Advocate is a little younger but still one of the oldest mastheads in Australia.
On October 1, 1890, Robert Harris and his sons, Robert and Charles, published the first issue of The Wellington Times.
It has been the voice of the North-West and West Coast ever since and no other media rivals its depth of local coverage.
One only has to review the coverage of the Masters Games, Tim Blair’s Run For Kids Foundation or the Devonport Strikers’ FFA Cup successes to see how engaged it is with its region and people.
It is a hard task to sum up the contribution both mastheads have had on their regions in a few hundred words when they have printed billions.
We aim to be the voice of our community, but do not consider ourselves its spokesperson. We aim to reflect its values, but do not consider ourselves its moralist.Mark Baker
Both mastheads have campaigned on issues important to their readers and won.
Campaigning for change is an ethos that has guided the direction of the mastheads from those early days to these days.
Of course this type of campaigning lends itself to accusations of parochialism.
We make no apology, however, for arguing the best interests of Northern and North-West Tasmania. If not us, then who?
We aim to be the voice of our community, but do not consider ourselves its spokesperson. We aim to reflect its values, but do not consider ourselves its moralist.
Self-praise is no recommendation, though, and we do not hold ourselves in such high regard that we feel infallible.
But there is an element of taking these mastheads for granted.
If you said to anyone: “I’m going to start a business employing hundreds of locals and we will produce a product focussed on your community; the events, successes, challenges, tragedies and goals”, it would surely be welcomed with open arms.
Fairfax and Nine are merging. It was big news but not unexpected given recent media ownership law changes.
Having experienced mergers before, I can say it is the name on the masthead not the name on the building that people care about. And it is the people that the masthead cares about.
The media industry faces challenges – this week we have learned Win TV will stop producing a Tasmanian bulletin in the state.
The traditional print business model has been disrupted, that is nothing new.
“Expert” opinions come from people who have not stepped foot in a newsroom for many years let alone the last few.
Or it comes from people who do not live in the region and see firsthand the terrific work newsrooms do supporting their communities.
Others predict the closure of regional newspapers in the imminent future. That is absurd. While the community exists and continues to support us, we will be there.
The Examiner and The Advocate are about to enter a new phase of digital subscriptions.
If you value the great local content that these mastheads produce, I’d love you to support us so we can continue to deliver it.
As they will continue to support you.
- Mark Baker is Fairfax Tasmania managing editor