Enhancing and supporting news and journalism in community radio

Jon Bisset, 23rd March 2022
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In recent years, regional newsrooms across the country have been forced to shut their doors. As a result, Aussie communities have missed out on the local news that keeps them connected and informed – coverage of local courts, sporting events, council decisions and local events. As other newsrooms close, community radio stations remain vibrant local hubs, primed to continue informing their communities.

Working with our local stations, we’re strengthening and growing community radio local, state and national news. Through our initiatives, we’re committed to supporting news and journalism in the community radio sector by:

  • keeping stations relevant by providing high-quality, national and state news
  • supporting newsroom collaboration and partnerships, and
  • helping community radio stations be sustainable so that they can support local news on an ongoing basis.

National Radio News (NRN)

National Radio News (NRN), delivered through our long-standing partnership with Charles Sturt University is flourishing. This initiative is vital for community radio.

Firstly, it is a regionally based newsroom delivering news with an important diverse and regional perspective to nearly 100 stations. The news bulletins round out our stations’ news content, contributes to their relevancy and ensures that listeners stay tuned to our stations at the top of the hour.

Secondly, it provides an important pathway for future journalists. By giving students the opportunity to gain valuable on-air experience, it sets them up nicely for career progression once they graduate.

We know the community benefits from experienced journalists. In the past six months, we have seen three NRN cadets move on to full-time industry jobs. They include Lauren Bohane (now with ABC Radio in Orange as a weekday Program Producer), Erin Archer (now Sub-Editor and Newsreader for ABC Radio in the NT), and Brady Evans (now a journalist with 2GB, within the Nine Network).

Other NRN alumni include Hamish MacDonald, ABC’s NSW Political Correspondent Ashleigh Raper, ABC Reporter Kamin Gock, and Australian News Presenter and Journalist Jacinta Tynan. Find out more by reading this interview with NRN’s News Director Frank Bonaccorso.

18 months ago, we placed the first National Radio News journalist in the Press Gallery at Parliament house. Amanda Copp, who had been working as SBS’s Political Producer, has been producing daily stories, many of which aren’t drawing the attention of larger news organisations and ensuring that Federal politicians are asked questions from a community perspective. Having a position in the Press Gallery has been critical in raising the awareness of community radio amongst politicians and the news media industry. Amanda also produces stories for The Wire Independent Current affairs and a number of other community radio stations with news services.

Collaborative News Network

We are working to enhance collaboration amongst our sector’s newsrooms. To do this we have been establishing and embedding a Collaborative News Network. There is currently a mix of community newsrooms in the Network – National Radio News, which includes our press gallery journalist, 2SER, Hope Media, Curtin Radio, Ngaarda Media and the National Indigenous Radio Service. We are also working with the First Nations Media Australia consortium to capture news from regional and remote First Nations stations. Using specialist software, newsrooms are connected electronically, allowing news stories to be shared. As stations gear up their newsrooms and their personnel, we are seeing more community-focused stories shared across Australia. There are immense opportunities for the community sector to enhance collaborations in the next few years and an amazing opportunity to leverage the sectors 450+ stations.

As stations develop their journalistic capabilities, these stations might find it a logical progression to manage or partner with their local newspaper or publisher, whether online or in print. We know that stations like Outback Radio have successfully resuscitated closing newspapers. Through this dynamic business model, they’ve been able to innovate to serve their local community with more local news.

Local & Independent News Association

You might have seen that we recently launched LINA, the Local & Independent News Association in partnership with the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

LINA members will be community focused, independently owned, cover public interest news and important local issues and work at a local geographic level. We will be serving existing and aspiring independent news entrepreneurs, and we are currently building our LINA team to support them. There are significant synergies with community radio.

Like community radio stations, these independent news organisations are making a significant impact in their communities. They are building community spirit by covering good news stories, local sporting events, and council development stories that have huge impacts. Most of these stories would never be found in larger mainstream media. They are buoyed by their community support, but they need more: more support, more resources, more funding and, crucially, more people advocating for them and helping them achieve success.

What’s to come…?

Local and regional news is a priority for CBAA, and we see many opportunities for community radio stations through our involvement with LINA. We’ve seen more and more community radio stations explore partnerships with their local hyperlocal publisher – like 2HHH in Hornsby, 4MW in the Torres Strait and 4RFM in Moranbah – we’ve been buoyed by local and independent’s media ability to innovate to serve their communities.

The CBAA and LINA will work together to help members develop their business models, learn from a network of peers, and share ideas to explore new opportunities. Jointly we will ensure a forum for new ideas and innovative solutions.

We at the CBAA are excited about the future of our sector and particularly the future of news and journalism. We look forward to working with our members, LINA and the broader news media industry on the many opportunities that can help our members become stronger and more successful – in support of their communities.

If you are interested in getting National Radio News (NRN) for your audience, please contact . The Wire is carried across Australia via the Community Radio Network, to over 140 stations. For information on receiving The Wire for your station, please contact .

The CBAA’s news and journalism initiatives are made possible with the support of the Community Broadcasting Foundation and the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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