TSIMA’S 4MW returns local newspaper back to Thursday Island and Outer Islands in Queensland

Amy Leiper, 28th March 2022
When the The Torres Strait Islanders Media Association (TISMA) brought the Torres News weekly newspaper back to life on Thursday Island and the Outer Islands in Queensland back in September 2021, it also boosted community spirit and a new beginning was in the air.

Featuring local stories from across the region, the newspaper now works in collaboration with community radio station 4MW. It is a fine example of how community radio stations can support local print/online publishers so that everyone benefits.

Cape & Torres News, a local newspaper that served the Thursday Island and Outer Islands in Queensland, ran its final edition on 27 May 2021. For the community this marked the end of a long history of Torres Strait local newspapers. Cape York News, published by the Bousen family-run media service, ran for almost 20 years. Cape & Torres News was launched in 2019 when the family decided to cut costs by merging the Torres News with Cape York News to save regional printed news. Torres News started in 1957 and closed in 2015. The Bousen family planned to close the newspaper the year before COVID hit and the newspaper was losing money. Jobkeeper payments saved jobs for their employees. They stepped back from operations in May 2021 when the main writer retired at the age of 75 and there was no one to take his place.

There was also a trend of more people moving from the region to the mainland. Most are also predominately speaking English, and Torres Strait creole and Traditional language is being forgotten. With fewer people living in the community, financial support through lack of advertisers has further pushed the newspaper closure. With the newspaper gone, community cohesiveness and morale was getting depleted.

TSIMA saw an opportunity to share resources between its community radio station, 4MW, and the newspaper. After the paper closed in 2021, the family gifted the newspaper to TSIMA and Torres News returned to the community. Published weekly, the newspaper features local stories from across the Torres Strait region, Northern Peninsula Area and also further down the mainland.

With one former newspaper staff member in place - a freelance journalist supported by Koori Mail on a short term basis - the work in collaboration with community radio station 4MW began. Radio interviews are transcribed and utilised as articles weekly.

The newspaper journalists work in conjunction with 4MW journalists, covering stories from Thursday Island and the 19 other communities in outer Islands and NPA region. The service provides community grassroots storytelling, information, profiling, and good news stories. The newspaper is available online and in print, with online subscriptions available across the country from April 2022.

Diat Alfernink, 4MW Chief Executive Officer and Torres News Editor-in-Chief, said the Torres Strait Islander Media Association (TSIMA) was proud to be leading the way for other community radio stations.

"TSIMA are very pleased to take on working in print again after the many years since we published TSIMA News.

"Now with taking on Torres News in the past six months, we are broadening our reach and empowering audiences through informaiton, story and identity to stregthen and grow all our communities."

The latest initiative bolsters other work that TSIMA is undertaking outside of radio operations, such as film, music, and events. It’s a good example of how community radio stations can support local print/online publishers so that everyone benefits.

With 25 issues in print, it's still early days. Still, TSIMA has big plans for the newspaper. The group is committed to continuing its vision of reviving the Torres Strait language and culture through media. The newspaper in the future will be printed in both English and Torres Strait creole and Traditional TSI Languages, and will offer subscriptions nationally. 

TSIMA is committed to continuing its mission of awareness of Torres Strait Media and the important role it plays in supporting language and cultural renewal and maintenance. This will mean that part of the newspaper will be in English, and part will be in the Torres Strait creole and Traditional language in the future.

Diat, says,

"Eso (Thank you) to everyone who has helped return the paper to the region. Eso to the previous owners for their support and for gifting the Torres News brand to a local community organisation."

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