We Need More Voices In The National Debate

Wendy Harmer
New Matilda

What does Australia’s lack of media diversity mean for local issues and activists?

Wendy Harmer looks at the dearth of media in rural Australia, and explains why she supports New Matilda – and why you should too.

In March, some of our biggest supporters are helping New Matilda’s subscriber drive by writing about why they support the site — and why you should too. This week we hear from Wendy Harmer.

You only have to live in one of Australia’s regional towns to understand how vital diversity in our media really is.

The offerings at most newsagents — if the town still has one — are paltry. A copy of The Australian; an out-of date metro title like The Age or Daily Telegraph and a weekly local paper are usually what’s on offer.

That local “rag” is often hostage to vested commercial interests or the majority on Council.

There is no regional TV; radio is often networked, pre-recorded and so out of touch it sometimes delivers last week’s weather reports and… that’s all there is folks.

It can be nigh on impossible to make your dissenting voice heard or get your special interest aired.

I don’t have to tell you of the frustration of local activists in pursuit of a cause who are reduced to plastering posters in shop windows or standing on street corners handing out flyers to get a hearing. It’s the same for communities across the nation trying to make their presence known and participate in the national debate.

Most regional cities are now one-newspaper towns, and this trend began way before the dawn of the Digital Age.

The list of defunct newspaper titles is a long and depressing one. However, the roll call of newspapers presenting the same, aggregated material is even more worrying.  Even before the internet began eating at newspaper and magazine circulation, we were a long way down the path of media concentration that presented a very narrow view of what constituted “news” and, subsequently, the silencing of our diverse voices.

Independent online entities like New Matilda represent a great hope for our democracy.

Like you, I now have a media bookmark list on my computer that plugs me into numerous news and opinion sites around the world and I have a small, but happily increasing list of local publications to peruse.

The parallels to that stand in the country newsagency are all too obvious to me. I don’t want to one day find that what’s on offer are a few desultory publications that are owned by the same big players and that fail to represent our diverse views.

We need more sites like New Matilda where we can make our voices heard and raise issues that are missing in the national debate.

And on the international scene — if you think of Australia as a bit like that small country town — we need to tell the world who we are and what we care about.

I’m a long-time subscriber and supporter of New Matilda. I know firsthand of the passion and commitment of the team that brings you this journal.

I urge you to support them today.

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