Australia 2020 released by the News and Media Research Centre (N&MRC) from the Faculty of Arts and Design surveyed over 2,000 adult Australian news consumers and found that 76 per cent would miss their local newspaper if it went out of business, 79 per cent would miss their local TV news, 81 per cent would miss their local radio news service and 74 per cent would miss local online news offerings.

Significantly, news consumers living in regional and rural areas, older Australians and people with lower education and incomes would miss local news services the most if they were to close.

Lead author of the report, Associate Professor Sora Park, says these findings are important in light of the closure and suspension of print editions of more than 100 News Corp local newspapers.

“The data show that local newspapers are the main source of information for almost half of regional news consumers about their community. If they close, disadvantaged groups will be hit hardest, especially the elderly, those who are not online or have poor internet connection,” said Dr Park.

“While many of these communities can access regional TV news and radio services, in-depth coverage of issues in their area will disappear leaving a big social, democratic and economic gap.”

In areas where news gaps already exist, Dr Park says the data show audiences, particularly younger generations, are turning to alternative sources such as local social media groups for news about their community.

Other key findings in the DNR: Australia 2020 include:

  • Four out of five Australians think climate change is a serious problem, but 15 per cent don’t pay any attention to news about climate change; this is higher in regional areas (21 per cent).
  • More than half (54 per cent) of news consumers say they prefer impartial news, but 19 per cent want news that confirms their worldview.
  • Two-thirds (62 per cent) of news consumers say independent journalism is important for society to function properly.
  • News consumption and news sharing have increased since 2019, but interest in news has declined.
  • TV is still the main source of news for Australians but continues to fall.
  • Trust in news fell to 38 per cent but was higher for COVID-19 coverage (53 per cent).
  • Only 14 per cent continue to pay for online news, but more are subscribing rather than making one-off donations.

The DNR: Australia 2020 provides annual in-depth analysis of the state of news consumption in Australia. It is part of a global research project involving 40 countries co-ordinated by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.