COVID-19: Victorian regional newspapers close and suspend all staff

• Elliott Newspaper Group made what they called a “gut-wrenching” decisio

Sunraysia Daily will suspend printing and all staff will be stood down due to the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the business, the Elliott Newspaper Group reported on Tuesday.

The publishers said the company is committed to reviving its printed publications when the coronavirus crisis gripping Australia subsides.

The directors of the Elliott Newspaper Group made what they called a “gut-wrenching” decision to stand down all staff under the Fair Work Act 2009 and suspend all its traditional newspaper publishing operations in Mildura, Swan Hill and Kerang due to the economic effect of the coronavirus pandemic.

Directors and senior management met with all staff Tuesday morning to announce the decision.
The last edition of all printed paper will be on Saturday, March 28, until further notice.

“It is our current intention that when this crisis subsides that we will be able to revive our printed publications,” Elliott Group managing director Ross Lanyon said in a story published on their website.

“Over recent weeks the newspapers have not received anything near the usual commercial support across all advertising sectors to remain viable as a publisher (in the interim period).

“This in combination with a grimmer economic outlook facing us, and the fact clients continue to cancel their spending gave us no option.

“It has been terribly disappointing to see many multi-national companies use metropolitan press across the nation to inform readers but ignore their readers in regional areas by not displaying those messages in the most read papers in those markets.”

The Lanyon family have been involved in the Mildura-based business for over 100 years. “Our newspapers have been a pillar of the communities they serve for in some cases over 100 years,” Lanyon said.

“In that time they have covered many adverse events that affected the community including depression, droughts, floods and war. However no event has had such an immediate impact on our viability than in the current situation.

“Our priority at this difficult time is to provide as much assistance to existing employees as is emotionally and financially possible.”

Elsewhere in Victoria, Gippsland’s The Great Southern Star and Yarram Standard have also closed after their Tuesday editions.

Yarram Standard is a local newspaper voicing the views and concerns of the local Yarram, Alberton, Port Albert, Woodside, Devon North, Balook and other communities in the area.
The Great Southern Star provides local news for South Gippsland and the Bass Coast.

On a post on the Facebook page of the Gippsland titles, the company wrote:

We thank our community for all your kind words of support today, some members from the Great Southern Star team and Yarram Standard may continue via their own channels throughout this crisis. At this stage we have had confirmation from the editor of the Great Southern Star and Deb Lucas journalist that they will continue to post to our community. Other staff may also offer support via their own private channels.

Thank you to all in the Star community, we hope to serve you more fully again at some point.

News of Sunraysia Daily‘s interim measures to suspend all printed publications from Saturday was met with overwhelming support from the community on social media.

Member for Mildura Ali Cupper wrote: “The recent wave of business closures and job losses has been heartbreaking, but when the institutions of democracy begin to stumble and fall, the gravity of the situation really hits home.

“The Sunny Daily has been a mainstay of our community for a century (2020 was its 100th year).

“To the directors, the journos, the advertising team, the front of house staff, the printers and technicians and to the Lanyon family, who I expect made this decision with an extremely heavy heart, please know your community is extremely grateful for your service.

“For the sake of our region, our people and our democracy, we hope you are back soon. In the meantime, stay safe.”

The mastheads affected are Sunraysia Daily, Sunraysia Life, The Guardian – Swan Hill, Gannawarra Times and Loddon Times and other associated periodical publications.

Sunraysia Daily, Mildura’s only daily newspaper, is in its 100th year.

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