Downturn has some regional operators feeling the pinch

ONE of this company's newspapers took the unusual step - some would say provocative - of announcing to readers this week that it might close without more community support.

The story of the Blackwater Herald, which since 1977 has been serving the central Queensland town east of Emerald, is not dissimilar to that of many regional papers across the state and into northern New South Wales.

It's a community that has been hit by the downturn as much as anyone.

The weekly paper has felt that.

But it's not all about dollars and cents in those communities, and the rest of the Australian Regional Media empire has subsidised the running of the paper for some time.

So instead of sending in the bean counters to close it down, we've thought laterally.

Why not let the people in town know it's on shaky ground and see if they want to do anything about it?

If they want different reading material or event coverage from us, they should tell us. If they want their stories told, should they consider supporting the paper financially, through advertising and the like?

We love running papers in these small towns. Journalist Meghan Kidd grew up there and knows virtually everyone.

We would only ever pull out as a last resort.

These are issues regional media increasingly faces. ABC radio is pulling staff back in a cost-cutting wave and regional TV has shut stations in some of our markets this year.

So who will employ the hundreds of journalists in this patch to make sure you know what is happening, and keep up that watchdog role on our decision-makers?

We want it to be us. Hopefully you see value in us. Let me know where you want us to improve.