The year 2020 will be etched in our memories forever. From the start of the year, the impact of the bushfires cast a long shadow over the Southern Highlands. Our usually bustling villages and towns were left struggling as a consequence of depleted tourist numbers.
Then Covid-19 struck. We mostly stayed at home, venturing out only to buy essentials. Our business community has been left reeling and unless experienced first hand, we can only imagine the hardship, anxiety and stress suffered by local business owners.
With this knowledge and as a community radio station, Highland FM 107.1 has endeavoured to bring awareness to the plight of our local businesses through our Shop Local First Campaign. Southern Highlands News partnered with us and together we have achieved more. We have a platform and we are all about serving our community.
We however, are not beyond the grasp of Covid-19. Southern Highlands News first edition was published in 1958. It is significant that after 62 years of tabloid printing, the publication has now moved to an on-line version.
Award-winning journalist and Herald Sun national political editor Annika Smethurst has first-hand experience in regional reporting, having started out at the Bendigo Weekly. Smethurst said the decline of regional newspapers would take its toll on the communities they serviced.
"I think it's incredibly worrying when any newspaper or news outlet closes," she said. "They play a huge role in connecting people in country and regional Australia, and I think it's terribly disappointing that another victim of Covid-19 is regional media.
"But there's a particular thing about a country newspaper where they're often the main - or only - source of news or information for communities."
For Sean Murphy, a long-time reporter and producer of ABC's Landline program, the cuts to regional newspapers have struck.
"Everyone at some stage would have got their picture in the paper that bred in them a sense of ownership, people love their paper and I'm really sad for them," he said.
Veteran ABC journalist Barrie Cassidy says that means many stories in those communities will not be covered. "They cover everything from council deals and environmental disasters to your footy team around the corner."
Other journalists who started their careers in the bush say grassroots reporting is essential in a democracy.
The Southern Highlands needs that kind of independent reporting. We are all so used to the publication simply "being there". It is our primary source of information and our complacency won't cut it. We need our local paper to promote the good, report on the bad and "keep the bastards honest". (Don Chipp OA).
Southern Highlands News editor Jackie Meyers has last Monday (May 18) launched the publications initiative Business Hour to help local businesses on the Road to Recovery.
Every business is encouraged to go on to the Southern Highlands News Facebook page at 6pm every Wednesday for four weeks (starting May 20) to comment on how they are coping with the easing restrictions.
The Southern Highlands News is still selflessly helping our community. We can support the publication to thrive and in return, we retain our main source of local information. The Southern Highlands News has Highland FM's support, but they need the community to get behind them so that they can continue to do what they do best as they have done for 62 years.
Jump online and buy a subscription and support our local media which is vital to our community.