Deniliquin Pastoral Times
Govt deserts bush press
Country Press NSW has described the NSW Government’s decision to announce a state-wide lockdown via social media on Saturday afternoon as a slap in the face to those who live in the bush.
CP NSW president Lucie Peart said it was a ‘‘kick in the guts’’ to bush media who are normally the first point of contact for many communities, especially those with aged populations.
There’s been widespread confusion in regional and rural NSW, including panic buying and applicable restriction confusion after it was plunged into lockdown with two hours’ warning and no press conference on Saturday afternoon.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro has defended announcing the lockdown on social media, saying it's ‘‘very difficult’’ to get that information out via the media on the weekend.
This has been rebutted by CP NSW which represents 30 independent newspapers across regional NSW. The PASTORAL TIMES is a member of CP NSW.
The Deputy Premier, who has neglected previous requests for the NSW Government to work more collaboratively with rural newspapers, has tried to defend the government’s decision, but Ms Peart said its actions were ‘‘indefensible’’.
‘‘Mr Barilaro gave instructions to Members of Parliament in rural areas to talk to community leaders and mayors to get the message out,’’ Ms Peart said.
‘‘He didn’t even hold a press conference. We cannot understand why the Government, unlike other states, will not promote its COVID messages through rural newspapers, which are the most trusted source and the major communication vehicle in their respective communities.’’
Ms Peart said member newspapers could play a leading role in promoting the government’s messages, but continue to be ignored by city-centric decision makers who do not understand how to effectively promote their announcements into rural communities. And unfortunately, The Nationals have not stood up and rectified the situation.
‘‘Our member mastheads have websites and social media avenues alongside their print product to disseminate this information and where the state government can advertise the lockdowns alongside crucial health advice.
‘‘It is contradictory for the government to spend millions of dollars on social media, then have its members telling constituents not to take notice of the misinformation being spread by social media. This is what has been occurring.
‘‘Surely, it is reasonable for the government to work with trusted rural newspapers which are a recognised and reliable source of local information.
‘‘For too long we have been asked to do the heavy lifting without any monetary compensation. It’s discrimination towards the bush and this government, especially its National Party MPs, need to step up and step in for their regional communities.’’
Ms Peart called on Mr Barilaro to take the lead and improve the way in which the NSW Government is communicating COVID-19 messages in regional communities.
Since CP NSW raised its objections on Monday the NSW Government has placed lockdown messages in some newspapers, though many rural communities have been ignored.
“Why would you advertise important Covid messages in Hay, but not in Deniliquin or Condobolin, for example? The government is treating residents in some of our communities with contempt,” Ms Peart said.