AN unprecedented surge in the price of newsprint is threatening your local and independent news.
As of July 1, the cost to print Echo News is increasing by 53 per cent.
Unfortunately, without immediate help this masthead will be unable to cover the increase and is facing the very real and heart-breaking prospect of closing its doors.
General manager Jocelyn Longley said a significant reduction in advertising revenue, the newspaper’s sole source of income, due to the COVID-19 pandemic had left the only Perth eastern/hills-based newspaper with limited options.
“We have been struggling since the COVID support payments ceased so without a grant to cover the insurmountable rise in costs we just couldn’t continue to print a paper,” she said.
“Our staff have continued under considerable pressure to publish the local paper each and every week and the possibility of what the next few weeks may bring is upsetting to not just us but our loyal readership, advertisers and not-for-profits that we support.”
Before the 2022 Federal Election, Labor committed $15 million to assist eligible newspaper publishers absorb newsprint price increases, including $10 million for regional newspapers and $5 million for independent suburban, First Nations and multicultural newspaper publishers.
Incumbent Hasluck MP Tania Lawrence said, while the funding won’t be ready by July 1, she was working closely with Minister for Communications Michelle Rowland to finalise the application process by the end of next month.
“Because it’s $15 million we need to ensure there’s a proper process so everyone has access to it fairly and so it can be returned to you quickly as well,” she told Echo News this week.
“I was left with no doubt they are highly aware of the deadline and increases you have, I’ve had three conversations with the Department that this is a critical community paper for us and they’ve heard that loud and clear.
“Hang in there, keep fighting the fight and I will keep fighting for you too.”
Ms Lawrence, who will be officially sworn in next month, said she backed locally produced news content.
“I now have the keys to the office in Ellenbrook and have the Echo News stand out the front and we only have three copies left from last edition,” she said.
“I have no doubt across the last ten months of my campaign that’s where people were finding out the state of affairs on a range of concerns that they were then speaking to me about.
“It’s a source of truth people are relying on.
“It’s vital we really protect that and ensure you have the resources to continue building on that work so there are more stories, not less.”
Details on the eligibility criteria are still being finalised, but are specifically targeted at regional and independent suburban newspapers, says Ms Lawrence.
The first edition of the Midland-Kalamunda Echo was printed in August 1985 after several Midland businessmen got together to start an independent newspaper.
We have continued to be a strong voice for the community and now, 37 years on, are the only remaining free and locally produced news source.
Reporting in the Cities of Swan and Kalamunda and Shire of Mundaring, as well as Northam, York and Toodyay, we cover the big topics as well as local events, sports and announcements and provide a constant base for local advertisers to promote goods and services.
Without the funding, Mrs Longley said the business would be left with two options to stay open; increase advertising rates, the first rate rise since 2015/16, or to go completely digital, which would also be at the detriment to a large portion of our readership who don’t have access to the internet.
“We need our advertisers to support us now more than ever,” she said.
“We distribute to 40,000 homes and businesses across the eastern and hills region, not including further online reach.
“For our readers who don’t get a copy in their letterbox, we have stands in your local shopping centre and businesses or you can go online to echonewspaper.com.au or find us on Facebook.”
By Claire Ottaviano