regional newspapers

Demise of newspapers not all doom and gloom

regional newspapers
The Centralian Advocate in Alice Springs is among dozens of News Corp publications which will become digital only.

The decision by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp to transition dozens of regional newspapers to digital only was saddening but came as no surprise.

Among them are the NewsMail in Bundaberg and the Centralian Advocate in Alice Springs.

I was managing editor of the Centralian Advocate from 2014-16 in my second stint at the newspaper after going there as a young reporter in 1988.

It was still profitable in 2016. We were meeting all our targets for advertising revenue and circulation when bean counters from the east came wielding an axe.

They wanted to reduce staffing levels and proposed changing the distribution arrangements as part of nationwide cost-cutting measures.

Several times over the past 10 years I thought the bottom had been reached in terms of media decline but now I believe there’s still some way to go.

There’s nobody in particular to blame for this; society has transformed how we consume news and information, however publishers haven’t helped themselves.

There’s been no clear strategy to embrace digital publishing since the Internet arrived in the 1990s. There’s been very little investment in print since the early 2000s.

For example, in the 1990s we used to budget for growth. As a newspaper manager I looked to develop the resources and capability to increase revenue and circulation.

The industry then was conscious to nurture the next generation of readers by engaging schools and covering junior sport. I haven’t seen much evidence of investment in print for more than a decade.

With a more visionary approach 10-15 years ago I believe that print and digital could have co-existed. Perhaps regional daily newspapers should have become weekly and had a greater focus on community news and events. Leave the hard news and breaking news online.

In January 2019, Bundaberg Regional Council started Bundaberg Now to future proof the area against further media decline. That’s now looking like a prescient move.

There’s a role for local government to provide a publishing platform to share news from community organisations and businesses in addition to Council news.

At Bundaberg we’ve delivered this without incurring significant costs.

There’s still a need for external scrutiny of local governments but arguably there’s more scrutiny of public officials today than ever before. Open data is real and everybody has easy access to huge volumes of information. Social media provides a free avenue for people to discuss local issues, criticise and complain.

The future of local news

I hope the online subscription model works for News Corp because local journalism needs to be supported.

I think there will be increased public funding of journalism through local and federal governments. Philanthropists are venturing into news and the ABC continues to have an important role.

Hopefully there will be a revival of newspapers in local communities, owned by local people, like what’s happened in Naracoorte. I see this being similar to the establishment of small breweries in regional areas after their antecedents were swallowed up decades ago by giant companies.

The demise of regional newspapers is not all doom and gloom. With ingenuity, innovation and resolve we can embrace change, adapt and flourish.

Bayview Hotel, Kensington

Michael Gorey (Gorry)

Bayview Hotel, Kensington
The Bayview Hotel, Kensington, corner of Altona and Tennyson Streets.

Researching family history can be frustrating but today I had a magic breakthrough in relation to my namesake and great-great uncle Michael Gorey (Gorry).

Michael was born at sea aboard the Middlesex on 24 September 1841 just before the ship arrived at Port Phillip on 1 October 1841.

To give some context, the population of Melbourne at that time was fewer than 10,000 people and they were Victorian pioneers.

Michael’s parents were James and Elizabeth (nee Hanlon or Hanley) Gorey from near Thomastown, County Kilkenny in Ireland.

I knew that Michael died at Nagambie, Victoria, on 31 July 1908. The death certificate says he died of a heart attack and it states his mother’s name was Elizabeth Hanley.

That’s important because other records show her surname as Hanlon, which appears to be correct, and the variations have been noted for several decades.

There are many references to Michael Gorey on the National Library of Australia Trove website in the 1860s when he was a young man.

He appeared in court a number of times for various offences including assaulting his father, electoral irregularities and other offences. He spent some time in jail.

The Trove trail ran cold after the 1860s and I had no idea what happened to him. I checked records in other colonies and even overseas through without any results.

I was then inspired to check alternative spellings after an experience with Burgdorf family research. That’s the family of my paternal great-grandmother, Louisa Burgdorf. Their original spelling in Germany was Burgdorff but in Australia it was (mostly) Burgdorf. When I checked on Trove for Burgdorff, I found multiple entries.

Back to Michael Gorey, did he spend time in prison or go overseas? Maybe in the 1870s he did because I can’t track him during that decade.

He surfaces as Michael Gorry, publican of the Royal Mint Hotel in Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, in 1884; the Kent Hotel, Carlton 1886-87; and the Bayview Hotel, Kensington 1887 for 12 years or more.

It seems that he deliberately changed the spelling of his name to avoid any connection with his proper identity. This would have been much easier to do in the 1880s than today. My guess is that he had a criminal record which would have precluded him from being a publican, so he simply changed the spelling of his surname.

Here’s the really interesting bit:

On 7 November 1882 he married widow Bridget Clegg (Moylan) at St Francis’ Catholic Church, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne.

There are several deceptions on the marriage certificate.

His surname is “Gorry” instead of “Gorey”. His age is 30 instead of 40. His father’s name is “Edward Gorry” instead of “James Gorey”.

So you might ask, is it a different person?

That’s what I thought, but the identifier is his mother’s name, Elizabeth Hanley, the same name that appears on his death certificate. Edward is also a Gorey family name, unusually for Irish (being more English).

Michael Gorry marriage
The marriage certificate for Michael Gorry (Gorey) and Bridget Cregg (Moylan) in 1882.

Bridget died in 1884. Probate documents show that her estate stayed in the Moylan family and Michael Gorry was noted as deceased.

This confused me and I checked Victorian records for births, deaths and marriages. There is no record of Michael Gorry dying in that decade.

I believe he agreed that his short-term wife’s estate should stay with her family. It might have been an 1880s-style prenuptial agreement and they chose to execute it that way for simplicity.

In 1902, Michael Gorry was reported in several newspapers regarding a dispute with police over whether he was intoxicated while visiting his friend, the publican of the Britannia Hotel. This seems typical of his manner.

The trail cools again after the 1890s, but Michael Gorey’s death certificate in 1908 records his mother’s name as Elizabeth Hanley.

It’s interesting that he died less than 50km from where his brother, my great-grandfather Edward Gorey, was living at the time at Whroo.

1939 fire

Tragic 1939 fires remembered

With much of Australia currently ablaze I’m reminded of the terrible 1939 fires which are etched forever in my family’s psychology.

My uncle Michael Gorey was killed on Black Friday, 13 January 1939 at Saxton’s Sawmill, Tanjil Bren, along with Ben and Dorothy Saxton. He was 19 years old.

My father Peter was three years old. He huddled under wet blankets in a paddock at Fumina with his parents and five siblings. They watched their house go up in flames and heard the bellows of their 20 cows, which died in the fire or were later shot.

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media lies

Dealing with media lies

media lies
The media is reluctant to apologise for publishing false information.

If you work in communications there will be times when you need to deal with false statements and lies that have been published or broadcast in the media.

As a former newspaper editor I’m aware that mistakes occur. What galls me is lazy journalism and the deliberate spreading of misinformation.

Sadly there are more instances of this than ever because of declining editorial standards and pressure to publish quickly online.

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Deb Frecklington interview

Bad week for Queensland political advisers

Deb Frecklington interview
Deb Frecklington’s interview with the Courier Mail created controversy over claims that she was attacking the Premier’s image and lack of children.

Being a political adviser carries responsibility to give sound advice, follow correct process and respect the role of public servants, which doesn’t always occur.

A good adviser ensures clear communication, cuts through layers of bureaucracy and troubleshoots issues. An outcome that’s good for the politician should happily be one that’s good for the public as well.

Having worked on each side of the political triangle as a journalist, pubic servant and ministerial adviser, I’ve seen good and bad across all three.

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