A former bureau chief at WIN News says he is "saddened" to see the end of news bulletins which have covered the region for nearly 30 years, and slammed executives up the chain for contributing to declining ratings.
Staff in Orange, Albury, and Wagga Wagga in NSW and Hervey Bay in Queensland were told on Wednesday night they would not have a job after next Friday, with the bulletins closing down.
The closures will affect 35 to 40 staff, including casuals, across the local television news services.
Former WIN News chief of staff Allan Reeder, who was in the Orange newsroom from 2005 to 2012, said while some of the dipping news viewership was due to a long-term industry decline however management decisions also played a role in the bulletins' demise.
Mr Reeder said "serious questions" need to be asked about the decision that led WIN to swap from Nine, which currently owns Australian Community Media, to Ten.
"Local news, produced well, still rates well. Burying the local news bulletin after TEN's 'The Project', and expecting locals to go hunting for it has not been a good business decision," he said.
Mr Reeder said local media played an important role in both helping community organisations, councils, MPs and more communicate with communities, but "more importantly, it lets those community leaders be accountable".
"During the time I spent working in the WIN Newsroom I was pleased that we made local leaders angry from time to time by raising uncomfortable questions," Mr Reeder said.
"These [lost] jobs mean there will one less layer in a system that creates accountability."
Current chief of staff Annabelle Amos said it a sad day for regional news.
"The camera operators, editors, and journalists from four WIN newsrooms were told that they wouldn't have a job to return to from next Friday 28th," she posted to Twitter.
"It's a sad day for regional news, but we will push on and go out with a bang."
In a letter to its staff WIN said the decision to cease production of the bulletins was based on the "commercial viability of funding news in these areas".
National Party state director Ross Cadell said the party had suspended advertising with the station until the decision is reversed.
"These communities deserve better," Mr Cadell said.
"We believe in the important role journalism plays in not only in our democracy but also in our communities, bringing people together and keeping them informed."
CSU Communication and Creative Industries course director Dr Holland said it would be easy for regional communities to think that they don't matter following this decision.
"There's actually 288,000 people in the Central West/Orana regions which is bigger than the Illawarra," he said.
"It's really disappointing that a company like WIN sees that some of the most vibrant cities are not viable."
Mr Holland said the closure of the office will have an impact on CSU's journalism graduates.
Dr Holland said the media landscape had undergone significant changes in recent years and CSU was equipping its journalism students with the best skills to still find work.
WIN management have told staff they will "attempt to redeploy them" into other roles in the network.
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance director Katelin McInerney said the steady ongoing decline of journalism in regional Australia meant there is a decline in the public information needed by regional communities.
"Homogenised news sourced from the big cities is not a replacement," she said.
Ms McInerney urged MPs and community leaders to take a stand against the decline in local news.
"Reporting of local news is essential to regional communities. It goes to the heart of the role the fourth estate must play in informing and promoting a healthy functioning democracy."
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