VFFF, Guardian Australia and UTS create rural journalism program

The Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation (VFFF), The Guardian Australia and The University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) have launched a philanthropic program to fight the decline of regional journalism.

The Rural Network was created to give a voice to regional and rural communities, providing funds for future journalists to break into the industry and to fill the void in rural news coverage.

Developed in collaboration between Guardian Australia and UTS, The Rural Network is funded by a $ 1.37 million grant from the VFFF, which will help Guardian Australia build a network of “trusted regional contributors and employing five UTS graduate journalists over the life of the project, ”which will be based in rural communities and report on local stories.

Last month, Google and News Corp launched an initiative to provide digital skills training and new opportunities for young journalists, called The Digital News Academy. The program will provide training to 750 local and regional news professionals from various media across the country, including Australian Community Media and several others.


Earlier this year, the Walkley Foundation and Facebook distributed funds ranging from $ 10,000 to $ 60,000 to 17 regional news organizations to help offset the effects of COVID-19. Last year, the foundation also awarded 11 projects a total of $ 134,000 in grants to fund projects in regional Australia, the Pacific and Asia.

Country Press Australia (CPA) also became the latest to sign a deal with Google this month, which will see more than 70 regional headlines join the Google News Showcase.

Guardian Australia Editor-in-Chief Lenore Taylor

The program will run over three years and comes after a significant drop in regional news. Research conducted by UTS’s Center for Media Transition will examine models that could support a sustainable presence of regional news in mainstream media, after the closure of 194 rural and regional publications between 2008 and 2019, according to UTS. 3,000 journalists have also found themselves out of work over the past five years, with the pandemic accelerating that decline.

Guardian Australia Rural and Regional Editor Gabrielle Chan said: “This project will create a network of writers who know their area. The rural network will encourage local talent, share local stories and build a bridge between metropolitan and rural communities. It will seriously examine rural and regional policy.

Guardian Australia Editor-in-Chief Lenore Taylor also said: “I am delighted that Gabrielle is leading this project. There is no longer an authoritative voice in Australia on these issues. I am also very happy that the VFFF and UTS have agreed to collaborate with us in the implementation of this new approach to reporting. I think this has great potential for us to cover stories that we wouldn’t otherwise have, with insight and perspective of lived experience and local knowledge. “

Natasha May has been named the program’s first graduate and will work from the Gilgandra Weekly newsroom when restrictions permit. This will also include coverage of stories from this region for the Guardian Australian Rural Network.

Natasha May, the program’s first graduate

UTS will publish its first report, the Annual Rural and Regional Media Report in September 2022, and has appointed Prue Clarke, reporter and founder of New Narratives to the project.

Professor Monica Attard, co-director of the Center for Media Transition at UTS said:“It has been widely recognized that the decline of regional media is detrimental to these communities. But it also harms the national conversation. Social cohesion depends in part on having a voice in all Australian communities. “

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