Diversity lost as newspapers close


THE announcement that publication of the Frankston Weekly and Peninsula Weekly will end this month will see a narrowing of dissemination of news and events in the region.

Five sister publications across the eastern and southern suburbs are also being killed off.

The Dandenong Journal is the only paper in the group’s former eastern division to survive the cull of mastheads by the 50 per cent Fairfax-owned MMP Media Publications.

It appears just one of the 10 part-time and full-time staff at the company’s Mornington office will have a job with the company after the papers’ final editions on 18 June.

About 30 positions have been axed as a result of the latest closures.

Community newspapers remaining in Frankston and on the peninsula are now published by two companies, the Mornington Peninsula News Group (publisher of this website and five community newspapers) and the Leader group, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd.

Leader has recently ceased publica­tion of its Hastings edition and runs its Frankston and peninsula editions from an office at Cheltenham.

The privately owned Mornington Peninsula News Group pub­lishes Frankston Times, Mornington News, Western Port News, Southern Peninsula News and Chelsea-Mordi­alloc News.

The demise of the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula Weeklies also wipes out the last traces of the once-profitable Independent News Group, bought by Fairfax Community News (FCN) in June 2006.

At that stage the new management obviously felt it could build on the success of the Hastings-based Independent group. It set about making changes to the layout and appearance of the newspapers previously pub­lish­ed by the Independent group, eventually closing the Chelsea edition and Holiday magazine.

By the time FCN moved offices from Hastings to Mornington, staff numbers had fallen from more than 50 to 27.

The publications being closed in Frankston and on the peninsula bear little resemblance to those published by the Independent group, having undergone a complete rebranding, including size and format.

Names of newspapers changed over­night to the Weekly and the front page became a photograph instead of a picture and lead story. While journalism and photography standards were maintained, the Weeklies ap­peared to have an identity crisis, not knowing if they were supposed to be a magazine or a newspaper.

Readers and – most importantly for a free publication – advertisers also appeared thrown by the sudden change.

Continuing losses led to a sharp decline in revenue that was unable to be fixed by the “reverse” takeover in July 2012 when FCN virtually handed its 30-odd mastheads across Melbourne and $35 million to its new partner, MMP.

MMP’s inner suburban real estate-based publications had previously caused the biggest losses to the Fairfax papers.

In October last year 29 positions were made redundant by MMP, with photographers and writers being re-hired through a media hire firm.

The company’s boss, former Age journalist Antony Catalano, on Tues­day admitted the company was losing millions of dollars to Leader publications.

In an email to staff, Mr Catalano accused News Ltd of undermining MMP’s publications with payments to real estate agents.

“Our ability to gain new real estate advertising clients has been undermined by the millions of dollars News Limited is paying to agents across Melbourne and particularly in the south-east, which has made it impossible to compete fairly … it is ironic that a media organisation’s kickback program is the cause of media jobs being lost.”

Publications run by the Fairfax organisation (including its flagship metropolitan daily The Age) and MMP seem destined to be produced – although not written – in India or New Zealand.


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