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Brisbane's new newspaper is online

By ERIC SHACKLE, in Sydney, Australia
 

The people of Brisbane, Australia's third largest city, now have a choice of newspapers for the first time since their afternoon daily, The Telegraph, ceased publication in 1985.

The new "paper", the Brisbane Times, is an online-only publication launched last month by Queensland's Premier Peter Beattie. It's financed by the Fairfax group, publishers of two of Australia's leading newspapers, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Melbourne) and staffed by 14 journalists.

"Brisbane has for years been effectively a one-paper town, dominated by Rupert Murdoch's Courier-Mail," Mark Colvin reported on ABC Radio's PM show. "Now Fairfax media has challenged that monopoly with an online newspaper for Brisbane. Industry observers say it could be the start of things to come for the media industry in Australia."

Launching the website, Peter Beattie said it would guarantee diversity of opinion in the State.

Media buyer Harold Mitchell said "This has been an absolute dawn raid by Fairfax on the Brisbane market. No doubt that they wanted to do it this way so that there couldn't be any spoiling action by others, particularly News Limited. It's a very exciting move.

"They've got 12 journalists on the ground to cover south-east Queensland... They've got sponsors up and going already, there's a special package for the first seven or eight weeks of it, and there are big companies right into it. They're having a real go."

The Courier-Mail has long operated one of Australia's most reader-friendly newspaper websites, offering a full news cover and a wide variety of blogs written by staff journalists.

Another Queensland city, Toowoomba, also has a new online newspaper, Toowoomba Digital News, competing with the long-established Toowoomba Chronicle. It's staffed by senior journalists who had been retrenched from the Chronicle. Editor Neil Brown said it was started on a "wing and a prayer."

PERSONAL DISCLOSURE. I was a cadet reporter on The Courier-Mail before World War II. In those days, the newspaper (then a staid broadsheet with hundreds of small ads but no news items on its front page) was housed in an impressive new air-conditioned building opposite Brisbane's historic GPO (General Post Office).

We competed fiercely with the Telegraph, a trashy afternoon paper housed in a dilapidated office building further up Queen Street. Radio 4BK's transmission tower rose high above the Courier-Mail building, dominating the city skyline. We supplied 4BK's news service... but there was no website!

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This story has been published by the South Korean citizen reporters' journal, OhmyNewsInternational.

Story first posted April 2007

Copyright 2007

Eric Shackle

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