Saturday, January 07, 2012

Paper Tigers

It's been back to work this week at the Charles' household and we see that our local newspaper is also back to its usual tricks after its reporting staff have (more or less) sobered up from New Years celebrations.

The first story that look our eye was the piece headlined today Council bleeding Coast ratepayers dry.

According to the article, any revenue stream employed by the Gold Coast City Council is an impost on the poor benighted citizen of the city.

THE Gold Coast City Council is bleeding ratepayers dry with fees and charges that have become an almost $100 million cash cow.

The revenue grab is revealed in the council's 2010-11 annual report, which the council removed from its website after scrutiny.
Why would the council's annual report be removed from the web site?

Consider the Bulletin's story as exhibit A.

More than $10.5 million was collected through fines, $7.2 million through parking fees, $6 million for dumping waste at the tip and almost $17 million in building and development fees.

In addition it collected $32 million in charges for jobs it was doing on behalf of water authority Allconnex.

While the council pulled in $460 million in rates, it scored another $97 million through fees and charges.
Well yes. The Gold Coast City Council serves a population of just over 593,000 people. It needs revenue form a variety of sources, not just ratepayers.

Pejorative words like 'bleeding', 'cash cow' and 'scored' put the lie to the the Bully's claims of applying 'scrutiny' to the council on behalf of Gold Coasters. It is not.

The article today is part of a concerted 'kick the council campaign' ahead of the upcoming Local Government elections locked in for late March.

If the paper wants to see an improved Gold Coast then it needs to do a little soul searching.

Over the past 10 years it has had three editors and three masthead changes, reduced its staff by a rumoured 30% and experience a real numbers fall in circulation. Back in 2001, when the population of the Gold Coast was 423,700, the paper's average circulation was 45,000.

Today, circulation can't even keep up with population growth, dropping in real terms to a paltry average circulation of just 40,593 based on News Limited's own advertiser's page.

As a matter of disclosure, Nicky and I do not work for the Gold Coast City Council although, as long-term, semi-prominent citizenry we have met all of the current councillors, senior bureaucrats and most of the mayoral aspirants.

There is nothing wrong with the Fourth Estate ensuring our elected officials are held to account, but under the current malignant malaise which afflicts modern journalism - its all about 'the mix-master', manufacturing outrage with every interview a 'gotcha' - is it any wonder that even Anna Bligh (in the only defence of her government you will see on this site) looks to deliver her message direct to the people rather than through the filter of the 'professional' media.

Thanks to the Internet and social media - a phenomenon that most journalists (and certainly Rupert Murdoch) don't understand - people don't need the reach of media outlets anymore. Every man is his own publisher.

The Gold Coast Bulletin's dwindling circulation is evidence that the rest of us consider the 'news' they bring to be of even less and less importance.

It's not too late for the mainstream media to learn the lesson, but one questions whether they can.

-- Nora

UPDATE: I found a calculator and did some sums.

In 2001 when the Gold Coast's population was 423,700 and the average circulation was 45,000, the Bulletin was bought by 10.62% of the population

In 2011 when the Gold Coast's population is 593,000 and the average circulation is 40,593, the Bulletin was bought by only 6.84% of the population.

In real terms the Bulletin's reach has gone down by almost 40%.

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