Media diversity concerns as PR firm takes control of Tasmanian regional papers

Media diversity concerns as PR firm takes control of Tasmanian regional papers
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Updated

July 13, 2019 15:32:19

A public relations firm boasting two former Liberal party senior advisers has purchased two regional Tasmanian newspapers, installing as editor a controversial former adviser to the Premier.

Key points:

  • The newspaper purchases follow Font PR’s acquisition of the Derwent Valley Gazette
  • Two partners at Font PR have been credited with helping mastermind the Coalition’s strong showing at the federal election
  • Another former staffer to Will Hodgman has been announced as the new editor of Font PR’s new papers

In a Facebook post on Friday night, Font Public Relations announced it had purchased both The Sorell Times and The Tasman Gazette.

Both papers were formerly owned by Temperate Zone Tasmania, a private company based in the state’s south-east, which also owns the East Coast View community newspaper.

Former senior Liberal advisers Brad Nowland and Brad Stansfield are partners in the Font PR private enterprise.

“The papers will be independently edited by experienced journalist Martine Haley, who has more than 15 years experience in editorial at News Corp, both in Tasmania at the Mercury and Sydney, at the Manly Daily,” the Font PR announcement read.

Controversial editor appointed

In March 2018, the ABC revealed Ms Haley — then a principal adviser to Premier Will Hodgman — had used a fake Facebook identity in an apparent attempt to have a woman reprimanded by her employer Cricket Australia for speaking out about a lack of abortion services in the state.

Five days after the story broke, Ms Haley offered her resignation after admitting she used the online alias Alice Wood-Jones.

Font PR said under its ownership the regional newspapers “would remain editorially independent and will focus on being proudly local and a voice for their region”.

“These new mastheads reflect our continued faith in the future of newspapers, particularly at the local level, and the importance of independent media.

“We would like to assure all our valued advertisers that it will be business as usual with The Sorell Times and The Tasman Gazette, and we will be be in touch next week,” the announcement read.

The buy-ups come after Font PR purchased the Derwent Valley Gazette from News Corp Australia last year.

The Tasmanian branch of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) said it held concerns over the diversity of Tasmanian media.

In a statement, The MEAA’s regional director of Victoria and Tasmania, Adam Portelli, said he hoped the papers would remain balanced in their reporting and independent of political interference.

“MEAA recognises the competitive nature of the Tasmanian media industry, but holds concerns with the increasing concentration in the sector,” he said.

“We expect the new owners, like all media outlets, to ensure that political fairness and diversity of views is maintained.”

Font PR and Ms Haley were contacted for comment.

Topics:

media,

community-and-society,

hobart-7000,

launceston-7250,

sorell-7172,

new-norfolk-7140

First posted

July 13, 2019 15:10:39



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