Regional newspapers have long been the mouthpiece for the community – and bread and butter for local advertisers – steered by editors with a heavy print background.
But times are-a-changing and in what could spell the death knell for the stereotype of local newspaper editor – chain-smoking, ambulance-chasing, police-friendly pot-bellied man of a certain age – APN Australian Regional Media are looking for editors with a digital background instead of print.
Bryce Johns, editorial director of APN Australian Regional Media, told B&T the Warwick Daily News is currently recruiting a new editor, and says it’s imperative he or she is a digital wizard.
He said: “For the first time in advertising for a new editor for the Warwick Daily News, we’re looking for someone who may not have a strong print background. We want someone leading who has heavy online involvement and strong social media skills.
“As we look to evolve as a news media organisation, we’ve been very good at projecting print circulation but we need to get better at growing the digital stuff. We don’t feel as if we’re getting enough momentum around our websites and around the need for newsroom change. We want a challenger model but still have some newsrooms that favour print over online, and unless we get online leaders that’s not going to change any time soon.”
Johns says it doesn’t mean they’re taking the foot off the pedal with the Warwick Daily News, which has had one of the most stable print circulation in the country, adding that the new editor will delegate print responsibility to his/her number two, so they can lead the way on the digital side.
New Zealand-born Johns, who presides over 12 daily and 60 community newspapers which reach 1.3 million Queenslanders every month, just a third of which have websites, added: “This is the first time we’ve been very definitive about the different type of person we’re hiring for our readership, and it’s a deliberate move to reconsider how we hire people going forward for the digital age.
“Five – or even two years ago – we’d be talking about the newspaper and we’d be ‘oh and by the way we have a website’,” he said, “but now they’re equally important.”
He added that a lot of the editors they’ve hired in the last few years are in their mid-thirties, and they are open to someone “in their late twenties if they have the right skills”.
“We’re not ageist,” he laughed.