Australian Newsroom Mapping Project:
Tracking changes in news production

The Public Interest Journalism Initiative tracks changes to news production and availability, including the opening and closing of news outlets and newsrooms; changes to service levels, mergers and the digitisation of print publications. The project is collecting data from 1 January 2019 and is actively maintained.

This is one part of the Australian Newsroom Mapping Project, an ongoing program of research to document and monitor the production of public interest journalism around the country.

Frequently asked questions

How do you define ‘news outlets’?

The news outlets that we record for this project broadly fit our interpretation of producers of ‘core news’.

‘Core news’ is a term that was introduced by the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code. It aligns closely to earlier definitions of ‘public interest journalism’, such as that developed by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in the Digital Platforms Inquiry.

The Code defines core news as ‘content that reports, investigates or explains:

  1. issues or events that are relevant in engaging Australians in public debate and in informing democratic decision‑making; or
  2. current issues or events of public significance for Australians at a local, regional or national level.’

This definition has been adopted for this project, with the exception of ‘explains’: outlets that only explain news without themselves being original producers of it are not recorded.

PIJI is focussed journalism organisations specifically, not news organisations broadly. The two words are often used synonymously but there is a difference between them: news can be produced by any individual or organisation; journalism is a process of finding out information, verifying it and applying editorial judgment. It is characterised by professional values including independence and fairness. We attempt to only include organisations conducting journalism, rather than any news, though this distinction can be difficult to make from the outside.

Practically, this means that news outlets that are not independent of their subjects will not be included in this project, including government, business and political party news services.

Please note that PIJI’s interpretation of a ‘core news producer’ may be different from others’ interpretation.

What changes do you track?

The project captures five change types, which can have either negative (contraction) or positive (expansion) attributes. The change types are ordered according to the seriousness of their impact on production or availability. The change types that we collect, listed in terms of the hierarchy, are:

  1. Masthead or station closure / opening; meaning an entire news outlet closing or opening. In most cases this means a publication within a larger organisation, but rarely it can mean a whole news company.
  2. Newsroom closure / opening; meaning a news company removing or adding a base from which to conduct news production, that having an impact on its coverage area.
  3. Decrease / increase in service; meaning changes in the amount of content that is produced, or, rarely, the availability of that content. Most often this category has captured observable changes to locally-relevant, original content, but it can also include the launch of a new access point for existing content (such as a new radio bulletin produced in partnership with the local newspaper). It can include changes to print publication frequency, but does not include print distribution area changes.
  4. End / start of print edition; meaning changes in availability without a corresponding change in production. A newspaper that transitions to digital-only publication without reducing its coverage is an example.
  5. Merger / demerger, meaning the coverage and/or content area of one news outlet being absorbed into another without a corresponding change in production, or a new paper being created out of the existing coverage area of another.

How do you find changes?

Data for this project is assembled each week from a combination of sources. PIJI actively monitors news outlets around the country, and checks the publication outputs of 150+ independent mastheads each month, plus each of the major news companies in both metropolitan and regional areas. We are also close readers of news media trade publications. Finally, we receive some information directly from journalists, editors and community members.

If you have a change to submit to PIJI, please email us.

Does this project identify ‘news deserts’?

No. This stage captures changes in the news market, but does not make an assessment of consistent, unchanged production. That is, it can demonstrate that a masthead has closed in a particular town, but not that another masthead remains.

PIJI is developing staged releases of new data to assist with getting a more complete view of news production, both changed and unchanged.

Can I use this data in my own work?

We have made the data available for download so that it can inform others in their own work. The data is available on a Creative Commons license which places only a few restrictions:

  • You must credit Gary Dickson, PIJI and the Australian Newsroom Mapping Project wherever you use the data.
  • You cannot use the data for commercial purposes.
  • Whatever you create using this data you should share on a similar license. Note that this condition may not apply where the findings of the data are being cited in a research or policy context.

We also ask that you get in touch to let us know how you’re using the data. We’re always interested to hear how the project has been useful, or if you have ideas for how it could be further developed.

Data usage

The Australian Newsroom Mapping Project is an ongoing effort by the Public Interest Journalism Initiative to build and maintain data about news production and availability across the country. The data is made publicly available on a Creative Commons license to ensure that it can inform research and policy to support the news media.

Suggested citation: Dickson G. 2020. Australian Newsroom Mapping Project: Tracking changes in news production. Melbourne: Public Interest Journalism Initiative. <https://anmp.piji.com.au>

Harley Alexander developed the visualisation. All rights reserved.

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