Parish pump' or community forum : an analysis of the Observer's reportage of the Stuart Shale Oil Project
journal contributionposted on 06.12.2017, 00:00 by Jane Macdonald
Historically, the regional newspaper has been at the forefront in advancing its community’s economic needs. This article will examine the distinctive role of this medium in contemporary Australia and argue that ‘parish pump’ advocacy is still being pursued today. It will present the findings of a study into Gladstone’s daily newspaper, The Observer, and its reportage of the long-running Stuart Shale Oil Project. The project has been acclaimed as indicative of the city’s growth potential and the shale oil industry promoted as a possible answer to Australia’s future oil needs. However, its development has come at a cost. Nearby residents’ lives have been so affected, they are now leaving their homes and properties as the Queensland Government buys their land. Greenpeace protests have also attracted widespread negative media coverage. The organisation’s role in highlighting the development and The Observer’s reaction to this will be discussed. In light of the project’s negative impact on parts of the community, this article will address the question of whether a regional newspaper can present balanced coverage in a community heavily reliant on the economic contribution of industry.