Council’s newspaper bid pulped
A FAR North mayor's recommendation to use ratepayer money to help fund a newspaper, subject to key performance indicators being set by council staff to the proprietor, has been shot down as a conflict of interest.
Douglas Shire Mayor Michael Kerr's plan to spend $10,000 to help start the "independent" media organisation was heavily scrutinised by councillors Peter McKeown, Lisa Scomazzon, Abigail Noli and Roy Zammataro at an ordinary meeting on Tuesday.
Cr Zammataro questioned the editorial integrity of the proposal.
"Is council supporting this to get favourable stories put in?" he asked.
"This could also be flagged as a conflict of interest with council financing a media outlet.
"I don't want to be part of that, where we look like we are financing a media outlet in favour (of other organisations),"
Cr Noli was critical of the optics of the ratepayer funded proposal, which notes "that Council staff will develop KPI's for the allocated funding" to be ticked off by chief executive officer Mark Stoermer, for the Cape York Weekly.
"You can't go directly to one individual person, dictate a proposed KPI for a proposed media outlet, and hand over ratepayers money," Cr Noli said.
"Having a printed media … is actually one thing I do support, but not through this process.
"Not because one individual councillor (Kerr) approached one media journalist."
Mayor Kerr said he contacted Weipa based journalist Matt Nicholls, editor of the Cape York Weekly, and asked "what would be needed to get a paper back in the Douglas Shire."
Cr Kerr said information had been handed over based on "what the previous spend was with the previous paper that was here" - a reference to the Port Douglas and Mossman Gazette, whose editorial content can now be read in the Cairns Post.
Cr McKeown said he was in favour of supporting local newspapers but not funding it at the ratepayers expense, a sentiment echoed by Cr Scomazzon.
The four councillors voted against the motion.
Originally published as Far North council's newspaper bid pulped