Popular Canberra newsreader Danielle Post will be replaced by a presenter based in Wollongong, after WIN announced a downsizing of its local operation on Wednesday.
Post, who announced her departure for a position in the Nine newsroom in Sydney last month, will read her last bulletin on Friday. WIN said the role would be moved to its headquarters in Wollongong from Monday, but said it would continue to produce a dedicated 30-minute live bulletin for Canberra.
"The presentation of the nightly Canberra bulletin will now be broadcast live from Wollongong headquarters following a review of operations amid recent staff movements," WIN Network NSW/ACT general manager Andy Vautier told Fairfax Media on Wednesday.
"This will not affect the quality, quantity or content of the Canberra bulletin. The news gathering process will remain unchanged.
"It is critically important that in order to remain viable and to continue providing genuine local news content that WIN continues to look for new, better and more innovative ways of delivering high quality news services to the people of regional Australia," Mr Vautier said.
ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has called on WIN to change its mind, and keep the production in Canberra.
Three reporters will remain in Canberra covering ACT issues. It is understood a fourth senior staff member may join the team in the coming weeks.
Former WIN personality Phil Small said he was saddened to hear the Kingston studio would no longer be used.
"It's very disappointing for the people involved and also for the people of Canberra who will lose their only truly local news service," Mr Small said.
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance ACT Branch secretary Michael White said WIN had indicated in previous negotiations it was committed to the Canberra news bulletin.
“Our major concern is to try and keep the news program in Canberra, and it does sound as if this is going to be the case,” Mr White said.
“The more voices the better, particularly for local news. I think it’s really important to maintain that local half-hour Canberra bulletin.”
The news comes after several departures from the local news team. In addition to Post, sports presenter Greg Thomson, and senior reporter Gemma Coombe also recently announced their departures from the station.
It is believed some production staff could lose their jobs, however, no reporters or camera operators will be made redundant.
An insider told Fairfax Media that senior management were on site in Canberra on Wednesday when two production staff were “marched out the door at 9.30am” before the team was reportedly told of the Wollongong plans.
“They’re kidding themselves if they think audiences won’t notice the difference. It is sad news and the audience will suffer. A live and local bulletin has been produced and read out of the Kingston studio since 1989," the insider said.
“Apparently the Canberra bulletin will be filmed live out of Wollongong but I find that hard to believe as Wollongong is the jewel in the crown for the WIN network, however Canberra was always told it was safe.”
Sources suggest ex-Canberran Amy Duggan will be the face of the revamped bulletin for Canberra viewers.
Canberra Centenary director and former WIN news director Jeremy Lasek said the news was not surprising, but it would be a loss to Canberra to no longer have a local face of the news.
“I would say the biggest disappointment is the presenter at WIN over the years have been such an integral part of our community,” he said.
“They are actively involved, not just as the face of the local news bulletin, but as committed Canberrans that get involved in great activities and events… I think it’s sad to lose that connection with the local community, but that being said, it seems to be the way of news.”
Mr Lasek said having a local reader was an advantage when it came to small details, such as correct pronunciation of names, or knowledge of local personalities, but said WIN should be commended for retaining its local bulletin when other commercial networks had pulled out.
He said ratings proved there was a demand for a local commercial news bulletin, and it was important that WIN kept producing it.
“The important thing is that they retain that local presence in terms of a half-hour bulletin and a strong, committed local team,” he said.
“The team’s gone through an unsettling period, they’ve lost three key people in just a few weeks. I think it’s important that the team regroups and stays positive.”