Are Australians who live in regional areas happier than those living in the big capital cities?
Do people in regional Australia feel more connected to their local community?
And what role does local news play in bringing a community together?
These are some of the questions we're asking in our inaugural Heartbeat of the Regions survey, a special collaboration between Australia's largest independent media company ACM - the publisher of this masthead - and the University of Canberra's News and Media Research Centre.
The 15-minute online survey is confidential and individual responses will not be identifiable. Participants go into a draw to win one of five $500 eftpos cards.
ACM chief customer and marketing officer Paul Tyrrell said the Heartbeat of the Regions survey was an opportunity to take the pulse of the 36 per cent of the population who live and work in regional Australia.
"With more people moving to regional Australia as a work and lifestyle choice as result of the pandemic, it's more important than ever for business and government decision-makers at the national level to understand sentiment in the regions, including how people are feeling, their concerns and aspirations and how they stay connected," Mr Tyrrell said.
"ACM's trusted mastheads all across the country have large and loyal local audiences and we want to ensure we understand their evolving needs so we can continue to deliver products they trust for all their news and information."
Professor Sora Park, of the News and Media Research Centre, said the Heartbeat of the Regions survey would seek insights on how Australians feel about their community's wellbeing.
"News plays an important role in providing information for citizens to participate in society," Professor Park said.
"This study will extend our understanding to how people in regional Australia are feeling, what they are concerned about and importantly how news affects a citizen's sentiments and sense of community belonging."
Professor Park will lead the survey, with colleagues Dr Jee Young Lee, Associate Professor Caroline Fisher, Professor Kerry McCallum and research associate Sonia Curll.
Australia's only research centre specialising in news consumption, social and digital media networks, and the legal, ethical and social impacts of communication technologies, the Canberra centre produces Australia's annual national Digital News Report, which monitors news consumption as part of a global study of 46 countries.
Professor Park said the Heartbeat of the Regions survey would complement the centre's other studies by providing unique insights into regional Australians, the needs of their communities and how they stay connected.
"This survey will deepen our understanding of the role of regional news, particularly in the context of people's experiences and sentiments," Professor Park said.
"We are excited at the opportunity to partner with ACM, the most representative regional and local news provider in Australia. For the first time, we will be able to capture the sentiment in regional communities and track it over time."
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