Editor fears for future of Big League and Australian magazines


By Jye Campbell

Big League magazine ceases publishing due to Covid-19

NRL magazine Big League is unlikely return in 2021, after publication was ceased indefinitely earlier this year due to COVID-19.

The weekly magazine was set to celebrate its 100th year of publication in 2020, before it was suspended along with the NRL season in May. It was initially hoped it would return in 2021, but editor Maria Recouvreur does not expect this to happen.

Publisher News Corp recently made Big League’s six full-time staff members redundant, and informed them they will need to re-apply for their positions if the magazine is resurrected for next year.

“I can’t see the magazine returning,” Recouvreur said.

“I worked at Big League for over ten years and it is one of the nicest places to work where you get to tell great feature stories. But News Corp is moving away from print media, so I think it is quite unlikely that Big League will return.”

The magazine— which specialises in feature stories and match day information— was highly popular among NRL fans, with a total monthly reach of 228,000 readers. But when crowds were blocked from attending matches, the decision was made to discontinue the magazine.

Fox Sports reporter Darcie McDonald paid tribute to the magazine, where she began her media career in 2016.

“Big League gave me my first full time job in journalism and I’ll forever be grateful for that opportunity,” McDonald said.

“It was a fantastic environment for a young journalist to perfect their craft and learn the basics of how the crazy media world works. Big League was an agenda-free magazine for the ultimate diehard footy fan of any age.”

Big League is just one of several Australian magazines to be abandoned in 2020.

In July, Bauer Media cut eight major titles, including Harper’s Bazaar and Elle. News Corp has also axed more of its magazines, as well as 112 regional newspapers; some were moved to an online format, and others were closed entirely.

As media organisations shift away from print media and towards digital news, Recouvreur fears this could spell the demise of Australia’s magazines.

“The magazine industry is really not going to recover from this, which is upsetting for me because I’m an old-school person who loves printed products,” she said.

“It’s depressing to see so many fellow journalists being put out of work. And I also can’t help but think, ‘There’s another person I have to compete with for a job’.”

While Recouvreur says magazines face a “bleak” future in Australia, she is hopeful the rise of digital media will create new jobs for the journalists facing  unemployment since the pandemic.

“I hope there are some smart people trying to work out how to monetise digital and get people back into jobs, because there are so many talented journalists looking for work,” said Recouvreur.

“Hopefully this will revolutionise how we do things in the media. It’s just a matter of getting that started and putting the people in place to oversee it.”