A LANDMARK report reveals regional journalists consider their work a vital public service but feel overworked, underpaid and under-resourced.
University of Canberra (UC) researchers surveyed more than 300 journalists in television, newspapers, radio and online about their needs and how they see the future of the industry.
The report showed social media and online advertising had put journalism under incredible strain, UC researcher Sora Park said.
"We found regional journalists did a lot of multi-tasking, they had to learn all the reporting skills, management, legal, the skill set was just enormous," she said.
"These journalists were happy to do that, but it meant they were always time-poor.
"The main reason we did this study is because we discovered there weren't any on regional journalists, we knew that for the last few years regional news was suffering with budget cuts, closures and mergers and we wanted to know what journalists were experiencing."
It's estimated news media has lost close to 5,000 jobs in the last decade.
It will be critical to democracy if more regions go without local news.Sora Park
Despite stressors, the study found that regional journalists enjoy what they do and see themselves as advocates for their communities that would not be served by city outlets.
ABC New England North West journalist Caitlin Furlong has worked in regional media since 2003 and reported on the region's horror bushfire season.
She said reliable local news is absolutely essential to regional communities.
"It's so important to have trained journalists sifting through fact from fiction, asking the tough questions of community leaders and shining a light on issues in our communities," she said.
"Without strong local media there is no accountability and injustices can go unchecked.
"I don't think we can underestimate the enjoyment and companionship regional media brings to its community members too."
The report found regional journalists were less happy about their hours and pay, with overtime rarely paid and some reporters torn about whether to cover after-hours events knowing they won't be paid.
While journalists were entitled to time off in lieu, it was difficult to take because of workloads and short-staffed newsrooms.
Ms Park said issues were common across media outlets and support would be needed from both levels of government.
"We did another study at the same time on news consumers in regions and they rely heavily on local news not just for information but to stay connected to their community," she said.
"It found without regional media these people would turn to social media, which is not an alternative.
"It will be critical to democracy if more regions go without local news."