Future of Journalism conference in Sydney Australia #1
Topic: big media
Picture (above): A blurry Mark Scott managing director of ABC gives a lively opening speech alluding to power players Eric Beecher (Crikey etc) and David Kirk (Fairfax) in a cage fight, best man wins. Scott was 2nd off the block from Chris Warren of the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance (ie journo union) but as you can see we had technical problems with his picture too.
As prefaced in our penultimate post we are no journalist though we have interacted with them a good 16 years now. This might help with reportage on their sector with our ngo, legal and science smarts.
We cycled into the registration desk at ABC building from Marrickville on our 150 year old technology which somehow seemed ironic given the online superhighway discussed for the rest of the day. In equal measure interest, fear and loathing it sounded to us.
We revealed our amateur status further by misjudging camera exposure on 'no flash' setting hence the blurry image above (with a somewhat artistic effect we feel). Actually we were overcompensating being nervous our flash would disrupt the tv cameramen but they assured later of no probs either way even if just sitting just behind them.
Chris Warren as federal secretary of the journalist union noted the "frisson of unease" about the online changes and "pause" after job shedding at New York Times, and Newsweek of 100 in each case in the USA.
Mark Scott as MD of ABC launched straight away into 'where we report the news we don't make the news'. Resonating that - given power games regularly on display in the private sector. Referred to need for 'understanding between newsrooms and boardrooms' and "post proprietorial world" and challenge to find a 'sustainable [financial] model'.
[This echoed our side conversation with USYD academic Fiona Martin just prior.]
Scott reckons cost of Oz drama or telemovies at $1-2M per hour to make is a good parallel with cost of 'quality journalism under threat'. This industry sector run by media industry 'aggregators' are now 'fragmenting' and this is manifesting as 'market failure' which is a nice line for a publicly funded organisation holding out the hat to federal govt. It also rings true.
We found this a little confronting in the reflection stakes - given we at SAM are a fragmentary force here too one presumes - bringing legal, science and ngo skills, combined with vocational zeal, all out of Whitlam's free education of the 70-80ies.
On the other hand later on author/media analyst Meg Simons referred to the 'great gig traditonal media has been for so long'. The implication is that it has become vocationally flabby and needs to get its fitness regime back.
Picture: Professor Jay Rosen doing a damn fine impersonation of Norman Jewison who directed pseudo dystopian (1970ies anti corporation/hegemonic) action thriller Rollerball. Made after the Munich Olympics (mid 70ies) in a disused (1936) Olympic venue in Germany. Talk about gutsy guy. Also made classic Fiddler on the Roof. Rosen's thesis is "migration" to the online future for the journalism profession "some are there already", some "don't want to go", not at all interested in 'the commercialisation of the emerging online sector' rather to study 'the problem'. Rosen had a charming tone of vindication/hubris/compassion/burning intellect and was a highlight by satellite with brightly lit Empire State Building behind.
Picture: Display by the Walkley organisation of 50 years of coverage of their profession with some very amusing covers, also sponsoring the 2 day conference with ABC and MEAA.
We owe an apology to Chris Warren for no picture here. We enjoyed his discussion/interview with 'Meg' Simons author of "Content Makers". Their Q & A threw up themes around 20C political economy shifting and media with it. MS pushed the notion 'the gift economy' online is here to stay [like this blogger on say 20K readers per month] as a feature of 'wealthy societies' [actually a feature of Aboriginal society for 60K years too] noting such as 'wikipedia based on kudos/satisfaction'. But such as these projects are 'not sufficient' though not going away given academics and others behind this action.
CW and MS noted the press in late 17C [eg pamphleteers in England?] were like bloggers today finding it 'fun and empowering' to give voice to their knowledge. True. Journo skills are still great value but not really trained up on 'having conversations and building community'.
[Quite right, more trained up on the infamous 'little betrayal' news gathering, and haughty disrespectful attitude mode of operation living high on the hog we feel.]
MS corroborates our comment just now with need to be 'more humble' in the profession and this theme is echoed by Scott and other captains [eg Uechtritz, possibly Reid] about the 'audience knowing more than the journo who then mediates these sources'. What is published is thus 'provisional' [and this 'evolving story construction dynamic' is teased out later, much like our little postscript device sometimes here on SAM].
The 'gatekeeper role is reduced'. Blogosphere is 'still derivative' to a large degree and there is still a great need for trade skill..
MS: 'Niche media will increase versus mass media, perhaps not even the main thing in future'. Crikey.com.au is an example of niche 'on a sustainable model'. CW noted localism has not been done well by the Big Media. Niches include buinsess ezines by Kohler/Bartho/Gottliebsen for 'insiders' like Crikey too. Also say technology specialties.
Interesting discussion of ABC taking steps to commission content - is this risky asks CW regarding separation of the state from the free press with increased dependence of the latter? MS refers to academic Phillip Myer view that not for profits will sustain standards until this massive transition is dealt with.
[This reflects directly the experience of New Matilda functioning via philanthropist, competing effectively with ABC's Unleashed, unleashed to the extent of being a great service and outlet to the 'Friends of the ABC' affinity but perhaps not really sufficiently independent of the ABC corporate self interest to as Scott has said 'manage and mediate the national conversation'. The implication is 'on our terms' as a job creation scheme.]
CW refers asks about ethics pressue? Yes, says MS must keep these to protect their media 'brand'. Refers to The Age internal frictions as systemic more than personalities. Rather more about 'the model'. Hopes for a negotiated outcome there and support for journalists there.
Amusing reference to Mark Day projecting his relations with Rupert onto MS relations with her boss/employer Eric Beecher. MS notes News Ltd may be overtaking Fairfax now online.
We wanted to ask in the question time how Simons felt in hindsight about declining the federal govt invite to participate at the 2020 Summit, maybe we will in person today. She did mention the mushrooming significance of social networking sites, and Chris Nash and academic (from UQ) highlighted the temporal disjunction, that is previously decades to manage revolutions in platform ('radio and tv still happening' says MS) compared with 'financial urgency now'. [This all sounded like the Chinese leader response to the French Revolution being an experiment still in progress. Talk about philosophical perspective.]
[7 more pages of notes to follow roughly with these pictures below, time to get on the 150 year old technology to enjoy day 2].
Picture: Battleship, or is that fully armed navy frigate, Margaret Simons (Simmons?) talks to former UK editor and now 'for media' blogger at The Guardian there, union member 43 years (resigned over demarcation 'farce' of UK unions). Pithy, alternatively bouncy and gloomy, veteran long view, with a hint of crust (!?).
Picture: Cover from about 2005 - the industry saw the future, and this writer having northern European maybe viking in the genes, and blogger, was amused by this metaphor. Indeed we were pretty much 'the enemy' in some ways in the conference, albeit friendly and on good behaviour rations.
Picture: Wise owls to borrow a phrase Quentin Dempster (ABC), John Cokley (UQ), Eric Beecher (Crikey.com.au), Trevor Cook ('Corporate Engagement')
Picture: Another profound cover. Online is 'as profound as the printing press' says Simmons and others because at low cost one can publish to the whole world the first time in human history. 'This inevitably will bring systemic change - just as the printing press created the journalism profession.'
Picture: These guys are the online "conquistadors" from one (cynical?) perspective as online editorial for News Ltd, Fairfax, Ninemsn interviewed by Dominique Schwartz at right (ABC SA). Two at left were in particular very understated and impressive in their tone and 3rd from left no slouch either. Presented like De Castellas running a marathon every day, hardly a layer of fat on them (like Beecher too above and Campbell Reid below). We commented to another in the audience 'hope they get paid alot because they look like whippets' - cross referencing SMH TV Guide article a fortnight back about US based bloggers stuck on 24 hour obsessive work schedule from home on 5 figure incomes dying of heart attacks. Whoa - it's supposed to be a fun vocation here, not death.
Picture above: As reported in press recently and noted on ABC TV Insiders, Cheryl Kernot is back in Australia post Rudd election. But here she is on a cover back in 1997-8 or so after expose she'd had the mother of all conflicts of interest having bedded a former ALP Minister while in another political party.
Picture above from left: Hard men all. Campbell Reid (News Ltd), Max Uechtritz (former ABC, NineMSN), Mark Scott (ABC MD), Roy Greenslade (The Guardian, ex editor Daily Mirror). Interviewed in turn at right by very accomplished, brainy Helen Dalley of Sky News (previously Nine).
Picture: A young David Brill still reporting in 2008, recently from India on Free Tibet democracy protesters on SBS Dateline. That's one hell of a career David. Great report from Darfur too in recent months.
Posted by editor
at 11:22 PM NZT
Updated: Wednesday, 26 November 2008 8:25 AM EADT