Journalism on Screen forum

Posted July 27th, 2010 by in

Copyright: Centre for Advanced Journalism

Journalism on Screen forum:
From Print to Broadcast to Blog
– a discussion on the changing times in journalism

Panel lead by: Michael Gawenda (Director at the Centre for Advanced Journalism)

Speakers featured: Jennifer Byrne (ABC TV), Jonathan Green (Editor, The Drum), Evan Williams (The Australian) Sally Warhaft (Social Commentator)

Melbourne celebrated journalism and media at the Journalism on Screen event held in mid July. Combining interesting forum discussions on key issues surrounding the industry, the festival was complemented by a range of films that featured a journalism theme. Key speakers included leading journalists and editors currently working in the Australian media industry and I felt fortunate to attend a forum on the future of journalism (in such turbulent times) that sparked an interesting debate on whether newspapers are dying and if the journalism trade has a future in the face of a growing online environment.

Opening the discussion was a broad question on whether the panellists believed if print has a future. Evan Williams believes newspapers will survive because the history of the medium is so entrenched and the culture is so deep. He agrees that there are many conveniences about print; its portability, permanence and credibility. But he does believe something needs to change. “Newspapers need to produce themselves into a more convenient format,” he said.

Reading a broadsheet while crammed on a bus or train on the way to work is no longer a practical way to receive news. The prevalence of news accessed via smaller electronic devices, such as mobile phones and the likes of the iPad, is fast becoming the norm as people seek updated news that can be delivered to them quickly.

The truth is that technology is here, now. And we need to find ways of taking full advantage of that. The challenge however, lies in the uncertainty of where technology is going to take us and whether we’ll be able to keep up to speed with it. But it’s not all bad news – we simply need to ensure that we embrace the opportunities. Jonathan Green believes it will all come down to the drive of the individuals doing the work. “There will be mechanisms and better ways to access information,” he said. Most panellists agreed that the online environment is a place to obtain information however, it places no influence on the quality of the content. “Online is just a delivery mechanism,” said Jonathan Green.

As editor of ABC’s The Drum, Jonathan Green, has worked across print and, in more recent times, moved across to online media, fulfilling a new demand and new style of reporting. He believes that newspapers served to fulfil a need that once existed and that perhaps there’s no longer a reason to produce print. “We’re seeing the migration… the craft won’t die but the medium might,” he said.  It’s reassuring to hear that the need for journalism will remain but the changes will occur in how it is delivered.

Sally Warhaft, former editor of The Monthly, a national magazine on politics, society and the arts agrees and said newspapers are no longer going to be just “news” papers – they’re going to deliver something more. Perhaps this is why we have seen an increase in feature writing and investigative reporting among newspapers in their effort to offer something extra to their readers, as straight news becomes old quickly in a time where the internet dominates breaking stories.

So where does this leave us? The general consensus was that the craft of journalism still consists of the values it always has. The purpose is still to inform an audience. There are still those same passions to do the job today where reporters talk to people, deal with ideas and make a story out of it. The only difference is that the online sphere has changed the way in which we source and deliver that information. There are now new means to deal directly with people on the ground, at the scene of a story and via interaction online through feedback and comments.

Journalists will be required to work harder but still facilitate between the event and the audience – acting as the translator. Journalists now need to sell themselves in different ways across different platforms in order to get work. “You will need to be your own brand,” said Michael Gawenda, Director at the Centre for Advanced Journalism. It was agreed that it will be important for journalists to do something different to distinguish themselves in the industry.

Despite all the challenges and unanswered questions that lie ahead in the future of the journalism industry, what motivates new/young journalists entering the industry today when the competition is so fierce? Sally Warhaft made a comment in this forum that journalists wanting to enter the industry would be better off seeking work overseas because the opportunities are not available here in Australia. I received no response to this comment when I asked why she believes that is the case. But in an attempt to find an answer, do you believe that there are more opportunities to break into journalism overseas? And if so, which countries are offering these opportunities?

Should we be more optimistic about the opportunities in journalism as we head into the future, aided by technology and new ways to deliver stories?

Your thoughts on this discussion would be greatly received and I welcome you to post a comment below.

© 2010 Sharon Green. All files, words, content and articles on this site are the intellectual property of the writer and no person is authorised to copy or reproduce the material without the author’s prior consent.

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