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Journalism at the Crossroads: crisis and opportunity for the press

Journalism at the Crossroads: crisis and opportunity for the press

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Journalism at the Crossroads: crisis and opportunity for the press

5/5 (1 Bewertung)
147 Seiten
4 Stunden
Nov 7, 2011


A lively, spirited, and stirring critique of what is wrong with the Australian press — and how we might go about fixing it.

As newspaper subscription-rates decline, and mastheads lament what appears to be a broken business model, the future of journalism is uncertain. Yet, in an age of spin and the sideshow syndrome, quality journalism is more essential than ever before. How do we resolve the contradictions, and map out a path forward? And what do we mean by ‘quality’? As we face new, digital models for journalism, what might be worth preserving about the old models? How can journalists embrace new forms of media and technology, and engage more directly with their readers? Can journalism continue to contribute to a vibrant and robust democracy?

In Journalism at the Crossroads, journalist and media commentator Dr Margaret Simons explores the challenges and opportunities facing journalists as they confront the digital revolution and grapple with the changing role of journalism. Simons considers the role of the journalist in this new media landscape, why we still need quality news reporting, how new technologies can enhance traditional reporting, ways in which journalists and citizens can work together to break stories, and how media organisations can reinvigorate their newsrooms by engaging directly with the community.

The imperative to think about new ways of journalism has arrived, and it is time for all of us — citizens and journalists alike — to become involved in this vital debate.

Nov 7, 2011

Über den Autor

Margaret Simons is an award-winning journalist and the author of thirteen books, including biographies of Malcolm Fraser and Penny Wong. She won the 2015 Walkley Award for Social Equity Journalism and has been honoured with several Quill Awards for journalistic excellence.

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Journalism at the Crossroads - Margaret Simons

Scribe Publications


Margaret Simons is a freelance journalist and author, and director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne. She writes about the media for Crikey and has published nine books, including The Content Makers and, most recently, Malcolm Fraser: the political memoirs, which won Book of the Year and Best Non-fiction Book in the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards. In the past, Simons has worked for The Age and The Australian newspapers. As a freelancer, she has had work published in dozens of magazines and newspapers in Australia and overseas.

Scribe Publications Pty Ltd

18–20 Edward St, Brunswick, Victoria, Australia 3056


First published by Scribe 2012

Copyright © Margaret Simons 2012

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publishers of this book.

National Library of Australia

Cataloguing-in-Publication data

Simons, Margaret, 1960-

Journalism at the Crossroads: crisis and opportunity for the press.

Updated ed.

9781921942174 (e-book.)

1. Journalism–Australia–History–21st century. 2. Journalism–Technological innovations–Australia. 3. Online journalism–Australia.



Foreword by Michael Gawenda


ONE Journalism as an act of engaged citizenship

TWO Digital first

THREE Games we might play

FOUR Search, and you shall find

FIVE The citizens’ agenda

SIX Explaining the explainer

SEVEN The journalists in the audience

EIGHT Collaboration and independence

NINE The shape of the future




by Michael Gawenda

Thousands of young people around Australia are enrolled in journalism courses, hoping that they will have a future in the media. These courses are among the most popular at Australian universities. Yet the future of journalism — at least, mainstream journalism — is, at best, clouded. Mainstream media companies are taking on fewer and fewer trainees. When I was editor of The Age from 1997 to 2004, we took on an average of eight trainees every year. The Sydney Morning Herald hired around the same number; so, too, did the News Limited papers. Looking back, this was a golden age for journalism, or at least it was the last gasp of that golden age.

All the major newspapers are now downsizing. Fairfax has announced that 1,900 jobs will go over the next couple of years, that The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age will be published as tabloids from March 2013, and that the company’s major printing plants in Sydney and Melbourne will be closed. News Limited has also announced a major restructure for its newspapers; hundreds of journalist jobs will go there, as well.

One of the consequences of all this is that fewer and fewer positions will be available for those thousands of young people graduating from journalism courses, many of whom would make outstanding reporters. Indeed, in recent times, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald have taken on as trainees only two or three young reporters from the Fairfax suburban and regional papers.

The future of journalism is clouded and uncertain, basically because the business model for newspapers in broken. Newspapers have been — and remain — the major source of news, employing far greater numbers of journalists than television and radio combined. Until recently, that included the ABC, which now, for the first time, employs more journalists than the Fairfax metropolitan papers combined. The ABC has a business model that remains successful because it is taxpayer-funded; at least, it remains successful as long as governments continue to fund the ABC at a reasonable level. The business model that sustained newspapers for close to a century made them among the most profitable of businesses. Newspapers are a manufacturing business requiring very large investments in printing presses and distribution systems. Because the barriers to entry for new competitors were always very high, newspapers had a virtual monopoly in the markets in which they operated. This monopoly meant that they could deliver a mass audience for advertisers, especially classified advertisers — and that newspapers like The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald could charge what they liked for classified advertisements. No wonder Rupert Murdoch called the classifieds in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald ‘rivers of gold’.

Now those rivers of gold are drying up, exposing the fact that the journalism produced by newspapers was never profitable. The newspaper cover price never paid for more than around 20 per cent of the cost of the journalism, the printing, and the distribution of the papers. It was only the advertising that made newspapers profitable — and it is the leaking of advertising, especially classified advertising, to the internet, which has virtually destroyed the newspaper business model and has put in doubt the future of much of mainstream journalism.

It is not only the broken business model of newspapers that has put the future of mainstream — and by this I mean mass-market — journalism in doubt. Newspaper circulation in Australia, the US, and in much of the developed world was in long-term decline even before the internet and the advent of the digital revolution. Readership was ageing. Circulation did not keep up with population growth, let alone continue to grow in absolute terms. Desperate to address this long-term decline, newspaper companies produced bigger and bigger papers. During the 1980s, new sections (in the main, lifestyle sections) were introduced in an attempt to attract more — and younger — readers. In general, though, this didn’t arrest circulation and readership declines in the medium term. And it left companies with big papers that could not be sustained once the digital revolution arrived.

In the US, in Europe, and in Australia, media companies and their senior executives are wrestling with the challenges they confront — a broken business model and a digital environment that is rapidly evolving and changing. It would be fair to say that they have not, in the main, come up with answers to these challenges. There is not much evidence around to lead us to believe that those who grew up with ‘old’ media certainties are likely to be able to transcend their experience and their ‘success’. There is not much evidence to suggest that they can be bold enough, risk-taking enough, and honest enough to understand that their media world is vanishing and that, in the new media world, they and their companies are basically ill-equipped to take advantage of this revolution that is still in its infancy — let alone that they understand what is happening, and feel comfortable and optimistic about a future that they never imagined was possible. Even when that future was staring them in the face.

If you believe, as I do, that for all its failings — and there are many — vigorous and well-funded journalism is a vital part of our culture, and that we would be all significantly poorer as citizens of liberal democracies without such journalism, then we need more people like Margaret Simons, who has thought long and deeply about all the issues — and more — that I have raised here. In her columns for Crikey and in community panel discussions, in her work as a journalism educator and in her books, Margaret Simons has been an indefatigable explorer of the new and evolving journalism landscape, of the challenges facing journalism, of the strengths and weaknesses of mainstream media, and of the possibilities for renewal and growth in this new environment.

There is much in this book that is sobering for ‘old’ journalists — indeed, much that is chilling because Simons mounts a powerful argument that the world in which people like me were reporters and editors is coming to an end. The world that will replace it remains unclear, and Simons does not pretend to have any definitive answer to the big question that the mainstream media is grappling with: what can save these companies and the journalism — some very good, some not so good — that they have delivered to the communities they serve?

I think it is fair to say that Simons believes that nothing can save them in their current form, and that there are no definitive ‘answers’ to the challenges we face. There can’t be, because future journalism is coming at us fast and, like everything about the future, it is changing all the time and, in reality, is unknowable. But Simons is an optimist at heart. She writes with the passion and zeal of an optimist. She is not an ‘old’ journalist in mourning for the good old days. Thank goodness for that. She believes in experimentation and risk-taking. She is convinced that people still want good journalism and reliable information. She explores a range of journalism start-ups and experiments that offer hope for the future. None of these are prescriptive in the sense that they offer a settled road map for the digital age. Such a road map is simply not possible in revolutionary times.

I do not agree with everything Simons has to say about the future of journalism, but I think she is a voice to be reckoned with. I think this is a book that should be read by journalists and media company executives, and by all those people who reckon that journalism — good journalism — is vital for the health of our democracy. We need more thinkers about journalism like Margaret Simons. Perhaps this book will inspire people at large, and not just journalists, to get involved in this vital debate.

Michael Gawenda is a former editor and editor-in-chief of The Age, and was the inaugural director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne. In a career spanning three decades, he has been a political reporter, a foreign correspondent based in London and in Washington, a columnist, a feature writer, and an editor. He has also won numerous journalism awards, including three Walkley Awards.


Every few hundred thousand years, the magnetic field of the Earth reverses. If it happened today, compasses that once pointed north would point south, and all our understandings would have to be realigned.

Something like this is happening right now in the world of Australian journalism. Old certainties are collapsing, and new possibilities are becoming apparent. Within the large industrial enterprises in which most news-media content has been manufactured, the predominant mood is alarm, depression, and even despair. We are entering a post-industrial age in many branches of manufacturing, including perhaps the making of news-media content. Many things are coming to an end, and there is a great deal to grieve over. Yet, in the corners of the offices and among the bright young trainees, there is also hope. Never before in human history have we had such good tools for informing and for being informed. Many good journalists want to be part of building the future — of moving on to what

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  • (5/5)
    Great story I love how it was given. Good job writer! If you have some great stories like this one, you can publish it on Novel Star just submit your story to