Julia Gillard said some fascinating things to the National Press Club in Canberra this week.
Weekly travel times to work in capital cities has increased by up to an hour and a half a week in the past decade.
Australia has risen from the 15th largest economy in the world in the late 2000s to be 12th today.
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Two years ago late last month, something strange happened in the world of newspaper journalism in Britain.
For the first time in 25 years and in the midst of the worst recession in a generation, a new quality national masthead was launched.
The first edition of the simply titled “i” newspaper carried a serious front page story on the housing crisis and fears public spending cuts would hit economic confidence, but in the top corner of the front page was the headline “Is Bert Gay?” accompanied by a picture of the Muppets character and pointing to a story inside.
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What you’re about to read is a piece of original journalism, brought to you by the sugary zing of Old Brown Cola. Ahhh, you can’t beat the refreshing taste of Old Brown.
That statement isn’t true. There is no such company and this article isn’t brought to you by anyone, or any brand, whose core business isn’t (and hasn’t always been) journalism.
But it’s 2012. How sure of the independence of all the sources of your information can you really be?
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It dawned on me last week that I might be editing Australia’s last newspaper standing. Honi Soit, Sydney University’s scrapbook of student musings, has been published since 1929 and, unlike many other esteemed publications, looks set to remain in print for a long while to come.
Though not exactly rivers of gold, Honi is funded by a fairly consistent pool of funding from the Students’ Representative Council – which, though damaged by the introduction of voluntary student unionism under John Howard, has recently been boosted by the Gillard government’s student services and amenities fee.
Honi has no commercial imperative: indeed, it has no identifiable raison d’etre at all, other than to provide a platform for student writers and agitators to practise their craft. But practise for what?
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Newspapers are facing a crisis of confidence but like any crisis it is based partly on reality and partly on mythology. There is vast evidence that circulation is struggling worldwide as more people embrace the digital experience and want their news to follow them on their phone and their tablet. But there are many millions of people out there for whom the newspaper is still an integral part of their day. This week in Australia, News Limited alone will sell 12 million newspapers.
For many of you, if newspapers were to disappear tomorrow, it would wreak havoc on your morning coffee and ruin your lazy Sunday morning in bed, your partner reading Body and Soul while you devour the footy coverage. That’s not written out of any journalistic neediness, but because it is what people say. Millions of people have an affectionate relationship with their newspaper and newspapers still make many millions of dollars.
We have a weird situation in Australia where the second-biggest newspaper company appears to have decided that newspapers aren’t any good. I don’t write that with any mercenary sense of glee at Fairfax’s troubles – indeed it pains and angers me to watch their bosses act like a bunch of crazed sickle-wielding accountants, as a few of my closest friends in journalism work there.
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Reports out of the Fairfax buildings this morning were of stunned newsrooms, shocked into silence as Greg Hywood announced 1900 jobs to go, the broadsheets shrunk to compact size, printing presses closing, and an acceleration of the shift to a focus on digital.
The Fairfax statement to the Stock Exchange made it very clear the company is hanging its future on its news websites, which will start charging for some content.
Many people took to social media to decry the company charging for access to its sites, conveniently ignoring that someone has to pay the salaries. The share market reacted somewhat differently to the staff and readers, with Fairfax shares immediately jumping 4 per cent. Clearly investors are not nostalgic about the smell of newsprint.
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I was going to start this with a deliberately understated introduction along the lines of: This is not journalism’s finest hour. But then I remembered that the whole News of the World scandal was in fact unearthed by journalists. And then I couldn’t work out how to start.
Journalists are prone to navel gazing; the unkind would say that’s because of an over-inflated sense of our own importance. The kind would say it’s because we are aware of the inherent privilege and responsibility of what we do.
But you can’t deny the NOTW catastrophe is an incredibly significant story, so no wonder the non-News Ltd press are wallowing in it – gleefully, in many instances.
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As someone who works in PR I read a lot of news. Whether it’s print, radio, TV or online, I’m addicted.
A side effect of my news “habit” is that I tend to examine what the message of the story is. Who’s reflected positively? Who’s reflected negatively? What perception of the subject will the reader walk away with?
While websites like this one thrive on opinion, journalism has traditionally strived for objectivity. However, this is harder than it sounds; particularly when it comes to reporting issues that people hold dear.
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Much is made of the depressing and irrational intrusion of the “Politics of Fear”.
We all lament how our political parties are prone to distorting statistics, leaving out facts, stigmatizing minorities, corrupting words, oversimplifying situations and events or just plain making stuff up.
We criticize the media for their willingness to spread the “politics of fear” throughout the population and most of all we just hate the fact that it seems to work. Given its ever-increasing influence it’s worth pondering why.
This column is proudly brought to you by BMW. Or Mercedes Benz. Or Holden (if I’m desperate).
Advertising and editorial – traditionally uneasy bedfellows – are having uninhibited sex at the moment. Instead of protesting, we media sluts have joined the orgy, legs in the air like frozen chooks (from Steggles, of course – Steggles for quality).
How long before we see newspaper stories headlined, “Tony Abbott surges ahead in the polls” (sponsored by Nutri-Grain – Iron Man Food).
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Three new books about groundbreaking figures in Australian journalism - a proprietor, an editor and a reporter – provide some interesting insights into the contemporary media landscape.
The three men are: Rupert Murdoch, who needs no introduction, Graham Perkin, revered ‘60s and ‘70s editor of The Age after whom we name one of our highest journalism awards, and Alan Reid, guru of the Canberra press gallery from the late ‘50s to early ‘70s.
The three books are reviewed in the June issue of The Australian Literary Review today. Les Carlyon, no slouch himself, looks at Alan “The Red Fox” Reid: Pressman Par Excellence, by Ross Fitzgerald and Stephen Holt; former Fairfax editor Max Suich tackles Breaking News: The Golden Age of Graham Perkin, by Ben Hills; and Clive Mathieson, a rising star at The Australian, considers his boss’s big deal in War at the Wall Street Journal: How Rupert Murdoch Bought an American Icon, by Sarah Ellison.
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If you weren’t aware it’s big day in the UK today. It is general election day, and will see eith Gordon Brown ousted as Prime Minister to be replaced by the first Conservative Prime Minister in 13 years, or see Labour given an unprecedented fourth term in Government.
London’s two big tabloids have backed different parties.
The Sun, a newspaper who backed Tony Blair 13 years ago, is now firmly behind Conservative David Cameron, the man who has painted himself as Blair’s natural successor.
Meanwhile the Daily Mirror has continued their support for the Labour Party, making Cameron’s privileged upbringing the focus of the attack. They make it more explicit in an alternate front page you can see below the fold, which reminds readers he was a member of Oxford’s famous Bullingdon Club (along with London Mayor Boris Johnson) that would go around trashing pubs and writing cheques for the damage.
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It would have been the 1880 equivalent of the confessional interview on A Current Affair. Ned Kelly, interviewed by The Age in Beechworth gaol was, if he was being accurately quoted, surprisingly well-spoken and philosophical about his run-ins with authority.
“I do not pretend that I have led a blameless life, or that one fault justifies another,” Kelly said, “but the public in judging a case like mine should remember that the darkest life may have a bright side, and that after the worst has been said against a man, he may, if he is heard, tell a story in his own rough way that will perhaps lead them to mitigate the harshness of their thoughts against him, and find as many excuses for him as he would plead for himself.”
The Kelly interview is one of the many nuggets you’ll find in even the most cursory of searches through Trove, an archiving service of the National Library which started this year and last week marked the one millionth newspaper page scanned into its archives.
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You say you want a revolution
Well, you know we all want to change the world ...
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know, we’re doing what we can ...
You read news. So you know there’s a revolution going in the news industry, with much untargeted crossfire, rattling of virtual sabres and foaming at the mouth about paid content.
Rude words have been said. Like “parasite”. And “money”.
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If you could design your own domestic news service, what would it look like?
Taking off my News Limited hat and speaking as a general reader, mine would involve a few things - plenty of hard news, mostly politics, stacks of AFL, provocative and entertaining opinion pieces, heaps of food, music and cinema journalism.
I’d never read celebrity gossip, clubby or dull business journalism (that is, almost all of it) or another impenetrable word of motoring writing about the latest unaffordable car with a 28 kilowatt, 6.2 litre engine and variable-valve timing control.
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For an open, organic, freedom-loving Utopia, there are a great many wannabe digital dictators on the Internet, vomiting forth mandates on how we must behave, speak, and do business. The Ethos of the Web, they call it; they know what is right, what is wrong, what will work, and what will fail.
So in May, when Rupert Murdoch tabled the idea of paywalling his newspapers, the Glorious Leaders of Twitterstan took to their keyboards, and registered their disdain with an all-caps “FAIL!”
“You can’t charge for content! Information wants to be free! Show your support by donating to my PayPal account!” Every Social Media Expert and Futurist hustling for speaking fees and fat consultancies knows, unequivocally, that newspapers are dinosuars; one edition short of extinction.
What will journalism look like in twenty years? Will newspapers still exist? Punch research journalist Kelly Simpson and four of her fellow students from the University of Technology Sydney gaze into the crystal ball…
Kelly Simpson – Postgraduate journalism student, UTS: How did you hear that Michael Jackson had died? That we’d lost the Ashes?
Print is dead, I’ve been assured. I’ve missed the glory days. There’ll be no ink smudged copy for me, no physical front page, no morning AND evening editions of the newspapers.
Australia lost one of its finest writers today with the death of journalist Frank Devine, age 77.
Frank’s columns brought joy to thousands of readers. He wrote with grace, wit, humour and charm; he was politically conservative but he never thundered or railed, and was a master of dry self-deprecation - in one recent column, filed when he was aged well into his seventies, he joked that his affection for John Howard “bordered on the homo-erotic.”
He was a terrifically kind and giving man who despite having soared as a journalist - he edited The Australian, The Chicago Sun-Times and The New York Post - remained affable and approachable, and a mentor to the young.
The Australian publishes a terrific celebration of his life here by former Liberal MP and Quadrant editor Peter Coleman.
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RUSSELL Crowe knows better than most the blurred line between news and entertainment. “I’ve been living it for 30 years,” he tells The Punch while in the UK to film his latest blockbuster Robin Hood.
So it’s a little surprising to hear him bemoan the death of the “noble profession” of newspaper journalism, as across the United States, in particular, flag ship periodicals are closing or are being slashed to the bone.
Clearly the recession is to blame, combined perhaps with poor overall management. But Crowe believes it’s also because the reader has evolved into a cynic with an inability to discern fact from fiction due in no small way to the celebrity culture.
How about this? It’s from 1995:
A lesser-known Guns ‘N’ Roses song called 14 Years is a particularly apt theme for Costello’s day. Below is some video to listen to while browsing the post:
I try and feel the sunshine
You bring the rain
You try and hold me down
With your complaints…
... You know, I’ve been the beggar…
I’ve played the thief
I was the dog…they all tried to beat
But it’s been 14 years of silence
It’s been 14 years of pain
It’s been 14 years that are gone forever
And I’ll never have again.
After Peter Costello resigned it’s worth re-living some of his highs and lows as featured on the front pages of newspapers. You can share your favourite memories of him here - and we’ll take requests on this post for any particular front pages you want reprinted.
This, from July 2006, also deserves a special place in the sun. The rest are below the fold.
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