Black, white and dead all over

The supposed decline of the print newspaper industry has commanded many column inches in the UK and around the world. Just after arriving in Melbourne, I attended journalism union Media Alliance’s conference on the future of journalism and wrote a story on it for Press Gazette.

A report launched alongside the event confirmed that the trends that have sent print media in the US and UK into decline are gathering pace in Australia. A keynote speech from US media expert Phil Meyer suggest that a leaner, more technologically driven industry will emerge from the ashes of the old one. This raised questions about how journalists would adapt to the changing environment.

In a discussion on the economics of journalism, Ivor Ries, head of research, EL&C Baillieu Stockbroking, predicted that newspapers are in for “ten years of hell”, but that things would improve once titles work out how to make money from the internet. Old mastheads were seen by most participants as the best place for this innovation, but one speaker said that if these titles can’t come up with the goods they should be bought out by someone who can.

There was also some debate on how journalism schools and the employers should prepare new entrants to the industry.

  • Journalism should be attracting more entrepreneurs, who could help attract newspapers adapt to changes in the media, according to Jan Schaffer, former Pulitzer Prize winner and executive director of J-Lab. She says that three Journalism Schools in the US are already nurturing entrepreneurship in journalists.
  • Schaffer added that the profession need to figure out how to attract the kind of people who design computer programmes. “It’s a big stretch for most journalists,” she admitted.
  • However most speakers agreed that traditional journalism skills such as accuracy, fairness and spotting an angle remain core skills.
  • They agreed that multitasking can only go so far and that there must be an acceptance that a journalist can’t be good at everything.

In a discussion on training the journalists of the future, Colin McKinnon, Learning and Development Manager for Editorial at The Age warned against getting too “hung up” on technology and forgetting the basics of journalism, such as fact checking, fairness and balance. Laurie Zion, Senior Lecturer and Journalism Coordinator, Media Studies Program, La Trobe University, agreed that students need to know the basics such as what to write and how to talk to people. He added that students need to be made aware that the formats of the future on are not necessarily the formats they are working on at the moment.

Read more about the event at Crikey (where you will hopefully find a link to their twitter feed)

…or on the Future of Journalism website

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