This is Jim Parker, a former financial journalist and now corporate communications flak. He’s also known as Mr Denmore.
I’ve kept this blog going for 18 months as ‘Mr D’ and I plan to keep doing so. But I thought it was about time I revealed my daytime persona.
By the way, I’m neither a public servant nor an academic, so those loyal foot soldiers of Rupert can’t pin those particular hate crimes on me.
But I do have an interest in the state of journalism and I can’t see why I shouldn’t be able to express my opinion publicly.
I spent 26 years in journalism – starting in commercial radio in New Zealand, then public radio, then radio in Australia. I even worked for the ABC briefly. Most of my career, though, was in wire services – particularly Reuters (still the best news organisation in the world in my view).
My last six years in journalism were with The Australian Financial Review, our best newspaper. While my experiences there weren’t particularly pleasurable – I was associated with their less-than-stellar ventures in television and online media – I nevertheless learned much.
In 2006, I quit the media for a full-time role in corporate communications in the financial services sector. Part of my daytime job involves speaking to financial and other professionals about how the media works and what a tough gig daily journalism can be.
After four years watching the (often uninformed) commentary on blogs about journalism, I thought I would offer my own pseudonymous contribution. I wrote a few pieces for Mark Bahnisch at the now defunct Larvatus Prodeo under the title of The Failed Estate.
This eventually led to the creation of a blog of the same name in August 2010. I kept the Mr Denmore tag going not because I was evading scrutiny but because I needed to keep (and still do) my blogging persona separate from my professional persona. This is the case for many people who have something to contribute to public debate, but who are reluctant to do so for fear of compromising their paid employment.
As it is, my employers know about the blog and are happy for me to continue, providing I don’t cut across or talk about issues that compromise my paid role. So you’ll see my blog posts, written in my own time, almost always appear late on Sunday or Monday nights. You also won’t hear any “stock picks” or interest rate forecasts from me. Not allowed.
Anyway, I never hid who I was from people who asked. Quite a few former journalist colleagues were aware of who Mr D was, as did a few former contacts in economics, politics and financial markets and other bloggers.
So why did I leave till now revealing who I am? Well, it’s partly because I’ve been invited to speak at a seminar in Canberra next week along with Finkelstein inquiry assistant, Professor Matt Ricketson and digital media guru Craig Thomler. (I’m going to Canberra in my own time and at my own expense by the way – no taxpayer funds involved).
But I also agree with journalists who say that critics of the media need to be upfront about their affiliations and identify. That’s a fair call. Having said that, I think many people concerned about the drift in our political and media discourse (“drink”!) feel reluctant to contribute to the discussion because of the vitriol coming out of certain quarters. (Witness the smearing of academics recently for seeking to improve the accountability of media organisations to their readerships.)
Finally, I don’t think you stop being a journalist and seeing the world as a journalist just because you leave the paid employment of an industrial age mainstream media organisation.
In fact, for any journalists wondering about life after traditional ‘news’ journalism, you can be assured that your skills in communication, filtering, editing, writing, research and analysis are just as valuable outside the media as they are inside. (BTW, I still do some paid journalism for Radio New Zealand and for the Sydney Morning Herald, but only rarely and with full disclosure).
And the great thing about social media and blogs is that many fine former journalists and policy experts and academics can continue to write and participate in public discussions among people of all political persuasions.
More voices from all sides of the debate are what we need in a functioning democracy. Mine is only one voice and I don’t pretend it is any more important or more influential or any more valid than any other. But a diversity of views is a good thing, don’t you think?
(A final disclosure: The great man in the Mr Denmore photo is Michael Joseph Savage, the only Australian-born Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Kiwis’ own version of Curtin. Yes, yes, he was a lefty).