Stuck Inside of Mobile

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Photo Courtesy The Guardian

The digital revolution will not be televised. And it’s not in the newspapers either. In fact, media companies don’t seem to get the revolution at all.

A decade and half since newspapers started distractedly plastering their content all over the internet (mistaking the web as just another publishing platform), the media owners are getting whacked anew. Continue reading

Reinventing Journalism

It is a painful time for many journalists. Cast aside from the failing industry that used to provide them with a secure living, they are confused, frustrated and in some cases downright angry that society no longer seems to put a dollar value on the skills they worked so hard to perfect.

That the wounds of mass redundancies are still raw was rammed home to me last week when I took part in a panel at an inner Sydney hotel organised by the Public Interest Journalism Foundation (PJIF) to “share ideas and experiences around innovation in journalism”. Continue reading

Learning to Count

“1, 2, 3, 4, Let’s Go!” Journalists are words people. They take pride in their propensity to pun and parse and prune and parry. They are also instinctive types. They tend to rank gut feel above logic and numbers. In a nutshell, journalists are analog people lost in a digital era. And this may be their problem. Continue reading

Down to the Crossroads

Hundreds of young people in Australia enter communication degrees each year in anticipation of securing jobs in journalism that no longer exist. How must that make a journalism educator like Margaret Simons feel?

Well, not as depressed as you might think. In fact, as the title of her new book attests (‘Journalism at the Crossroads: Crisis and Opportunity for the Press‘), Simons – the director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne –  paints a tentatively hopeful picture of the future of the craft which has been her living for most of her life. Continue reading

Citizen Kane to Citizen Mayne

Ten years ago, online publisher Crikey under then owner Stephen Mayne fought a fruitless battle with the Howard government to win access to the budget lock-up in Canberra. Despite producing what  was unequivocally journalism, Mayne’s operation was deemed not to be a media outlet. It’s a snub our newly digitising established media companies might want to consider.

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Death Notices

Many journalists, while naturally inquisitive about the world, have a curious blind-spot about the economics driving the industry supporting their trade. If only the public would buy newspapers again, they say, the advertisers would return and the industry would be saved. Yes, and if only kids would stop downloading music online, record stores might reappear.
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Oh, THAT guy

 

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).

Reimagining Journalism

If you were starting a journalistic enterprise today, what would you do? You could sink $50 million into printing, marketing and distribution, hire 30 staff  and pray that Murdoch doesn’t destroy you before your credit runs dry. No thanks.

Or you could start from first principles, ask what journalism is for and go from here. For most of us who sought to make a living from this profession/craft/trade in the last few decades, it’s been about hitching our aspirations to a mainstream media company. But given the grim plight of industrial era journalism, that’s not a career move one would recommend to youngsters today. Continue reading

Blogalism

A US court’s $2.5 million ruling against a blogger for defaming a businessman has sparked a flurry of new attempts to define journalism in relation to blogging. My view on what constitutes journalism is similar to what someone once said about por**graphy – I know it when I see it.

While this won’t help the judges, you can be certain that earnest attempts to define a journalist in legal terms will lead to nothing but confusion. The Americans, with their black letter law pedantry, just love debates of this kind because it keeps much of the legal profession in business.
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I’ve Seen That Movie Too

As the ABC mulls the falling ratings for its flagship 730 current affairs show, it might want to consider whether the problem isn’t so much the presenter or the physical set or the stories – but the conventional television narratives that have become so hackneyed that no-one can be bothered paying attention anymore.
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