You are here


The Power of News Agencies over Journalism

The final speaker in this ANZCA 2009 session is Jane Johnston, whose interest is in the economy of news agencies - and she begins with a couple of hoax press releases which were converted into mainstream news stories by the Australian-based press agency AAP. Such stories were widely published by a number of Australian mainstream online news sites and newspapers.

This is great success for the press release writers, but it was conversion into stories by the AAP which created such wide coverage; it highlights the role of press agencies, and points to the near-monopoly of the AAP as a news agency in Australia.

Opportunities for the ABC Online

The next presenter at ANZCA 2009 is Toija Cinque, who continues the discussion especially of public broadcasting in the online environment. The Net increases the diversity of information available to inform the citizenry, of course - but public broadcasters continue to be bound also by their charters and need to adddress their obligations.

Journalism is now becoming more a process than a product, and this provides journalists with less and less time to ascertain what is true and significant. This may mean that the public now gets more pure opinion than factual detail - and crowdsourcing information from users only adds more problems with fact-checking to this process. This also pertains to the use of hyperlinks on news Websites, of course - one reason why still so few mainstream news Websites link to information outside of their own sites (in addition to the desire not to provide easy avenues for users to leave the news organisation's own site).

New Models for Journalism, beyond the Citizen

The next session at ANZCA 2009 starts with a paper by my colleague Terry Flew, who is also the chair of the conference. He begins by noting the old trope of the journalist as hero (as embodied for example by Messrs. Woodward and Bernstein in the Watergate affair), and its decline (Glenn Milne is the anti-hero in this context). There are substantial impacts of Web 2.0 technologies on contemporary journalism, of course, and there are serious questions about the future role of journalism. News organisations have most trouble, in fact, not in coming to terms with new technologies but with this new lack of deference to their once powerful position.

Australian Political Blogs and the Obama Inauguration

The third speaker in this session at ANZCA 2009 is Tim Highfield, who works on a comparative study of political blogs in Australia and France (and is one of my PhD students). He focusses here on the Australian side and its reaction to the inauguration of Barack Obama. The project tracks some 245 blogs and news Websites in Australia, and extracts from these each post (and its links) as they become available online. These data are then quantitatively analysed for keyword and link patterns.

The Obama inauguration was a major political event, of course, and provided a useful case study for this work; other such samples could be the swine flu epidemic or the 'utegate' controversy storm in a teacup. Interestingly, only about 50 blogs in the population published a post or more during the two weeks surrounding the inauguration (possibly due to the fact that January is a major holiday month in Australia). There was no major spike on inauguration day itself, either.

Future Directions for SBS

The next session at ANZCA 2009 is a panel session discussing the future role of public service broadcasting, focussing on Australia's multicultural broadcaster SBS. This is introduced by my colleague Terry Flew, who notes that SBS is a distinctively different type of public broadcaster, making a very specific contribution to multiculturalism and citizenship.

The first panellist to speak is Stuart Cunningham from the CCi. If SBS had to be invented today, he says, it wouldn't be - today's media environment is fundamentally different from that of the 1970s and 1980s from which it emerged, and today there is a plethora of media channels available to citizens. Additionally, the role of public broadcasters has changed fundamentally - the culture wars of the past decades render a government intervention for the development of a public broadcaster to promote multiculturalism inconceivable today. Protection and projection of public culture is no longer an unproblematic public goal.

Geovisualising Perceptions of Adelaide's Northern Suburbs

The next speaker at ANZCA 2009 is Jess Pacella, who focusses on new opportunities in cultural geography by combining Global Information Services and cultural studies approaches. The role of mental maps emerging from semi-structured interviews is particularly interesting here, and Jess explores this in the context of media depictions of Adelaide's northern suburbs and their effects on residents' mental depictions of the area.

South Australian media present a consistently negative image of the northern suburbs; this leads to Adelaide watching this place in a particular way. Jess and her team monitored news stories in a number of state outlets, and found an overwhelmingly negative coverage, focussing especially on crime. This also leads to residents downplaying their origins in job applications and similar documents.

Images of Impending Death in Journalism

Over the next few days I'll be blogging from the ANZCA 2009 conference - one which I didn't have to travel very far for, as it's held right here on the QUT Creative Industries Precinct down from my office. We begin with a keynote by Barbie Zelitzer, President of the International Communication Association, whose focus is on the visual depiction of death in the news. Such images require the viewer to imagine what we cannot see, but then, news is supposed to tell us what is there. The moment of death is one of the most powerful images in the news, and raises (amongst others) a wide range of ethical issues. Key recent examples include images related to the 'war on terror', from the 11 September attacks to the hanging of Saddam Hussein.

Final Words on the Future of the Media Industries

The final speaker for Alcatel-Lucent Foundation / HBI 2009 is Gabriele Siegert from the University of Zürich, who summarises the conference. She begins by noting the unwillingness of citizens to continue to pay for media, and suggests that changed orientation in media organisations will necessarily also change the content of the media - product placement, for example, will necessarily affect the content within which products are placed.

There are two key areas here: the structural changes in advertising, for which product placement is one phenomenon - it is a sign of a new logic which is present well beyond television entertainment. However, this new model will not replace more conventional advertising; not least, it has yet to be researched in full.

Challenges for the Media Industry

The next speaker is Dieter Klumpp, Director of the Alcatel-Lucent Foundation, host of Alcatel-Lucent Foundation / HBI 2009. Changes in what is considered to be quality content are driven by changes to the entire media sector - old media are perhaps being substituted in part by new media, but the demand for information has not grown as quickly as the availability of content, so this is nowhere near a full substitution. There is a suggestion that the public is being atomised, that it is fragmenting, and what quality means is ever more difficult to identify.

Quality Journalism Is Defined by Its Audiences

Up next at Alcatel-Lucent Foundation / HBI 2009 is Rainer Esser, Managing Director of the Zeit publishing house (which publishes Germany's leading weekly newspaper). He begins by suggesting that there will always be a market for quality journalism - but what is defined as quality journalism may be changing. If conventional 'quality journalism' no longer has a market in the current environment, this isn't the fault of users who 'are no longer interested in quality' - it is a problem with diverging definitions of 'quality' between producers and users.


Subscribe to RSS - Journalism