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September 2, 2008 / Amy Bradney-George

Journalism in Australia – young people and the future

In this day and age it’s hard not to engage with journalism on some level. It’s in news agencies, on TV, radio and the internet, and with the development of globalisation it’s becoming even more important to engage with journalism on some level. So what is journalism like at the moment, and how could it change in the near future in Australia?

The answer’s not simple, and in an (arguably) postmodern world, everyone’s perception of the media is different. But there are certain views emerging which I feel the need to comment on. As someone who has both learnt about and practised journalism, it’s important to engage in the current perspectives on this industry, and to develop theories relevant to the individual’s experiences. Some of the views being thrown around at the moment seem to me particularly cynical.

One view which springs to mind is that young people are engaging with journalism more and more through new media, and ignoring the traditional formats. As a young person, I regularly go to networking sites like Myspace, online news providers like Google News (Australia), ABC Online, BBC Online and LiveNews.com.au. However, I also listen to ABC News Radio and ABC Radio National, watch ABC and Seven News regularly, as well as the occasional current affairs show, and read The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, local community-based newspapers and, sometimes, The Courier Mail. I admit it’s a lot of news, and not every young person may engage with the media as much, but the idea of young people accessing news from predominantly online sources seems ridiculous to me.

The internet is some fifteen years older, younger than the “young people” I am guessing these assumptions are aimed at, and as such it is still a relatively new platform for journalism. When something is new there tends to be more room for errors, exploration and trial-and-error processes. Some news websites have enabled user-generated content (UGC) by encouraging their audience to submit story ideas and media like photographs, audio or video and allowing comments on the content of the site. Some do so more than others, but in general UGC makes online journalism more involving for the public. Young people seem to enjoy being involved in the experience, so I assume that’s where this view stems from.

Having said that, a lot of the sites I visit have comments clearly left by people older than these “young people” talked about. The internet is a non-discriminatory format anyone can engage with, and to make the generalisation that young people get most of their news and information online is limiting how young people are perceived.

Most of the young people I know believe credible journalism is predominant in traditional forms of news like newspapers, radio and television. Online journalism has the potential to combine elements from all three of these forms, but it doesn’t seem to be quite there yet (at least not in a broad sense). It’s fast developing, but that doesn’t mean the other forms will die out just yet.

I was watching the ABC show Q&A (episode 15) last week, and heard the federal Minister for Small Business Craig Emerson voice an opinion of current media forms and new media forms which is similar to what I believe.

“Don’t write off the traditional media,” he says, “People were writing off newspapers a decade ago and newspapers are still, notwithstanding these current problems, are still going pretty strongly. I think it’s just a changing world.” (Craig Emerson, Q&A, Episode 15, 28/08/08, ABC1)

It is a changing world, but I think there’s a place in it for all forms of media. I find, in particular, the idea that newspapers are a dying breed, to be cynical and narrow-minded in substance. It may seem that way at first glance, with most major newspapers in Australia getting lower circulation numbers than in the past, but to say newspapers will die out is not seeing the rest of the picture. People still buy newspapers. Why, if the internet has the same articles for free? Or if the TV and radio news get stories before papers go to print?

I think it’s because of the experience. Reading a newspaper is different to reading news online, or seeing or hearing it. I don’t buy papers every day, but I make a point of buying at least one on the weekend, and usually two or three during the week. I like reading newspapers because they seem to have a depth to them that other forms of journalism don’t.

On the other hand, I like listening to radio news because of the immediacy of it, because it’s current and relevant and engaging in a way reading isn’t. Television is different again, with sound and images as well as a script, and I like to watch the news to see how things have happened. Online can be all three, and that makes it amazingly versatile. But there are aspects of each form which can’t are mutually exclusive to other forms, which means all sources of journalism will probably be around so long as the experience is enjoyed.

There’s also other benefits I can see from having different sources of journalism. In Australia, the media ownership is concentrated between a few organisations, which many believe has led to a lack of diversity of opinion in the media. I would argue that the diversity of formats for journalism means there is diversity in the opinions presented. News providers may be owned by one overarching organisation, but the people involved in online will be different to the people involved in television or print or radio, which means the news will differ between formats regardless of ownership. It may not be ideal, but it is at least providing some diversity.

While the future of journalism may be indeterminate, intangible or indefinable, I think we can all too easily assume one outcome without looking at other possibilities. Our own judgements define what we see as the future, but it’s important to look at other opinions and keep an open mind. Without that, what else is there?

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3 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Random T. / Apr 22 2009 4:51 pm

    I noticed that this is not the first time at all that you write about the topic. Why have you chosen it again?

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  1. Aspiring Australian journalists - “do something new” « Amy Bradney-George’s Weblog
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