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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

in Melbourne on a photo shoot « Previous | |Next »
October 20, 2011

I'm off to Melbourne for four days on a phototrip. As I won't be taking my computer with me so I will not be blogging. The emphasis, when I'm not with Suzanne, will primarily be on photography -- the large format style and it will concentrate on this kind of urban work. There will also be a lot of digital snap shots taken.

I'll be back on deck on Tuesday after The Australian has gone behind a paywall in an attempt to ensure that readers became more used to paying for what they could previously access online free, and to extra revenue flows.

There does not seem to be much commentary on The Australian's paywall experiment and how it will impact on both political journalism and the media given that the transition from print to digital, the 24 hour news cycle, and the media (feral beast) constantly moving on to the ever new instant. Will the culture of contempt practiced by News Ltd be limited to its tabloids?

We do have Laurie Oaks' Andrew Olle Media Lecture 2011, which is a defense of journalism. He says that the trust issue worries him because journalism is so central to the operation of our democracy:

We like to think of ourselves as watchdogs, keeping the bastards honest .... And that IS part of our role. But, probably more important, in my view, we in journalism are the intermediaries in the conversation between voters and politicians that makes the whole thing work. If people lose trust in what we do, how can they maintain faith in the process?...There's been a lot of criticism of political journalism recently .... Much of the criticism is directly related to this democratic dialogue between punters and pollies that we as members of the Fourth Estate are supposed to facilitate. Trust is just one aspect. What the criticism boils down to is that the changing character of the media is distorting the conversation with damaging consequences for the way our political system works. Or doesn't work.

He interprets the changing character of the media as a "dumbing down" into a sideshow:
The argument is that, with media organisations under siege from commercial pressures and technological innovation, the balance in political reporting has shifted away from providing information and towards entertainment. And that this, and the way politicians have responded, is trivialising politics and dumbing down debate.

Oaks reckons the core criticism--it's the media's fault--- is overstated, and he argues against the criticism. The fact that politicians make policy decisions on the basis of what will get the most favourable media coverage rather than what's best for the nation is due to weak politicians not the media. He adds that if you want to see a real dumbing down of politics, treat yourself to another look at recent election campaign commercials from both sides.

Oaks says that the contempt for politicians constantly on show in the media is a factor in eroding faith in the political system. That contempt arises from political parties and governments using massive resources into trying to control what journalists do and say.

Update 2
Tim Dunlop has addressed the issue of the Australian's paywall at The Drum and he goes to the heart of the matter ---that News Ltd reckons that people will pay for great journalism. Dunlop says:

News Ltd are obviously banking on the idea that The Australian produces enough quality journalism to generate enough subscriptions for the site to make a profit....How realistic is this? Not very, in my view, and at least part of the answer has to do with partisanship .... The Australian is ground zero for hardline, anti-Labor, so-called "campaigning" journalism, a position that has solidified since federal Labor came to power in 2007. This editorial disposition has made them a laughing stock amongst at least half the market for serious journalism they are going to need to make the paywall pay.

Unlike Fox News in the US The Australian cannot afford to pursue a partisan audience in Australia because that niche is not large enough to be profitable.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:01 PM | | Comments (3)


avagood(long)weegend and while you're there, chuck a brick through a windows at parliament house for us will you; apart from the "zzz" sound.
Look at those cobwebs.
There seems so little actually happening there...

Thanks Paul.
Melbourne is booming--in the CBD. It is rapidly becoming Australia's premier city.

Here's how to get round The Australian's paywall