October 10, 2013
Australia has a very concentrated media ownership, and the Canberra Press Gallery have lost most of their credibility in a digital world. After the last four years they are no longer seen to be speaking truth to power. They are no longer the fourth estate. They are partisans and entertainers. Their columns are rarely taken seriously in the digital era.
What now exists are fragments of credibility of the journalist as investigator, verifier, or as interpreter, since the old model of the all-seeing all-knowing journalists, delivering words from on high for readers to take in has collapsed in a world. In this world post the old broadcast model of production and delivery we are all flooded with information,in spite of the pay-walls being erected by the big, old media companies to protect their business model.
The response by many of the Gallery's members to the digital disruption and shift in power is to barricade themselves in, building higher walls than ever. They are defending their traditions, their titles, their access, their status--ie., their gatekeeping in the democratic space of the open web. This is a world of the drain of talent and experience from newsrooms, the rolling 24/7 cycle, and the turn to celebrity tattle for click bait.
Katherine Murphy in The Guardian has reflected on these structural adjustments and Jonathon Green's critique of the Gallery journalism as coverage of politics by commentators who were undeclared players and shallow updates by conflict addicts.
Murphy says about the loathed scribes of the parliamentary press gallery:
Politics has not covered itself in glory. We who cover it have not covered ourselves in glory either. I’m not afraid of the blunt force of Green's critique and I think if the response to it is reflexively defensive, then we only serve to reinforce the general contention that we are trapped inside the hubris bubble – a bubble that will not only fundamentally fail the readers we serve, but serve as the enduring emblem of our unhinging.
Murphy says that the gallery journalists are filing too much and not adding enough value.
At our worst, we are captured, manipulated, shallow, partisan, skittish, clubbish, transactional. We’ve been mugged by the politicians we are supposed to be keeping in check, conforming to their stupid rules of engagement, regurgitating their silly talking points, passing off spoon feeding as “scoops”, frightened by the now incredibly rapid and irreversible diminution of our influence, chasing the old certainties that are long since gone. Our collective pomposity is the only remaining artifact of a time where we controlled the discourse, and had the grace to share our "wisdom" with the audience. In the epic battle in political journalism between independence and access, access too often wins.
The journalists haven't simply been mugged by the politicians. They have got into bed with them, become political players and partisans in an increasingly divided political world, and see their job to be spin merchants and publicists for their political friends. They are a part of the public relations industry that seeks political influence.