Mar 152016
what is the future of journalism

For years I resisted attending the Tech Leaders conference, formerly Kickstart, as I felt a bit of an imposter being invited to attend as a journalist.  As a consequence I missed the peak days of the event.

In the ‘good old days’ dozens of journalists, most in the employ of profitable media companies, would fly to a Queensland resort to wine, dine and debauch themselves as PR agencies who were picking up the tab would try to introduce their clients and pitch to the group of hungover scribes.

Funding these events was relatively straightforward, public relations agencies and their clients were happy to pay substantial sums for access to journalists. In the golden days of technology journalism, large IT supplements were full of lucrative advertising for jobs and products.

That river of advertising gold has long dried up and in the technology industry that shift has been exacerbated by the collapse in IT industry margins which has further hurt advertising budgets.

As the industry has faded so too have the numbers of media professionals, many journalists have either moved into PR roles themselves or are now desperate freelancers.

The industry shift to freelancers has been problematic for the organisers as the remaining staff journalists are chronically time poor so can’t lightly take a day away from the desk and the independent reporters don’t offer direct access into trade journals and general news outlets.

Events like Tech Leaders are giving the PR industry a glimpse of the journalist free media landscape of the near future where the traditional pitching to outlets in the hope of being published is effectively obsolete. Looking at the numbers at Tech Leaders, it’s clear that world is not far off.

The question everyone in the industry has to ask is ‘how do people perceive I add value?’ For many, including myself, the answer is ‘we don’t’.

In an age where there is an almost unlimited supply of information and commentary, journalists and PR people have to find a new way to convince the market they add value.

  5 Responses to “Towards the post journalist media world”

  1. Terrified by the concept of all copy written about tech brands, products and experiences being prepared by PR agents. Although having said that, I suspect audiences would just ignore PR agents in their droves, and turn to citizen journalists.

    • I agree Joanne, the problem for citizen journalists – something I’m going to blog about following some of the Ad:Tech sessions yesterday – is they don’t have the resources for investigative journalism or to resist legal pressures. Things are getting very complex.

  2. “The question everyone in the industry has to ask is ‘how do people perceive I add value?’ For many, including myself, the answer is ‘we don’t’.”

    Why Journalism Matters.

    I read your piece last night around 1am. Made me angry, the ways things will at 1am.
    I lay awake wondering why I was angry. I think it’s because that statement feels like a surrender, and that’s so not what journalism is about.

    Sometimes journalists get disheartened. They have right to. I was speaking with another, younger journalist friend a couple of days back. She was proper angry. A publisher had failed to have her back on a story – a situation I’m sure most every journalist has come across.

    Let me say this: I’m not a journalist. Not the skill or the courage for it. I’m a journalist fanboy. I love proper journalism. Long-form articles, in-depth career pieces, old 40’s and 50’s and 60’s sports journalism .

    I hate Rupert Murdoch, almost by reflex; but I took a job at News Ltd on the Australian in part because their editors once went to jail rather than reveal a source.

    I‘m very proud to have also worked at MediaConnect, because I got to play up close with journos. Fascinating beasts that you are.

    Yes. I’m a journalism fan. I love Mark Twain, he makes me laugh out loud on public transport – as does PJ O’Rourke, whose writing I once defended in a barfight with a largish former bush-rugby-reporting/playing journalist, whose name escapes me (but his size doesn’t).

    I’m a fan of journalism. Woodward & Bernstein. David Frost. And closer to home, as a kid I loved watching Jana Wendt stun politicians with simple directness; and then pin them to the table like a moth collector with an odd specimen – laid out, there for the study, shorn of pretence. Remember George Negus, one on one with the Iron Lady? Magic, thrilling stuff.

    And we need that now, more than ever. We need journalists. We need that moral courage. That willingness to tell the truth to power, without fear or favour.

    We especially need it in the face of the swathe of pretend, placating, placebo politicians we’re saddled with. (Yes Mr Turnbull, I’m looking at you.) There is an argument that part of the reason Donald Trump is so popular, is simply because of a vacuum of real analysis, in front of a body politic that’s been trained to ignore informed commentary in favour of opinion. To rely on feelings, instead of analysis.

    And we need it to ward off the avalanche of spun, filtered, finely minced, extruded paste. news-like substance corporates like to call content marketing. Clicks are all well and good, but they tell you nothing about the mind that clicked. Yes, one good piece of content marketing can change a campaign metric. But one good piece of journalism can change hearts, can change minds, can even change the world.

    So we need journalism. We need it back. We need all of you to buck up. We need publishers to stand behind journalists, because when they do that they are standing up for their readers.

    But most of all we need good journalism because without it, without speaking truth to power, without that moral courage to call a spade in detail, the emperor goes naked, and we will all follow like lambs.

  3. […] “The question everyone in the industry has to ask is ‘how do people perceive I add value?’ For many, including myself, the answer is ‘we don’t’.” – Paul Wallbank,  Towards the post journalist media world […]

  4. At times like this I like to remember what Napoleon Bonaparte said:

    “A journalist is a grumbler, a censurer, a giver of advice, a regent of sovereigns, a tutor of nations. Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”

    I’m going to keep on grumbling, censuring, advising, reigning and tutoring…

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