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Contents Foreword: Christopher Warren




1. A perfect storm


1.1: North America – the flickering light on the hill 1.2: Britain – preparing for carnage 1.3: Australia catches the cold 2. The audience


2.1: What do they think of the news media? 2.2: Where are people going online? The Media Alliance thanks: Mark Scott Glenn Stanaway Christine Nestel Gaven Morris Stilgherrian Ilona Marchetta Simon Wright Darren Burden Rod Peno Annie Fox Dae Levine Craig McGowen Ernst & Young Goldman Sachs JB Were The National Union of Journalists (UK) Pew Foundation Project for Excellence in Journalism Essential Media Fairfax Photos Australian Broadcasting Corporation News Ltd Sensis Telstra

2.3: What are people doing online? 3. Our changing jobs


3.1: Workload/hours/work-life balance 3.2: Pay 3.3: Quality 3.4: Training 3.5: Morale 4. The changing newsroom


4.1: Impact on how journalists work 4.2: Impact on the work journalists produce 4.3: Employment 4.4: Outsourcing 4.5: Measuring for management 4.6: Contingent work 4.7: Papers get smaller/move online

Researched and written by Jonathan Este, Christopher Warren, Louise Connor, Matt Brown, Ruth Pollard, Terry O’Connor

4.8: Quality 5. The Mission

Design by: Luke Gover, Gadfly Media


5.1: The Washington Post 5.2: CNN

Approved by: Christopher Warren, Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance 245 Chalmers Street Redfern NSW 2016 Printed by: Printcraft, 23 Links Avenue, Queensland Cover photo: “Newsroom of the future” Telegraph News & Media, London, 2008

5.3: Atlanta Journal-Constitution 5.4: 5.5: 5.6: BBC online 5.7: The Guardian 5.8: The Daily Telegraph 5.9: Lancashire Evening Post 6. Crystal-ball gazing 6.1: Niche for news junkies 6.2: Building a new reality 6.3: Wall Street or Main Street? 6.4: A place for public broadcasting 6.5: Partnerships are the key 6.6: Recommendations




Foreword: Christopher Warren Journalism has thrived on disruptive technologies. From moveable type to linotype, from print to broadcast – each shift has opened new opportunities for communication. Each shift has also transformed the economic model that underpinned journalism, often in ways that could not be foreseen. Now, again, the digital revolution is disrupting journalism and, again, the economic model is fracturing. Today, journalism is fragmenting among a fascinating array of news sources and social networking sites. As well, its economic model is undermined as paid advertising migrates online. Worse, the present economic crisis promises to drive advertising revenues down further. Like all crises, the challenges journalism faces are rewriting everything we thought we knew about the news media and causing us to question the very basis on which the industry has survived and flourished for a hundred-odd years. Whether all newspapers will survive is no longer a parlour game but a genuine consideration. Earlier this year, a delegation of Alliance staff and senior journalists visited major US and Western European news organisations and discussed the changing industry with journalists and academics. It was both exciting and disquieting. Exciting because journalists are pushing the uses of technology to produce new and progressive ways of keeping the public informed, from Adrian Holovaty’s EveryBlock project, which collects and collates stories, photos and data, and sorts it so people can keep track of what’s happening on their doorstep, to Jay Rosen’s experiments in civic journalism, which harness the knowledge and expertise of people in all walks of life to enhance reporting. Disquieting because the mainstream industry is in such turmoil. High levels of debt, falling revenues and collapsing share prices, have led many into a vicious cost-cutting cycle. More than 12,000 journalists have lost their jobs so far this year, on top of about 2,200 in 2007. Philip Meyer, Knight Professor of Journalism at the University of North Carolina and author of The Vanishing Newspaper, has been in, or observing, the news media for more than 50 years. He warns that the spiral of cost-cutting and loss of quality can only lead one way and, if the expert forecasts are correct, we may soon see the collapse of some of America’s biggest media owners. It’s the same in the UK, where Emily Bell, The Guardian’s director of digital content, recently predicted two years of “carnage” and that between five and 11 newspapers would disappear, shrinking the market by about 25 per cent. She warned the distress would not be confined to the print media, and without urgent measures, there would no UK-owned broadcaster except the BBC. Australia is not immune. That’s why journalists and media companies must hold their nerve and continue to invest in quality and the future of our industry. While journalism will have to adapt to the economic and technological landscape, it will be those companies that remember and nurture their core business that will survive. And it will be those journalists equipped with the skills to flourish in the new landscape who will prosper. That’s why our Future of Journalism project is so important. By researching change in the media and by inviting all sides to take part in the discussion, we hope to avoid the worst of the excesses seen in other countries. By doing this we aim to assess the key skills of new media journalism and offer our members the training to acquire and apply those skills in this interesting new world.

Christopher Warren Federal Secretary Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance



Introduction In May this year, a summit of senior media executives, journalists, academics and researchers organised by the Media Alliance listened in horrified fascination as Roy Greenslade, one of Britain’s leading media commentators, predicted the death of newspapers. “Popular newspapers, the mass newspapers, are dying and will die. They have no future whatsoever. I’m sad to see newspapers go. I worked on them for 40 years.”1 Roy Greenslade, Future of Journalism summit, Sydney, May 2008 Greenslade was not the only conference speaker with a hard message: one by one a rollcall of overseas experts spelled out the tough future facing the global news media. “We have to face some painful decisions,” said New York University’s Jay Rosen, predicting journalists would face struggle and huge competition in the digital world. “We’ll have to reinvent journalism,” said Philip Meyer, long-time newspaper editor, now Knight Professor of Journalism at the University of North Carolina. Dispatches from the TV industry were little better – so disruptive has been the rise of the internet, coupled with the development and rapid adoption of time-shifting technology allowing viewers to skip advertising, that the free-to-air model is seriously threatened. There is no doubting the violence of the disruption. The scenario is played out in most mature markets, especially the US and the UK, where - as Emily Bell, The Guardian’s digital media director recently said - the industry faced “two years of carnage”. We are on the brink of two years of carnage for western media. In the UK, five nationals could go out of business and we could be left with no UK-owned broadcaster outside of the BBC. We could face complete market failure in some areas of regional papers and some areas of commercial radio. This is systematic collapse, not just a cyclical downturn. Even the surviving brands will have to go through a period of unprofitability.2 Emily Bell, Guardian News & Media, Polis Think-Tank, October 14, 2008 This year, The Alliance launched a major initiative, the Future of Journalism, which aims, through industry research and regular events involving executives, journalists, academics and commentators, to build an accurate picture of the extent and pace of industry change, to manage that change for the benefit of the whole industry and journalists in particular. How will newsrooms look? How will journalists’ jobs change with technology and business conditions? How will journalism itself change? There is no doubt that some new tools, developed almost daily, will allow journalists to tell stories in vivid and exciting ways, using video, podcasts and slideshows, running full interviews online, showing documents and research trails for a richer experience. Journalists will reach more people more quickly as mobile phones, handheld devices, SMS and twitter feeds enable instant filing from events. But this exciting new world will require new skills and make greater demands of time and resources. This report, the first in our Future of Journalism series, is based on discussions at the Alliance Future of Journalism discussions in Australia, and surveys of executives and Alliance members nationally. We also sent Alliance staff and senior journalists to US and UK newsrooms to interview executives and leading thinkers and to compare changes in those markets to upheavals here. We will continue this research to develop a database of information and insight into our changing industry.



Stakes are too high to let journalism fail by Mark Scott I’ve seen many pieces written on the state of journalism today – they’re not exactly uplifting reading experiences. The recognition factor of the problem seems to be at an all-time high and we don’t need another SOS or addition to the growing literature of crisis or gloom. Which is why I welcome the Future of Journalism report. It is a call to action, a spirited contribution to a search for solutions that is now urgently underway all over the world. Those of us who care about quality journalism, who know just what it adds to Australian life and what might be lost without it, know that change is necessary. If we are to preserve the social benefits good journalism has delivered in the past – and we know it can deliver in future – we have to prepare ourselves for it. The alternative is to have some far greater untenability imposed upon us. The news business is too important to be left solely to the businessmen. The report has been written by people who know and love the profession of journalism. But they know it more practically as a product too and, though the odds seem stacked against them, are determined to create a viable future for it. I share that hope and their commitment to see quality journalism survive, and commend The Alliance for its role in trying to trigger some genuine engagement on how this might

occur through its summits in Sydney and Brisbane this year. The report contains research from both the UK and the USA, a first draft on the great disruption taking place in the business. It includes some crystal-ball thinking and some that is merely wishful. So far, no convincing answer to journalism’s problematic future has been found. Yet the industry of spin and “media management” may never have been larger or more profitable. And complex issues such as climate change, financial fear and fundamentalism dominate our lives. Has the clarifying light of good journalism ever been more necessary yet more difficult to sustain? Quality journalism needs time, money and good people. It needs a protected space in which it can be delivered, and it’s true that there are existing models through which it might survive. We all know what’s at stake is greater than the survival of either a profession or a business. Ultimately, quality journalism keeps governments and the powerful accountable and transparent, it unravels spin and manipulation, finds truth and explains complexity. In helping people make important and sound decisions about their lives, it helps make a civil democracy work well. And that’s what the argument is ultimately about. The Future of Journalism report makes a significant contribution to that debate. Let the search for solutions continue.



Decline and fall: Australian media stocks are nearing their historical floor. But an international comparison suggests there is further to fall.

Chapter 1: A perfect storm

“This is systematic collapse, not just a cyclical downturn.” Emily Bell, Guardian News & Media


A sample of US media stories in the last week of October reads: Time Inc. to lay off 600 staff; Gannett Inc. to lay off 10 per cent of staff, 3,000 jobs to go; Christian Science Monitor to discontinue daily print edition; Los Angeles Times lays off 10 per cent of editorial staff; most major publishers’ circulations declining. In the UK the same week, we read speculation the BBC’s online push for hyperlocal news sites would kill local papers, and that regional Midland News would cut 120 staff In Australia, James Packer and John Alexander resigned from the PBL board and cut ties with Kerry’s media empire after refusing more funding to the cash-strapped company. Fairfax Media’s share price fell below $2 and Yahoo prepared to shed staff. Australia, as with most of the developed world, faces a recession with the concomitant downturn in advertising revenues flowing into the media. This recession is dramatically accelerating the long-term trends that have been restructuring our industry. But, as Emily Bell warned: “This is systematic collapse – not just a cyclical downturn. Even the surviving brands will have to go through a period of unprofitability.” The disruptive and destructive difference is new technology. It is fragmenting audiences and stealing advertising, especially the classifieds – once rivers of gold for Australia’s largest mastheads. Free-to-air TV is seeing subscription TV eat into advertising, audiences fragment and migrate online as time-shift technology lets viewers skip TV advertisements. In radio, podcasts act as timeshift technology, while the audience is spoilt for choice.


1.1 North America – the flickering light on the hill According to the US Audit Bureau of Circulation, American newspapers have lost nearly a quarter of their circulation since average daily figures peaked in 1984 at 63.3 million. The most recent figures are 48.4 million for Monday to Saturday, with Sunday newspapers falling 15.3 per cent to 48.8 million. Today’s circulation is at the same levels as 1945, despite the US population more than doubling in that time.3 There is a generational shift in US TV consumption. Youth is rejecting television in favour of the internet. This is particularly marked in under 25s, who spend more time online than watching television. Broadcast networks’ advertising revenues are forecast to fall 2.5 per cent in 2008 and 8 per cent in 2009, while cable networks’ revenue was forecast to rise 3.1 per cent in 2008 4 and 1.8 per cent for 2009. In a paper this year, “The end of advertising as we know it”, IBM analysts forecast that new ad formats - mainly mobile, in-game, interactive TV promotions and the internet would grow 22.4 per cent per annum between 2006 and 2010, while traditional formats – newspapers, TV, radio and outdoor would grow just 4.4 per cent – and even that number 5 was skewed by including product placement, forecast to grow by 20 per cent per annum. All this has massively devalued media stocks. Reuters reported in October the values of the big conglomerates fell faster than the S&P 500, which posted its biggest one-month loss since 1987. Walt Disney Co lost 22.1 per STRUCTURAL CHANGE – US Newspaper Advertising Revenue Growth cent in October, followed by Time Warner Inc (-23%), News Corp. (-23.8%), Viacom Inc (-27.7%), Sony Corp (-28.8%) and CBS Corp 6 (-39.4%). Newspaper stocks suffered worse, with some of the major mastheads valued at less than the real estate they sit in. According to Alan D Mutter, a former newspaper editor and cable TV CEO, who blogs at “Reflections of a Newsosaur”, newspapers are set to lose US$7.5 billion in advertising sales this year, a fall of 23.4 per 7 cent of its peak revenue in 2005. Mutter reports a freefall in the trading values of the top news organisations: in the first 10 trading days of July, newspaper shares shed US$3.9 billion, more than the market capitalisation of all but the largest three companies. Companies badly hit have included McClatchy (MNI) which fell to a market cap STRUCTURAL CHANGE – Australian Newspaper Advertising Revenue Growth of just $280 million from US$5.7 billion as at (Metro only) December 31, 2004; Lee Enterprises (LEE), which fell to US$120 million from US$2 billion at the end of 2004 and the Sun-Times Media Group, which has fallen to US$22.25 million from US$1.3 billion at December 31, 2004 and is now quoted at 34c compared with a high of US$21.45 in 2007. The list of US news organisations threatened with default is exacerbated by the industry’s inability to secure or continue credit. Mutter scotches claims the industry faces a “headwind” after the credit and banking crisis, instead describing a “secular move in the industry … such as the change in consumer preference to automobiles from horses and carriages”.8 Savage newspaper job losses have resulted. Tracked by the website Paper Cuts, more than 12,500 jobs disappeared in the first 10 months of 2008 – some non-editorial, but still a large proportion of the estimated former As a comparison suggests, the recent fall in 9 advertising revenues bucks cyclical trends. 52,000 full-time US journalists.



1.2 UK – Preparing for two years of carnage Emily Bell, a respected media commentator, has predicted two years of carnage in Britain, while Roy Greenslade, now a commentator with, has said “newspapers are dead”. They are not alone in their depressing analysis. At the Alliance summit, Greenslade qualified his statement only by saying that Australia might hold on to one quality national paper, such as The Australian – while a masthead such as the Australian Financial Review, with its readership of high-net worth individuals, of premium value to advertisers, might survive.10 A group of highly competitive newspapers dominate the UK market, divided between quality broadsheets such as The Guardian, The Times, The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent, whose circulations tend to number in the hundreds of thousands, the mid-market tabloids, the Daily Express and the Daily Mail and the red-tops: The Sun, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Star, whose circulations range between two and four million copies a day. There is a fierce battle in London between the Evening Standard, which – like the Daily Mail – is owned by Lord Northcliffe’s Associated Newspapers, and a pair of free-sheets, London Lite (the Evening Standard minus serious news) and The London Paper, a News International title. The UK Audit Board of Circulation’s latest figures show circulation falling across the board. The Independent, which recently increased its cover price from 80 pence ($2) to £1 ($2.50), suffered the worst, declining 12.13 per cent year-on-year. The Times and The Sun had the least dramatic falls of 2.51 per cent and 1.83 per cent respectively. The Financial Times’ decline was also marginal, at 2.68 per cent. But this is merely the latest chapter in the lengthy decline of Britain’s popular newspapers. Companies approach the crisis in different ways, but almost all have slashed significant numbers of journalists: 10 per cent at Newsquest (owned by the US Gannet); 120 at Midland News, which owns regional newspapers and radio stations; up to 500 at ITV, which has announced it will slash 17 regional broadcasters to nine. The list goes on: The Express announced in August it would do away with sub-editors and had bought software allowing journalists to file directly on to the page, The Financial Times announced 60 redundancies, Trinity Mirror, which owns the Daily and Sunday Mirror and a group of regional papers has sacked 76 journalists and demanded its staff reapply for their jobs. The Daily Telegraph, which was among the first of the UK’s “quality press” to embrace new media and developed the “newsroom of the future” that has been widely copied around the world (including by Fairfax), laid off scores of journalists in its transitional phase and this year closed all European bureaus except Paris. The Independent announced redundancies late in 2006 but continues to lose money. British advertising revenues are tumbling. Regional newspaper group Johnston Press announced in August advertising revenues had fallen 9.5 per cent during the first six months of 2008, compared to the same period in 2007, while Trinity Mirror chief executive, Sly Bailey, said in August that ad revenues were falling faster than at any time in the past 20 years. The group has written down the value of its titles in the North and South-East of England by £85m ($210m). There are exceptions: in October FT Publishing said its revenues had risen 14 per cent over the first nine months of the year. Its online fortunes are bolstered by a part-free, part-subscription model which, defying once-accepted wisdom, has boosted its bottom line. Analysts believe the financial crisis has increased 11 demand for quality business intelligence.



1.3 Australia catches the cold Media stocks on the Australian stock exchange have been routed. Over the past 12 months, and especially during last month’s banking crisis, Australian media stocks plummeted. Fairfax Media fell from $4.99 in November 2007 to $1.62 a year later, but most listed media companies are beset by market doubts that advertising revenues can be sustained. At the time of writing, Consolidated Media Holdings, Fairfax, Macquarie Media Group, the Seven Network, APN News and Media and Austereo had all recorded falls of 50 per cent or more since last year’s November peak. In the first week of November, News Corporation announced a 9 per cent fall in operating profit and Rupert Murdoch warned of “extremely challenging” times and inevitable cutbacks, although News Ltd’s Australian spokesman, Greg Baxter, said there would not be a concerted round of redundancies.12 The bleak outlook for media earnings prompted Goldman Sachs JB Were to issue a note to clients last month warning of two years of downward pressure on earnings and revenues. Ad revenues for metropolitan newspapers are forecast to fall by 7.9 per cent next year before recovering (slightly) to grow by about 1.4 per cent in 2010. This compares to a fall of just 3 per cent in the previous forecast. GSJBW altered its ad revenue forecast for regional papers from -0.3 per cent to -1.6 per cent for 2009, and predicts revenues to metro TV will fall by 6.6 per cent (compared to -5 per cent as previously forecast). Growth for online revenues has been revised, from 20.5 per cent to 10.3 per cent. The analyst also highlighted other factors: falling circulation revenues, a slowing online classifieds market, a lower subscription TV growth rate and slow US and European markets flowing into Australian revenues.13 The Nine Network’s July decision to axe Sunday and Nightline confirmed an unpalatable truth – less, and older, people are watching free-to-air television news. Among advertisers’ preferred age groups, Gen X and Y, the decline in viewing and migration online is marked. Similarly, newspaper readership is declining and, while Australia has a long way to go to match the precipitous US decline, readership of dailies between Monday and Friday fell by 21 per cent between 1993 and 2005, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation. Interestingly, the steepest falls were between 1990 and 2000, before the internet became critical to circulation. Employment in news organisations: The key concern for Alliance members is how the worsening global – and sector – forecasts will affect jobs. We are hostage, to an extent, to anecdote. The number of full-time Australian journalists has, by Alliance estimates, fallen 13 per cent since 2001, from just under 8500 across all media to around 7,500. It must be stressed this is an estimate, based on data and estimates reported by Alliance staff and activists. There is little doubt the sector will continue to shrink, at least in the shortterm. Fairfax Media has held four redundancy rounds at its Sydney and Melbourne mastheads, the most recent in August 2008 when Kirk (see Introduction) announced 120 journalists would be offered redundancies, mostly in production. Various sections would be outsourced to Pagemasters, while “operational efficiencies” would lead to retrenchments in several areas. This was based on the argument that a multitiered production process was outdated and new tools would obviate the need for many sub-editors. Increasing errors in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age print editions indicates that culling dedicated production staff will inevitably erode quality. There are several reports that individual staff on various News Ltd publications have been offered redundancy packages. Announcing quarterly results in early November, Rupert Murdoch confirmed these cuts and foreshadowed more, particularly in Australia and the UK. The Nine Network in July announced it would axe its two long-running flagship current affairs programs, Sunday and Nightline, with considerable job losses. The network, which has been struggling for ratings and advertising revenue, opted to cut costs in its oncefamed news and current affairs sector. This was not parent company PBL’s first cost-cutting measure, after an ownership shake up which saw private equity investor CVC take majority control of the media empire Kerry Packer had built. In January CVC had ordered the closure of Australia’s oldest news magazine, The Bulletin, blaming low circulation, which, at 57,000 copies, was about half the magazine’s peak. ACP’s then CEO, Scott Lorson blamed the internet: a weekly magazine simply couldn’t compete with news breaking 24/7 on the Web. Similarly, declining revenues at the ACP magazine stable has led to predictions of staff cuts, but no redundancies have been confirmed. Across suburban and regional newspapers, whether Australian Provincial Newspapers, Rural Press or News Ltd, staff have left and not been replaced.

There are reports that individual staff on news Ltd publications have been offered redundancy.



Chapter 2: The audience It is a fallacy to believe the present print crisis is due to rapidly declining circulation. All data suggests that, compared to other markets, Australian newspaper circulation is holding up remarkably well. According to the Australian Press Council’s State of the Print News Media 2007, the aggregate circulation of metropolitan dailies has varied since 2002, but has fallen only slightly, from 2,338,000 in 2002 to 2,305,600 last year.14 This doesn’t consider the exponential rise in people visiting news sites regularly and, if combined, suggests more, not less, people are consuming news. The Alliance commissioned Essential Media to survey shifts in dominant news sources in the past five years: Use of online news websites increased 13 per cent Use of radio news bulletins increased 3 per cent Use of TV news bulletins fell 8 per cent Use of newspapers fell 6 per cent Yet commercial TV remains the dominant source of news for most, with national and metropolitan dailies second.

2.1 What does the audience think of the news media? The news media’s important role was highlighted when 77 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposition that, if not for courageous journalism, many major Australian scandals would have remained uncovered. Some 71 per cent disagreed, most of them strongly, with the proposition that “with the advent of the Internet and blogs and other ways to spread information, Australia no longer needs a group of trained, professionally skilled journalists”. This suggests widespread acceptance that the blogosphere will not fill a vacuum created by the loss of trained journalists.

Fragmentation: Today’s audience is faced with an explosion in media choices.



Journalists are trusted more than the large corporations they work for. Some 51 per cent endorsed journalists’ trustworthiness, with 40 per cent uncommitted, while only 17 per cent trusted the news corporations and their executives. Offered a dichotomy between journalists and the corporations that employed them, the audience were even clearer: 89 per cent trusted journalists to provide an honest picture of the world; 87 per cent trusted them to find out the things that mattered to average working Australians, 83 per cent trusted journalists to investigate corruption, (in government and business) and 84 per cent trusted journalists to uncover things that big business interests were doing which might harm them or their families. Whatever else may fragment the news audience, trust and respect remain high. However the research backed important anecdotal concerns at the “dumbing down” of bulletins, newspapers and websites to attract audience. Sixty percent agreed that: “I find the quality of news is dropping, there seems to be more celebrity gossip and less hard news,” with only 13 per cent disagreeing. The proposition that newspapers have more opinions than before was supported by 47 per cent, with only 10 per cent disagreeing. But when asked to rate the proposition: “Newspapers are dry and stale, they don’t pay enough attention to popular culture and what’s really going on in the world”, 48 per cent of respondents disagreed and only 15 per cent agreed. This demonstrates an enduring appetite for hard, authoritative news. Most people still believe newspapers provide quality journalism, with 63 per cent agreeing, and 37 per cent disagreeing. However 64 per cent agreed the quality of journalism had slipped recently.

Whatever else may fragment the news audience, trust and respect remain high

2.2 Where are people going online? NineMSN remains Australia’s most popular website, according to the Nielsen ratings, with 419,579 unique monthly users.15 However those visits bear examination. Our survey showed the vast majority of visitors reach the news sites via search engines (mainly Google and Yahoo) or other sites (mainly social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook) or email links. Globally, almost all companies report at least 50 per cent of the unique page impressions come in sideways – via search engines or other links to a report, rather than through browsing from the front page or masthead. Attitudes to online news vary widely: a majority (51 per cent) used websites and blogs to follow stories that matter to them or their family. However more people (32 per cent to 22 per cent) said they thought news sites and blogs, by their very nature, were superficial and “no substitute for quality journalism and analysis”. Blogs written by expert non-journalists offer in-depth authoritative information, and a slight majority (26 per cent) would rather read information from experts and specialists over trained writers – ie: journalists (23 per cent). 2.3 What are people doing online? Australia has one of the highest percentages of online news visitors. Hitwise research showed 6.75 per cent of internet visits are to gather news, compared with 3.97 per cent in the US and 4.63 in the UK. Most Australian internet visits are to search engines and social networking sites (10.8 per cent and 8 per cent respectively). Shopping visits (5.93 per cent of market share) lag behind the US (9.54 per cent) and the UK (9.61 per cent). More Australians visited government sites (2.56 per cent) than in the US (1.52 per cent) or UK (0.87 per cent). Importantly, more Australians visit government websites for information from the source (rather than have journalists mediate) than elsewhere.16 Top 100 Australian blogs, by blogging analyst, Meg Tsiamis, shows the most popular Australian blog in September was Gizmodo Australia, a version of the US-based Gizmodo, published by British former newspaper journalist Nick Denton. The most popular news website blog was Andrew Bolt ’s on the Herald Sun, which recently achieved 1m hits in a month and ranks 27th. Crikey recently established a blogroll, an aggregation of blog sites reached through the Crikey portal. Mainly, the most popular blogs are those giving technical advice (Gizmodo, Australian Car Advice, Digital Photography School) and gossip sites such as Defamer.17 While there is little evidence supporting the growth of online “brands”, several bloggers have considerable identities: Darren Rowse, whose Problogger site advises on how to blog; Duncan Riley through his diary; and Marieke Hardy, whose “Reasons You Will Hate Me”, under the pseudonym Ms Fits, won a Bloggie for Best Australian/New Zealand weblog in 2008.



Top tech: A journalist at work on the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper

Chapter 3: Our changing jobs In October, Essential Media surveyed members online in Australian newsrooms. About 10 per cent of members responded. Respondents were predominantly from print, 71.34 per cent compared to 9.30 per cent who mainly worked online, 11.08 per cent in radio and 8.28 per cent in television. The survey was equally split between organisations of more than 100 journalists and those with less. The survey was designed for comparison with a similar UK survey of National Union of Journalists members. As in the UK, our survey revealed members are keen to learn skills and work on new platforms. However, it also revealed deep concerns about staffing levels, increased hours and stress. Workloads have increased, but pay hasn’t and there is widespread concern at lack of training. Journalists worry the quality of their work suffers because of the extra demands and the lack of training and there is a general pessimism for the future.

3.1 Workload/Hours/work-life balance In a perfect world, embracing new media platforms implies extra staff. The extra work to establish and maintain a website, with slideshows, video, blogs and podcasts should require a considerable investment in staff and training to produce new and exciting content.



Experience tells us this does not occur and our survey bears that out. A majority (70.8 per cent) reported an increased workload. 43.11 per cent of them by “a lot”. Only 7.09 per cent reported a decrease. One respondent feared companies would “push talented journalists away because they will simply get sick of having to do two jobs at once, and leave”, while another wrote: “I’m not improving at the rate I’d like because I’m being expected to deliver content on many platforms rather than put effort into the quality of the story. Research is severely suffering. I don’t think the quality of my work is dropping but I find it hard to improve or to go the extra mile to break stories.” Asked if hours of paid and unpaid work had increased, 69.7 per cent agreed, 27.62 per cent saying by “a lot”. Again, only 7.81 per cent, reported a decrease and only 2.93 per cent by “a lot”. “We are constantly being expected to do more, with less staff. It seems like every time we ‘get rid of’ a job, we get lumbered with two more. Also, we have a dearth of experienced journalists – we take on mostly graduates, and they’re expected to take on a lot of responsibility,” wrote one respondent. Just under half, 49.65 per cent, said working patterns had changed to accommodate new technology. In terms of work-life balance, 43.06 per cent said they were affected adversely, compared to 18.27 per cent who reported an improvement. Many wrote of lower newsroom morale. Repeatedly, alongside fears regarding work quality, respondents worried their quality of life was being harmed. Others feared extra demands would lead to “burn-out”. “As a part-timer, because of parental responsibilities, I’m being pressured to work more hours and I fear that if I don’t I’ll be even more marginalised. Despite two requests to editors for online training in the past year I am being overlooked because of my perceived “lack of commitment.” This tallies with the UK, where 75 per cent reported increased workloads and 37 per cent said they were forced to work longer hours.

3.2 Pay Very few reported pay rises for working harder, longer or acquiring new skills. Just 13.75 per cent were paid more, while 30.3 per cent took time off in lieu of overtime. Many complained new skills and longer hours were not recognised financially: “Journalists do not get paid enough and so many good journalists have left the company. It is not good enough. We are professionals who are expected to have tertiary qualifications, so the pay needs to reflect this.” One respondent linked deteriorating conditions to “the workplace becoming more deunionised as new staff members swallow the company line and older staff give up the union fight”. Another concern was some companies’ push to cull higher-paid journalists in favour of lower-paid newcomers. This was a particular concern at Fairfax after the most recent redundancies lost a generation on Grade 10 (also known as “Super-A Grades”). This, it was felt, put pressure on mid-range journalists to “work up” in senior or demanding roles without adequate compensation. For some years, a common complaint has been promotions without pay rises. 3.3 Quality of work/output By far the most comments concerned quality suffering due to increased workload. Some 37.95 per cent said their work suffered due to increased hours and workload, while only 19.34 per cent said technology had improved quality. “I am worried that I won’t be able to deliver the high standard of work I want to deliver as I am required to file for more and more platforms,” wrote one, adding: “While I think online and digital news is important and I consume it extensively myself, we need more people (hopefully with the appropriate specialist skills) to cope with the demands of online and digital, rather than expecting the same number of workers to take on all the extra tasks.” One reporter worried: “The upshot for print journalists is we are being stretched further



and further, so our work suffers. Most of us are now doing at least four print stories a day, plus online work, so there is no choice but to put in the minimum number of calls and pump the words out.” Another feared “internet deadlines will encourage me to write inferior stories with little thought”. Another wrote: “Reduction in staff numbers and quality journalism due to loss of revenue. Some reporters are expected to run opinionated blogs, while writing unbiased news stories on the same subject. This reflects and impacts on journalism standards. Much of the internet material is simply cut and paste rather than real journalism. Reporters do not have enough time to do quality work when their days are divided between supplying newspaper and online copy.” Many feared shedding production staff (sub-editors, especially) caused more mistakes in print and online, and especially that if quality decline became too obvious, readers would flee: “I am fearful with a trend towards reporters writing directly to the page and online that standards will fall to such a low level that journalism will cease to make a valid contribution to our way of life,” wrote one. “Quantity over quality,” was a sentiment reported often. The survey queried the quality of new media content. Some 29.56 per cent found their organisation’s content “professional”, 48.42 per cent “adequate” and 22.02 per cent “poor”. Yet, when asked about how their organisation’s traditional media output was affected by expansion into new platforms, just 7.35 per cent replied “very positively” and 31.18 per cent said “somewhat positively”. Marginally more, 7.65 per cent, believed content was affected “very negatively”, while 32.53 per cent said “somewhat negatively”. One respondent believed commercial reasoning drove their newsroom rather than traditional news values. This followed “panic” at the collapse of the traditional advertising-supported print model: “The demise of print classified advertising leaves the organisation highly exposed and amid the panic this engenders it appears decisions are being made purely on commercial considerations, with less acknowledgement than ever before of the quality of the editorial product, and the history and future of the masthead.



There is a clear requirement to move into the online world editorially, but this is not backed up by a realistic investment in online resources, and the online and print businesses are run entirely separately, with tension and antipathy between the two operations. It is hard to see how a worse situation could exist with regard to this company’s ability to make a transition to the new environment.” The fear of “dumbing down” arose often. One respondent feared: “a website that bears no resemblance to our newspaper, dumbing down the product and totally trashing the brand”. Another wrote: “It’s important that we don’t dumb down too much, and maintain editorial standards - the stories that generate the most hits online are often trashy/sleazy ones … The key difference between professional journalists and all the bloggers and all the amateur net journos is our credibility and that we can deliver properly researched news. If the lines become blurred through dumbing down or inadequate research we’re on a road to ruin. Quality journalism is our salvation, more now than ever.” The accepted industry wisdom is that as audiences fragment, it is more important to maintain quality to protect brand integrity. One of the most common comments on industry blogs is that mainstream media quality has slipped and given people less reasons for buying, viewing or visiting websites. There is also much fear the growing use of material from untrained, non-professional journalists will adversely affect their organisations’ brands. In October, The Age asked readers to submit story ideas on an issue traditionally covered by the state parliamentary reporter: “Have you read any of the reports tabled today and think there is a story in it? Let us know at”. Despite the urging, most editors agreed bloggers and “citizen” or “witness” journalists could never replace trained journalists. “I think it will complement not replace – it will add to the mix – journalists and bloggers provide a lot of different content,” wrote one editor, adding: “The internet is anything goes and has lowered the standard of the mainstream outlets.” Another wrote: “I feel the impact of citizen journalism is overstated. It’s nice to have blogs and pictures filed from mobile phones but citizen journalism is a modern-day form of pamphleteering. You still need editors, production staff and skilled and trained reporters. There is far too much crap masquerading as citizen journalism.” Another editor highlighted that it was reporters’ daily lot to make and cultivate contacts, have training and “live, eat and breathe” journalism.



3.4 Training One of the biggest concerns involves training – or the lack of it in newsrooms seeking to expand into new platforms and new forms of delivery without paying for new staff. Asked “what sort of training have you received in new media platforms?” only 1.94 per cent replied “very comprehensive – I’m getting all the multi-media skills”. Some 40.72 per cent said “just what I need to do my job.” Distressingly, the majority, 57.34 per cent replied: “None. I’m expected to pick it up as I go along.” This contrasts dramatically with the UK experience, where 39 per cent had systematic training, 10 per cent training “on request” and 45 per cent training “as and when required”. Only 16 per cent reported no training. This also contrasted with the US experience noted by the Alliance mission where almost all major companies had introduced significant and continuing training structures. One journalist feared becoming a “dinosaur” and being left behind as required skills changed. Another that journalists were losing out to “techies”: “My organisation does not train its employees in new media. We are expected to learn it ourselves. When implementing online publications, they employed IT people to do this rather than journalists. Doesn’t look good for the quality of journalism, in magazines at least.” Older journalists fear losing out without training: “The print journalists are not being trained to become online journalists. It seems clear the plan is to get rid of the print journalists and hire cheaper online journalists outside the union award,” wrote one. Generally, those newsrooms taking the greatest steps towards integration are those whose editors report their staff adapt the best. Older journalists often resist learning a new set of skills. One weekly editor wrote: “Reporting staff and editors have embraced (change) well. On community papers, it gives the reporters a chance to file breaking news daily, rather than waiting for the weekly paper cycle. Photographers are also filing daily and have shifted their focus well.” This is to be expected, as weekly and monthly journalists can now break news stories, a bugbear in the past. Newspapers keeping barriers between online and print staff report a cultural divide. However editors’ general tone is confident. 3.5 Morale The digital revolution is both exciting and full of trepidation for people in the industry. Asked about career prospects, 19.35 per cent said they were excited to move into a new age of journalism. Considerably more, 35.03 per cent, were pessimistic about their jobs, and 39.35 per cent were resigned to working with change. Some 6.27 per cent had not considered it. Morale was harmed by Fairfax redundancies and talk of lay-offs elsewhere. “I honestly don’t think I will have a job in the next year or two,” wrote one journalist, while another hoped his organisation “lasts long enough for me to leave the industry at a time of my choosing, not the company’s”. Freelance members who commented on the survey worried lay-offs at mainstream organisations would deny them sufficient work. Many linked quality and morale: “Cost cutting has led to reduced staff, while roles have expanded, which is greatly affecting the quality of the paper. Morale in the newsroom is also very low,” wrote a print journalist



Chapter 4: The changing newsroom In October The Alliance conducted a small-scale survey of editors and senior editorial staff to compare Australian news organisations to their US and UK counterparts. In July 2008, the Pew Foundation asked US editors how their organisations managed change. It surveyed 259 newspapers of various sizes and markets and found that 59 per cent had less newsroom journalists than three years previously, compared to 14 per cent with more, and 27 per cent unchanged. Only 4 per cent believed their newsrooms would grow, 36 per cent said they would shrink and 7 per cent did not know. Given recent industry turmoil, some may revise their answers. Editors, generally, are optimistic – about 75 per cent feeling positive about the future.18 When The Alliance asked Australian editors for their opinions, the reactions were mixed. Pessimists tended to cite economic pressure on staffing and, hence, quality. However editors who pointed to the unprecedented engagement with news online outweighed them: “Our audience is bigger than at any time in my career and there are more ways to deliver the news than ever before,” wrote one, while another wrote: “I think that journalists are in a great position to gather, harness, interpret, deliver great quality journalism, and now there are a plethora of opportunities in the way that content can be delivered.” All respondents understood the challenges, but one wrote: “Journalism is a grand old profession and keeping the bastards honest is something that will never die, as is providing vital community information, news and advice – I think newspapers will continue to have that voice for five years and beyond.”

Learning to listen to instant feedback by Glenn Stanaway The first thing that confronts you after switching from print to online editing is what your audience really reads. This can be uncomfortable. Suddenly, you find the day’s paper splash is hardly read; the page-five brief is most popular; the unusual animal story from a country you’ve never heard of gets mega-hits. This is arguably the crucial difference: the internet lets us measure precisely, virtually every minute, story popularity. Pub arguments over what should have been the splash - based on gut instinct don’t happen with web journalism - you have cold readership facts. Yet sometimes, the more things change, the more they don’t. Great journalism remains about compelling storytelling, but delivery mechanisms change. Older journalists moving to the web remark it’s like returning to afternoon newspapers. At Sydney’s The Daily Telegraph, the web’s demands means endless deadlines and the newsroom’s energy and buzz, lost when our afternoon print editions closed, is returning. Journos love this. The web forces us closer to our readership. Feedback is instant. The days of waiting a day for reader phone calls or two days for letters are gone. Anyone can comment instantly; they do, stridently, and expect their views published quickly. Blogging journalists have day-long

debates and, in the case of Piers Akerman, it is better than a ringside seat. Readers are participants. Editing is interactive – editors who ignore what readers are saying do so at their peril. Feedback and data on story popularity let an editor crank up coverage or quickly downscale a story that isn’t working. Newspapers tend to have captive audiences – the reader has bought the paper. The web user is a click away from another site if they cannot find what they want. Few newspaper readers would return to a shop for another paper. Web editors must package photos, videos, maps and links to external sites or past stories. We are entering the era of visual journalism: editors must consider what elements stories need to best present them. Our newsrooms now compete directly with TV and radio. When NSW Premier Nathan Rees dumped his then police minister Matt Brown, The Daily Telegraph streamed the press conference live (the free-to-air TV networks did not broadcast live) while a senior journalist blogged live and we published reader comments as the conference unfolded. Last year we did none of this. Today it is par for the course. The newsroom is forever changed. Glenn Stanaway is news editor of

We are entering the era of visual journalism: editors must consider what elements stories need to best present them.



4.1 Impact on how we work There is much change that is exciting for journalists and journalism, giving us new ways to tell stories and find information. In traditional media, newsgathering skills are generic, but presentation skills – text, audio or video – have tended to be medium-specific. The new media requires journalists to write, handle images, audio and video. This goes beyond redesigning news for a new platform, demanding intensive interviewing techniques (videoing, taping, photographing and taking notes, sometimes asking the same question for different technologies). Journalists must also develop an extensive repertoire of reporting styles. Blogging requires a first-person approach that journalists may not be training for. Presentation affects newsgathering techniques. An interview must be structured to present a narrative in audio or video, and also used to extract information which can be cut and mixed for a feature or news report. Jeff Jarvis ( speculates the stand-alone article may not be relevant to the Web and that journalists must see reports as threads, rather than articles.19 The internet also offers fresh newsgathering sources. Two recent news Walkleys went to stories inspired by a Google search. However, many journalists resist opportunities. At the Washington Post, we were told that only a small proportion of those journalists trained in video regularly used it. This is partly due to unintegrated training. In most organisations, training in new media newsgathering and presentation skills is ad hoc. Training can be based on the flavour of the month, rather than an integrated assessment of what journalists need. Often, the individual must seek it out, particularly freelancers or casuals. Work intensification and job losses leave little time to get the story done, much less to embrace new media opportunities. Yet, as journalists, we have a shared responsibility to seek out training and opportunities. Some of the failure to embrace them flows from our own resistance to change. As a craft, we have our own responsibilities – as do employers – to build skills for the new world.

From desk jockey to VJ in one jump

“Video journalism dropped from the sky - a dream job.”


by Christine Nestel When a colleague suggested two-and-a-half years ago I should become a video journalist, I had little idea what it would entail. “You know, the journos who make videos for news websites”, he explained. I had rarely looked at our newspaper’s site. “Do it now,” he said. “You’re probably in the 0.1 per cent of journalists at The Australian with filmmaking experience. Tell the editor.” Within weeks I made the unlikely jump from the foreign desk to sole VJ. What made it more unusual was I had no camera. I was delighted. I was looking for something different and hankering for film again. Years before, I made a couple of relatively successful short films. Video journalism dropped from the sky, a dream job. A year later, after mainly uploading stories and photos, the video gear arrived. For months I shot videos and mastered sound recording, camera operation and editing. However, mostly I still uploaded stories. There wasn’t much time for video. The 2008 federal election kick-started our video output. Our online political editor started shooting footage on the campaign trail and a new Sydney colleague proved a multimedia whiz. With his encouragement, I began to video journalists’ commentaries. It was simple yet effective, though now I use

blue screens for a changing backdrop. Election day was exciting, shooting in Malcolm Turnbull’s electorate, then a fly-onthe-wall mini-doc at John Howard’s partycum-wake – an extraordinary event. I try to work with reporters and photographers. We can run a photo, with a link to the story, which has an embedded video. A newspaper pointer makes it the perfect package. Subjects range from news and business, to TV reviews and film, dance and music. We’ve even recorded live musical performances. My philosophy is to keep myself out of the picture and not to do TV-style voice-overs. It seemed worth trying something different, but I never say never. I also love the challenge of telling a story using images, composition, editing, a few captions and sound – and most of all letting people tell their own. This year we’ve had enough staff to let me do video full-time. I generate ideas, organise, shoot and edit. I used to also upload videos and put up links but now there’s someone helping who is also ready to shoot videos. More resources are likely and while I enjoy the independence of being a VJ, it definitely should be a team game. Christine Nestel is a video journalist for The Australian


4.2 Impact on the work journalists produce These changes not only affect what journalists do, but the work they produce. It is difficult to assess the long-term impact and many judgements are subjective, but there is a sense quality is being sacrificed, diversity lost and news values degraded. Event-driven news: What constitutes news has always been debated. The drive to 24-7 services focuses newsgathering on events – what someone says, announces or does. This is always central to news, but has been balanced with analysis, the search for “what someone doesn’t want you to know”. Events become more intense media happenings. A traditional police rounds story becomes a regular update with audio, video and slide shows, followed by a spread in the next day’s paper.

You have to feed the beast the best by Gaven Morris Continuous news ... sounds exhausting, right? … A hungry digital beast demanding constant content, more deadlines, more mediums, different versions for niche audiences. As the ABC’s new national editor of Continuous News, this is many journalists’ first reaction to the idea of a news environment implying more for less. But continuous refers to our audience’s access, not our journalists’ filing schedules. Consumers now rarely turn on a 7pm television bulletin unaware of a day’s developments, just as they don’t pick up a newspaper for their daily review of what’s already happened around the world. So, to ensure the ABC provides news to all Australians in tune with their demands, the Continuous News Centre will take the best reporting from across the ABC and deliver it via whatever platforms make sense, whenever the audience wants it. Rather than less quality reporting, it means more access to the best. If you missed the 7pm news, you haven’t missed ABC TV News. If you weren’t listening when Fran Kelly interviewed Kevin Rudd, you can hear the interview or the crux of the follow-ups. When Four Corners reveals critical information, it lives on after Monday night with feedback, discussion and follow-up.

If we’ve invested millions of dollars in international news gathering, stories can be viewed, heard and read in several places, rather than competing for slots in scheduled programs. If our Canberra team records a sound bite from a minister for a news story, the full interview can be heard. Multi-skilled journalists will staff Sydney’s Continuous News Centre, working in a tapeless television environment, with serverbased production and access to ABC video and audio as it is collected. They’ll produce, present, edit, post or broadcast quickly through whatever medium suits the user, viewer or listener. News consumers aren’t passive and won’t just come to us, so we’re looking for ways to deliver news before people know it’s happening, through mobile devices, email, SMS and RSS feeds or by ensuring ABC News is in the online places people use. We’ll be looking for ways to find information and gather content to suit several platforms at once and allow our audience to be more involved. At the core of our effort is the excellent and unparalleled journalism Australians have always invested in and rightly expected from the ABC: quality in quantity. Gaven Morris is national editor of ABC Continuous News

“We deliver news via whatever platforms make sense whenever the audience wants it.”



By definition, news is more immediate – at least for those producing it. For many journalists, this restores the intrinsic thrill of breaking a story. The audience impact is unclear. The Alliance survey indicates most Australians still turn to TV or radio when a big story breaks, but this may be a transitional practice. There is some evidence news consumers are building the Web into their daily cycle. Almost all papers report readership spikes occur between 8.30-9.30am, when people first arrive at work, but people don’t log on until lunchtime. Some organisations include this in their production cycle, with staff rostered on early morning to freshen news (or find it) for the morning spike. This would restore the rostering of afternoon papers. It appears, however, still unusual. Most organisations, certainly most papers, roster staff for the traditional morning-paper deadline, leaving extensive time after filing for production and distribution. Search Engine Optimisation: Subbing is changing to promote search engine optimisation. Almost all organisations report more than half of their unique page impressions come via Google searches or other links. Sites need headings and other devices to attract and hold these hits. The London Daily Telegraph pioneered these techniques and claimed, after a year of limited growth, hits doubled over 12 months. Some embrace sophisticated Web 2.0 marketing. The Wall Street Journal flags stories in prominent (or not so prominent) blogs to attract hits. Blogging: Blogging is a new communication means for journalists. As in the blogging world at large, media blogs range from a news-update format to lifestyle discussions. The Washington Post political correspondent uses quick video blogs with breaking stories. Several years ago, on-line chatter predicted journalists would use blogs for transparency – posting notes and documents, discussing techniques, and to attract more information. This has been less common than expected. Perhaps journalists are insufficiently reflective or there is limited interest in our craft’s mechanics. Blogging’s personal style is perhaps uncomfortable for many journalists. Despite its ubiquity, few journalists not employed to do so, or outside academia, have embraced blogging. Perhaps this is because journalists, by definition, already have an outlet and lack the imperative.

Smart brains find ways to spread the message by Stilgherrian Bangkok, October 7, 2008. A Jeep explodes near Parliament, killing a man. Body parts are thrown up to 20 metres. Meanwhile, 5,000 members of the royalist People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) are occupying Government building grounds – well-organised but largely peaceful. Thailand’s Constitutional Court forced Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to resign a month earlier, but his successor Somchai Wongsawat is seen as a corrupt puppet. PAD has given him until 6pm to resign. He does not. The car bomb detonates. The ultimatum expires. The demonstration explodes into riot. Tear gas. Gunfire. 381 injured. Another death. It’s the worst violence in 16 years. Meanwhile, in Sydney, my ex-pat Thai partner and I are sinking beers. We take our laptops online but not even Thai news outlets say what’s happening now. Then, using Twitter, we find @smartbrain. Twitter is a global social message service. Often inane — the world’s weirdest cocktail party — it’s also powerfully immediate. During the Sichuan earthquake it spread news half an hour before the wires. As tanks roll into the Old City, @smartbrain hops on his bike, just as he’s done throughout the PAD occupation. In 140 characters or less, he reports to his Twitter “followers”.


“6.30pm: more army trucks. People are cheering them. I hope they are on our side. 6.31pm: old guy here says it’s not teargas. It’s m79 explosives. Whatever that is. 6.35pm: screams from the zoo. Monkeys don’t like teargas either. 6.45pm: three more trucks with army troops. Can someone please tell me whose side they’re on? 6.51pm: six shots. Wonder where. Seven shots. 6.52pm: huge convoy of army trucks. 7.17pm: ok. Army is helping to kill us, the shop vendor says. 7.17pm: confirmed by survivors running from royal plaza. The army is not here to help.” He also snaps pictures on his Nokia N95. They’re online in minutes. It’s fast, engaging, and distributed at almost no cost. We don’t need journalists to tell us “there’s teargas” or “Gordon Brown announced tax cuts” - @smartbrain and @DowningStreet tell us. But we’ll always need journalists to uncover what’s not being said, to interpret, to analyse. Journalists’ challenge is to create new ways of storytelling. Maybe live Twitter streams will be one of them, maybe not. But with inexpensive tools and easy distribution, journalism is being liberated from the creaking mechanisms of industrial-age media factories and entering a new golden age. Stilgherrian blogs at


The subs’ room at the Sydney Morning Herald, circa 1940s

Almost all organisations have blogs. They often struggle to compete with non-media blogs, which tend to build more effective on-line communities. Comments are mixed blessings. While central to the Web 2.0 concept, they dramatically increase journalists’ workloads by adding multiple audiences. A story never ends. Papers vary on their approaches to comments. Defamation law influences this to an extent. In the US, papers are not generally held to have published comments on their sites. In Australia, they probably are. As a result, some do not moderate, or only after complaints. Others employ moderators. Few papers overseas follow Australia’s practice of requiring reporters to moderate comments on their own stories.

4.3 Employment Industry job losses are particularly felt in specific areas: Foreign bureaus: Newspapers and broadcasters continue to close bureaus. After the Iraq invasion, more than a dozen US papers had full-time Baghdad bureaus. Now there are four, while US networks have largely abandoned Baghdad. The UK’s Daily Telegraph and many free-to-air broadcasters have closed most bureaus. This year, the UK’s Department for International Development slated free-to-air TV for decreasing foreign coverage: “International factual output of the four main terrestrial channels in 2007 was the lowest recorded since reports began [in 1996].”20 Last year CNN and ABC expanded “solo bureaux” to counter the problem, with new operations for Afghanistan, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland and Vietnam. Most US second-tier newspapers have closed all bureaus, leaving it to the half-dozen major papers, a situation former Baltimore Sun journalist David Simon dramatised in The Wire. In Australia, both major corporations have made small cuts to the size and scale of bureaus. Sub-editing: Fairfax Media’s recent redundancies at metropolitan mastheads concentrated on production and most job losses were in sub-editing. David Kirk denied any impact on quality but there is anecdotal evidence more mistakes are getting through. Debate rages if online sub-editors are needed at all and many executives believe they will gradually disappear. The Alliance believes sub-editing is key to the quality of news and reminds executives poor quality degrades a brand and drives audiences away. Reporting: There is little documented on disappearing roles in Australian newsrooms, but based on the US and UK, pressure will be on national and state political reporters, science, arts and feature writers in lifestyle sections. Sport, in the US particularly, is under pressure.

Many news executives believe that sub-editors will gradually disappear.



Lights.. cameras: The new video suite at the Sydney Morning Herald

Community papers point the way

“We are limited by our imagination, but also by our training.”


by Ilona Marchetta Six months ago, I was settled on returning to university to undertake my masters in journalism, hoping to one day teach it myself. But I’ve been consumed almost daily by muted panic as how we gather, interpret, deliver and consume news changes at an incredible pace. I doubt most journalists, myself included, are keeping up. I’ve postponed my plans, waiting for the wheels to slow down so we can examine them. It’s something I suspect will happen all too late for me. While I sometimes think the death of the journalist is imminent, I see daily evidence that, out of the rubble of Armageddon, we in community newspapers are most likely to emerge resurrected. Changed, but with new life. There’s no doubt community newspapers have not yet understood the best way to harness the internet for our own local uses, or found our homes in the chasm. We are working on it, but not fervently. Our information is as home-grown as it gets. Our newspaper and online audiences are defined, in our minds, geographically. The internet offers a global audience but our content remains geographically-defined. This has not been given much thought, I believe. I can imagine a time when audiences across the

state, country, or even world, will seek an authoritative community news site for information about a local event, but I don’t see it happening yet. These are frustrating times. We are limited by our imaginations, but also by our training (minimal) and what our sites cater for. Enormous potential is untapped – I don’t believe we’ve understood how. We lack the resources or energy to make it work. Our sites are evolving but not fast enough for us to really do something. Some of us excel, some flounder. We are inviting our audiences to the party, but they hesitate. Why do we struggle to engage people in our online forums and platforms? I suspect we lack the right format, and have not mastered what other platforms and sites have managed so brilliantly: breaking down the barrier between content provider and audience, blurring the lines between information giver and receiver. It has been a slow process to convince our audiences we want to abandon the one-way message of our newspapers, remove our voices of authority, and replace static presentation with dynamic conversation. Our future depends on getting it right – right now. Ilona Marchetta is a reporter at the Campbelltown Advertiser


A Project for Excellence in Journalism paper, The Changing Newsroom, tracked US newspaper coverage and found 64 per cent had cut back on foreign news, 57 per cent on national, 34 per cent on business, 27 per cent on features and lifestyle stories and 24 per cent on the arts, which may indicate likely Australian cuts.21 Anecdotally, San Francisco’s non-profit Centre for Investigative Reporting (CIR) found numbers of reporters covering the California’s government in Sacramento were halved. The centre has since sourced funding for its own team in the capital and will file free to Californian media.22 The effect on investigative reporting is debated. Some US and UK papers have cut numbers of investigative reporters. Others have retained their teams, while redefining their role to include more general or “beat” reporting. US non-profit and philanthropic institutions are partially filling the gap, such as in the CIR, Washington’s Centre for Public Integrity and, this year, New York’s Pro Publica. Other cities have centres but traditional freelance groups and investigative centres may be blurred. Generally, the centres employ senior investigative reporters and release reports, either generally, or in a deal with specific media outlets. All are mainly funded with philanthropic grants and while partly filling the gap, as one centre said: “Asking rich people for money is not a business plan.” Australia does not have the same philanthropic tradition and it would be difficult to translate here. Syndicated or wire copy has compensated for reporting cuts. Rather than employ film reviewers, many papers – including second-tier US papers – use syndicated writers, and sometimes reader polls. This has gone further in commercial electronic media. The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) reports operations consolidating, with much less local news. This has been a long-term Australian trend, despite recent countervailing straws in the wind, such as Network Ten resuming broadcast of its WA news from Perth, rather than Melbourne, and the introduction of State-based versions of A Current Affair.

Rich fare to satisfy media-hungry audience by Simon Wright has just launched its redesign, including a new homepage incorporating personalisation, new index pages and a more flexible story page to create a more engaging reading experience. In designing the story page we faced the challenge of how best to tell stories online. How could we design a page that was flexible enough to tell stories with the range of media available to us and also deal with subjects ranging from serious world news to light-hearted weird news? Traditionally online-news templates have used a central column containing the article text. Alongside this a photo may occasionally appear, but it is always on the periphery of a page and always secondary to a large stream of text. As web technologies advance and with increasingly media-hungry readers, we’re now utilising storytelling techniques beyond the written word and small photograph. A story can now be supplemented by multimedia content such as photo galleries, videos, audio and interactive flash presentations. In fact, a video, photo or map can sometimes communicate a story more effectively than text. Used in combination they can help readers make sense of a complex series of events such as the Melbourne CBD shootings, which could be

shown as an interactive map displaying the location and time of key events, each of which could then display relevant photos, videos or further articles. In such instances, the story page must be flexible enough to allow the media to become the focus of the page, rather than acting as a secondary element to the article text. A designated area above the article allows us to include rich media content or large photographs or infographics, which can collapse if not in use. The page also needs to accommodate multiple types of media simultaneously, such as a photo, video and a map. This was achieved using tabbed panels which house additional multimedia to provide further context for readers. Finding and producing all of this additional rich-media content is time-consuming for journalists and editors. One of the benefits of our office is a floor plan that puts many different teams close together: everyone from journalist to designer, developer to photographer, producer to multimedia developer sit together on one floor. When a story breaks a team is on hand to tell stories in the medium that best suits, be it text, photo, video, illustration or animation. Simon Wright is art director of

“The page needs to accommodate multiple types of media simultaneously, such as a photo, video and a map.”



Outsourcing has risks and sacrifices the ‘corporate memory’.

4.4 Outsourcing of jobs Job cuts and outsourcing go hand-in-hand. In the UK newspapers commonly outsource subbing, including several sending copy to cheaper Indian bureaus. Reuters has outsourced some reporting - notoriously, New York Stock Exchange announcements (posted on the web) to a Bangalore newsroom. In Australia and New Zealand, Fairfax and APN have outsourced significant work, including TV details, entertainment listings and some editorial sections to Pagemasters. This cost 70 sub-editing jobs on APN’s New Zealand mastheads. When cuts were announced, Lloyd Whish-Wilson, Fairfax’s chief of NSW metropolitan publishing said Pagemasters would assume “the layout and sub-editing of some sections and special reports … This will enable us to reduce the current extensive reliance on casual editorial production staff”.23 Outsourcing has risks and sacrifices the “corporate memory” a strong sub-editing culture builds in the newsroom. 4.5 Measuring for management After decades of resisting managerial metrics in newsrooms, editorial managements are increasingly adopting measures known as business process re-engineering. This is reflected in the application of metrics to determine news space, journalistic output and staffing. This inevitably favours quantity over quality. Atlanta Journal Constitution staff failing to meet daily story quotas may be disciplined. In early June, Tribune (publishers of the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, Newsday among others) announced the most comprehensive set of metrics, including: Daily ratios of advertising to editorial space (no less than 50 per cent) Group-wide ratios of editorial staff to editorial space Ratios of stories to journalists. This is likely to particularly affect major papers as ratios from smaller regional papers are applied to national papers like the LA Times or Chicago Tribune. There have often been informal ratios in Australian journalism, particularly on regional newspapers. And the SMH used a similar process to slash production staff by up to a third in mid 2007. Financal analysts regularly report on the supposed inefficiency of Australian papers, contrasting reporters per editorial page, or average wages. These are unfortunately influential in management circles, and undermine investing in quality. Modern managerial ideology is seen in the centralisation of sub-editing. This treats sub-editing as a process, almost a production line, rather than integral to a particular masthead or section. Often this involves separating subs from the rhythms of deadlines and requiring them to work, story-to-story, across mastheads. In Australia, the merger of daily and weekly desks at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald separated subs from their masthead and, at times, from their specialisation. It cost a net 35 jobs and casual positions. The paper has been consistently late since, although it is uncertain if this is due to consolidation or insufficient staff.

Content makers: Roy Greenslade talks with author Margaret Simons at The Alliance Future of Journalism summit, Sydney, May 2008



News on demand: Wireless technology is enabling access to news 24/7

Preaching to the converged by Rod Peno It’s vital to understand all the products and tools journalists must use and any content we could use to involve readers, whether they are commenting on something or the material is part of a mash-up. Broadly, the goal is to build products or, more accurately, environments where publishing content is seen as a starting point, not an end point as in traditional print publishing. As social media producer, my role is to implement these features and, to an extent, evangelise about them – I do this through a blog on The Australian website, Wires and Lights in a Box, after the famous comment about television by Edward R Murrow in the 1950s and via an internal newsletter for management and editorial, ImMEDIAtely.. Internally, the evangelism often takes the form of training: our content is published in a network-centric, interactive environment; the evangelism and training is about bringing that environment into the content creation process. Our journalists and our products are made stronger if their process reflects the medium the content is being published in. It’s good to see some older journalists

learning how effective some of these tools and features can be. An example is OpenAustralia, a website that tracks politicians and Hansard – if, say, Malcolm Turnbull mentions a particular topic in Parliament, it sends you an email. Scrutinising Hansard is something journalists have always done – this just does it for them more efficiently. I’m not a journalist but I think it is vitally important to find out about new ways of doing things that may enhance both the way journalists do their job and the way the audience can get involved and interact with them. Importantly, the whole social media sphere shouldn’t just be about socialising our content once it is produced, but it should also be about building those tools into the production process itself. Twitter is a good example of this. You can use it to find things out by monitoring “tweets” from a certain area, say 10km around the Sydney CBD – in this way it can be a great tool for finding sources of information and it is also a great way of getting that information out to networks of people. Rod Peno is social media producer of News Digital

“It’s good to see older journalists learning how effective these tools can be.”



Sound and vision: Newspapers are employing video journalists or entering joint ventures with broadcast news organisations to provide vivid footage to accompany their news packages. Most newspaper website editors reported that video was growing in popularity.

More staff cuts in October 2008 meant further consolidation, extending the process to section editors and reporters. In New Zealand, Fairfax is consolidating the subbing of world, finance and features pages across its six dailies and incorporating other papers. Here, consolidation of subbing merges with syndication, creating so-called quality subbing centres producing nearly identical pages. This cost 40 jobs, about 8 per cent of editorial staff. This has been attempted before, most notably when APN created sub-hubs in its regional dailies in the 90s. Then, technological constraints made it impossible to sustain quality and meet deadlines at papers in different cities and markets. Now, it is more practical and also publishers are more tolerant of trading off errors and missed deadlines to cost.

4.6 Contingent work As full-time work has been reduced and job security undermined, more journalists undertake contingent work – freelance, casual or contract work. A recent International Labour Office and International Federation of Journalists survey found that approximately 30 per cent of the members of combined journalists’ unions surveyed were classed as “atypical” or not working in full-time employee status. Of these, 29 per cent classed themselves as casual staff – the remainder reporting as freelancers.24 In Australia, a 2003 survey of the two big newspaper publishers found that 20 per cent of shifts were being worked by casual employees without the benefits and protections of full-time permanent employees. However since then, and particularly in recent months, both Fairfax and News Ltd have been enacting a policy of terminating their casuals as they look to make cost savings by first eliminating those positions which do not carry heavy redundancy payouts. It seems an inevitable result of the digital revolution that media companies will increasingly look outside their core workforce for content. At the same time, many journalists will attempt to do without large corporations by reaching directly to their audiences in a way that was not really practical in the past. 4.7 Reduction in paper size – and moving online Another popular means of reducing editorial space (and costs) is to change the size of newspapers. Australia has seen a drift to tabloids (Hobart, Newcastle, Adelaide, Brisbane) and talk of changing paper size (SMH, The Age). The trend to downsizing of newspapers, both in page numbers and format, is becoming more and more widespread in the UK, Europe and America. Examples such as The Times and The Independent, both of which operated in two formats before relinquishing broadsheet altogether, showed that in heavily commuterised markets such as London, a smaller format has been greeted with a significant spike in sales. However, there is no



Bringing our citizens into the conversation by Annie Fox TheVine was built around the new, participatory redefinition of the term “audience”. TheVine doesn’t have readers, we have ”citizens”. TheVine doesn’t have a Your Say, Letters or Opinions section, it has a Community. These small, but fundamental differences in language are the backbone of TheVine. We are a cross-platform publication; TheVine is available online, on your mobile, and in print. We love the idea that people can experience us across different mediums – it represents a flexibility and accessibility that is vital in modern media. The audience is given the power to decide when and how they would like to experience TheVine. While we don’t claim to be introducing breakthrough formats or usability, we do believe this attitude is the zeitgeist of modern media, one we wholeheartedly embrace. Having the ability to completely integrate citizen content throughout the site so that there is no distinction between usergenerated content (UGC) and editorial keeps content dynamic. We harness the breadth of ideas, ideals, experience, tone and knowledge of our citizens – we celebrate this diversity. TheVine has set a very strong tone through its editorial; one that inspires citizens to

create content that makes sense in TheVine setting. This content is not always likeminded in sentiment, but at its core are editorial values synonymous with TheVine: intelligence and humour. We have never had a contribution that has been off-brand – we see this as a huge compliment. We have a full-time community moderator/editor who is responsible for the needs of our citizens. She post-moderates content, facilitates discussion and encourages citizens to contribute. It is also worth noting that no blogs have ever been censored or deleted, this is a reflection of the standard of content published by our citizens. Our community moderator/editor is also a key part of our marketing, planning and strategy team. Our biggest challenge is growing our community correctly. We aim to leave a trail of breadcrumbs in the right places so that the right people will stumble upon it and follow it back to TheVine. This feeling of discovery is hugely important to this demographic. This also ensures those who come will stay, those who stay will contribute and those who contribute will encourage others to do the same. Annie Fox is editor of TheVine

“No blogs have ever been censored or deleted. This is a reflection of the standard of content.”

evidence yet that changing to a smaller format has done anything to arrest a long-term decline in circulation. A handful of papers are abandoning print. The most famous is the US national Christian Science Monitor which announced in October it would publish only online.

4.8 Quality One of the hardest measures in journalism is quality. Washington’s Project for Excellence in Journalism is developing metrics of quality (eg number of sources, right of reply, comment etc) and hopes to incorporate the results in its annual state-of-the-media report. It is generally seen that fewer staff and more deadlines are affecting quality. Most Australian editors surveyed acknowledged this, fearing financial constraints would put pressure on quality. “Financial pressure has affected the quality of our journalism,” one editor wrote. “You could always do with more money, although we have stood up quite well in terms of integrating the newsrooms – online and print.” Another wrote: “Sigh… not enough time or people around so we can’t invest in extra drafts, spike stories that don’t work well, or plan big.” A constant refrain was cuts to reporting and production staff would undermine quality: “Staff vacancies are usually filled with someone of less experience to save money,” wrote one editor, while another wrote: “Less time, more make do, sloppier reporting and presentation, less inquiry.” Editors were divided on whether the economic model traditionally supporting print journalism could transfer online. One was concerned at the rush to free online content: “It’s too late to coherently offer user-pay services”, while another, confident online news would eventually be paid for said: “I cannot see its revenue surpassing print for many years, especially if online starts paying the true cost of its content.” However, generally, editors see a demand for quality news and information, “especially from a trusted source” – what mainstream newspapers and broadcasters still represent for the majority.



The Mission found an industry and a craft deeply ill at ease with the challenges ahead.

Chapter 5: The Mission In May, 2008, immediately after The Alliance’s first Future of Journalism summit in Sydney, The Alliance sent a group of five senior staff and journalists to visit US and Western European newsrooms and to discuss the scale and pace of change with journalists and senior executives. The group spoke with academics and new media trail-blazers about experimental and citizen journalism, data mining and blogging. The mission asked: What is the impact of these changes on the way journalists work, what is the impact on the work journalists produce, and, what is the impact on the structure of the industry? The team was: Matt Brown, ABC Melbourne Louise Connor, Alliance Victorian secretary Terry O’Connor, Courier-Mail Online, Queensland secretary Ruth Pollard, SMH, Alliance federal president Christopher Warren, Alliance federal secretary They visited newspapers, online newspapers, broadcasters, non-profit organisations, academics, agencies, unions and others. They visited Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, Atlanta, Washington, New York and Toronto. They also visited the United Kingdom, Ireland and the Netherlands. The mission found an industry and a craft deeply ill at ease with the challenges ahead. Some journalists are embracing opportunities for improving communications. Many are not. All companies are seeking to engage online but few are successfully – financially, culturally or structurally – adapting to a digital world.

5.1 The national newspaper: The Washington Post On its website, The Washington Post declares its newsroom “still looks much like it did in the movie All the President’s Men, but it is far more diverse”. This isn’t strictly true – in the 1976 Watergate blockbuster, reporters were not shooting their own video, recording podcasts or preparing complex flash-based graphics packages, now the norm for Jim Brady, executive editor, says his team were poor relations in the pecking order until recently. “The joke used to be, ‘giving us the heads up’ meant telling us 12 hours before a huge project was going to hit,” Brady said. “Now we are in the first meeting – and we are being asked what would you do on the web, what are the video opportunities here, how can we get readers involved, are there databases set up, are there ways of getting pieces of this series communicated to people on mobile phones. We have become very good at working with the paper on big long-term projects and we are very good at working with the paper on huge short-term breaking news stories – it is the middle stuff we still struggle with. We don’t necessarily have the bodies to do that.” Brady said the Post had introduced comprehensive training and all reporters could shoot video, which – he said – was “the hot thing now”. It had been hampered by broadband speeds, but was growing in popularity. “We have a political blogger out there who has a camera mounted on his computer and when a big story breaks he will do the 60 seconds on what this means, and he will push a button on his computer, send it to our computer guys and 10 minutes later there will be a video of him up there reacting to Teddy Kennedy having a brain tumour … it is totally crappy video, it is a webcam, but it gets it out there. Productions values are not everything – communicating simple information is what matters. You might get 10,000 video streams for something that took 90 seconds to make.” Brady has six dedicated video journalists (VJs) who make everything from documentary-style stories to three minute campaign reports. The site is separate from the print newsroom. About 100 dedicated online journalists prepare copy from the print operation, moderate blogs, produce video and podcasts and produce original stories. At last count, the Monday to Friday print version of The Post was selling 623,000 copies, down 1.9 per cent in the latest ABC audit. Donald E Graham, chairman and CEO, has made the digital business his priority: “If internet advertising revenues don’t continue to grow fast,” he told Fortune in 2007, “I think the future of the newspaper business will be very challenging. The website simply has to come through.” The prognosis is challenging. Washington Post Co profits plummeted 86 per cent in the third quarter of 2008, compared to the same period in 2007. This was due to print losses which offset gains by the educational and cable TV divisions. The newspaper itself



reported a quarterly operating loss of $82.7 million. Print advertising revenue was down 16 per cent for the first nine months of 2008, while quarterly digital revenues were up 13 per cent to $30.8 million. The group’s cash cow is the Kaplan Education division, providing 53 per cent of revenue and reporting $603 million in third-quarter revenue, a 17 per cent gain over last year, and $51 million in operating income, a 36 per cent gain over the same period last year. Its other main internet venture is, purchased in 2004, a free site supported by advertising (it sold subscriptions for less than a year). The group is hastily throwing its eggs into the online basket. Whether online revenue, growing far more slowly than traditional revenues are waning, will be enough is uncertain. For Warren Buffett, a director for more than 30 years, the future is online or not at all: “The present model - meaning print - isn’t going to work,” he told Fortune last year.25

“The present model - meaning print - isn’t going anywhere.” Warren Buffett

5.2 Anywhere, any platform, any time: CNN When established IReport, a mini-site devoted to user-generated content, without editing, vetting or quality control, many thought they were crazy. “We took a deep breath and stepped into the unknown,” spokesperson Jennifer Martin told The Alliance in May. Rather than the barrage of inappropriate stories, content and photos many expected, the site had attracted quirky local stories, on-the-spot breaking news and reactions to national news stories. “We have just begun to work out how to integrate user-generated content into our news site gracefully, but also providing that ‘capital J journalism’ viewpoint from our journalists in the field,” she said. “We provide training for every journalist in the building on how to use the user-generated content on, how to vet that content and how to incorporate it in their reporting on air across our different platforms.” Martin said the most popular online asset was photography and photos in slideshows remained powerful storytellers. But video was increasingly popular, especially CNN.AllAccess which follows correspondents on stories. CNN reporters typically carry a backpack with a handheld digital video recorder, camera and laptop with Final Cut Pro. A pre-roll of advertising tops CNN’s video, and the site features banner adverts and sponsorship, but Martin said the network “is not at the point where we can really compare ad revenue from broadcast to online” 5.3 Where quotas rule: Atlanta Journal-Constitution The Atlanta Journal-Constitution restructured in 2007, targeting mainly older reporters and editors for redundancy and laying off about 70 staff. Those who remained had to reapply for their jobs. This was, said one reporter, “demeaning and insulting”. Remaining staff are divided into two main sections: news and information, with about 170 journalists who break news; and enterprise, with about 50 staff concentrating on features and investigations. The digital section’s “channel managers”, technicians and designers focus on the website. Quotas were also imposed on reporters: 60 a year for narrative and profile writers, and 12 for investigative reporters. Dorrie Toney, who liaises between business and editorial for, says, unlike the newspaper, “for, our concern about revenue is site wide … in July 2007, when we flicked the switch, the change was enormous. We came to a hard stop on how we operate and the culture we’ve lived within for decades and started anew – that was quite unsettling for many people and exciting for many people – and it is ongoing to this day.” But most unsettling is that “as an industry, we are moving forward without any real idea of where we are going, what the next technology is or who our competitors are going to be. We have absolutely no idea if the internet will ever pay for itself – at this point in the industry, print is still the main revenue driver. Where those lines will cross, who knows?” She says slideshows and sound slides do better business than video and reporters are encouraged to take headshots and simple news photographs. Photographers are encouraged to take video but the AJC feels the results don’t stand up against CNN or TV news. The ACJ and are separate with some key common staff – news reporters file to both, but features and investigative reporters felt the website did not give them due prominence and mainly was for breaking news and lifestyle pieces. 5.4 The experiment: EveryBlock is the brainchild of former The Washington Post journalist Adrian Holovaty. Working for the Post in Chicago, he set up to analyse daily crime reports from the Chicago Police Department’s website and reorganised the information so people could see what was happening in their neighbourhood. A US$1.1 million Knight Foundation grant funded the experiment and it has expanded



from Chicago to New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Miami, San Jose, Charlotte, Seattle and LA. The site aggregates news, public information and databases on restaurant inspections, crime reports, building permits, property sales etc. Flickr provides photos and other information is sourced from social networking sites. Says Holovaty: “We like to toss around the word “news” to describe all of this, and that might surprise you at first. Isn’t news what appears on the front page of the New York Times? Isn’t news something produced by professional journalists? “Well, it can be – and we include as much of that on EveryBlock as possible. But, in our minds, ‘news’ at the neighborhood or block level means a lot more. On EveryBlock, ‘Somebody reviewed the new Italian restaurant down the street on Yelp’ is news. ‘Somebody took a photo of that cool house on your block and posted it to Flickr’ is news. ‘The NYPD posted its weekly crime report for your neighborhood’ is news. If it’s in your 26 neighborhood and it happened recently, it’s news on EveryBlock.” Holovaty said the site will eventually allow users to log their own data, but was still considering verifying contributions: “We wouldn’t want a restaurant owner writing a bad review of the competition. We’ll add more relevance, more algorithms and customerisaton, and we’ll improve the filtering so, for example, we can let people know about pickpocket crimes within three blocks of where they live, but show homicides for, say, eight blocks. We’ll add more visuals, too, such as maps or diagrams showing trends.” Holoovaty said he was not too focussed on “monetising” EveryBlock: “We get a bit of revenue from Google Ads … we could look at venture capital or other grants, I guess. At the end of the Knight Foundation two-year grant period, all our code will be released to the public as free source. And then, maybe, I’ll be ready to move on to something different.”

5.5 The journalist-free news operation: is owned and run by the Clarity Media Group in Denver, Colorado, and also runs free sheets in cities including San Francisco, Washington and Baltimore. The owner, billionaire Philip Anschutz, is a Christian conservative ranked by Forbes as the 31st richest person in the US, with interests in oil, entertainment, film, sports,



broadcasting and railways. Anschutz was behind the LA Galaxy soccer team’s import of David Beckham. Former AOL executive, Michael Sherrod, runs the internet operations. The group has domain names for hyperlocal sites in 70 US cities, although sites had officially launched in beta for only San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore, Denver, and Seattle. A New York site is under construction. The principle is pure citizen journalism with contributions from “examiners” paid by numbers of page views and advertising clicks. The pay starts at US$2.50 for every thousand page views and, according to TechCrunch, the median income is $25 a month (although Sherrod told TechCrunch he had written a cheque for $1,700). “We are building a community of Examiners to focus on specific topics ranging from sports to tourism to local politics,” a post on the website said recently. “Examiners are local experts who have a voice, knowledge and an opinion. Think of an Examiner like a blogger on steroids. Examiners will have the tools, platform and exposure to not only report, but build a community of others who share their passion.” Sherrod calls it a “community knowledge site.” “The examiners are knowledgeable people, writing with passion and expertise on what’s happening in the local community,” Sherrod told the Journal. “All of us are amazed at the quality of these people.” It was not journalism: “It’s about people sharing what they know in a fun, informative, different way. It’s their voice.”27

“Examiners are knowledgeable people, writing with passion and expertise on what’s happening in the local community” Michael Sherrod, CEO

5.6 Church and state: BBC online The BBC has discovered that Britney sells. But it has taken the digital revolution and a new generation of journalists and online readers to show Britain’s public broadcaster the way forward. BBC’s head of online news and current affairs, Pete Clifton, stresses the day-to-day exploits of the rich and famous are not the first priority for possibly the world’s most powerful news brand. But they are bringing a new generation to the site and boosting the BBC’s coffers. The BBC was established as a strictly non-commercial operation, funded by the taxpayer through an annual licence fee. Attracting the advertising dollar should be anathema in Auntie’s newsrooms. And so it is. But Australian-born Kym Niblock, managing director, is charged with making as much money as she can. Last year, that was £800 million in sales and advertising revenues, £111 million of it ploughed back into the BBC for its internationally renowned programs. Between them, Clifton and Niblock represent the “church and state” relationship that the commercial operation that the BBC has with BBC Worldwide. As the head of Clifton manages a news service consumed, one way or another, by about 80 per cent of adult Britons. The BBC brand is highly trusted as a publicly funded operation with no relationship to advertisers or a profit motive., in contrast, is all about making money for the corporation. packages content from the public broadcaster and uses it overseas – alongside advertising. This includes news and current affairs programming and other BBC-generated content. In partnership with several international interests, BBC Worldwide (the parent of sells BBC content to overseas broadcasters and online operations. Sophisticated geo-IP software ensures UK consumers cannot see the advertising on those overseas sites. According to the BBC Worldwide 2006-7 annual report, has more than 1.2 billion off-shore page impressions a month. Niblock refers to as the “public service”, establishing a clear delineation between the tax-payer funded domestic BBC and BBC Worldwide. Two recent deals stand out. Last year BBC Worldwide negotiated with YouTube to establish a branded channel showing BBC content. In the first month of operation, more than four million BBC videos were viewed on YouTube. More recently, BBC Worldwide made a similar deal with MySpace, expecting similar success. Clifton said the corporation believed “old media” news distribution: ie scheduled TV and radio bulletins, was rapidly declining and so huge resources go to developing and exploiting platforms such as the Web, IPTV and mobile phones. The numbers look good. The website’s users are growing at about 25 per cent per year, and it now has about 5.5 million unique users a day. Significantly, Niblock – originally from Adelaide and Sky TV – uses the term “arm’s length” to describe the relationship between BBC Worldwide and “Public service is supported by the licence fee. Worldwide is a subsidiary that is 100 per cent owned by the BBC. But we are a fully commercial business. We do not receive subsidies or hand-outs from the BBC – everything we do has to be commercially paid for and at arm’s



length from the BBC – essentially we could be called ‘Brand X’ and be another business. “What is proving really successful for us is there is a market for premium product and we absolutely pitch the product as premium. We go to the market and people might say our CPMs (cost of page impressions) are higher than CNN. We say we think it’s a hot product. We say we think they do better in the market, the profile of the people they bring to you is much better than some of our competitors. We are aggressive about it and that’s all there is to it.”

5.7 Reach before revenue: The Guardian The Guardian has parlayed a daily circulation of 350,000 in Britain into 25 million unique users a month globally to its websites, and – since 2007 –, which represents about a third of its online visitors. Guardian News & Media, owned by the Scott Trust, lost more than £24 million in the year to April, despite online revenue reaching £85 million. However it is cross-subsidised by other properties in a group set up in the 1930s by former editor, CP Scott, who envisaged a “quality national newspaper without party affiliation, remaining faithful to liberal tradition; as a profit-seeking enterprise managed in an efficient and cost-effective manner”. The paper has moved to King’s Cross, where, for the first time, the newspaper and the website converged. Previously they were separate operations with the website subsidised by free print content. According to Neil McIntosh,’s former head of editorial development (Since October, The Wall Street Journal’s European edition editor) staff were then organised into “pods”, encompassing both online and print coverage for, The Guardian and The Observer, the group’s major Sunday paper. McIntosh did not envisage redundancies – there had been 20 voluntary redundancies “and the head count is going straight across to digital”. At the time of writing, there were about 130 journalists and technicians on the website and between 500 and 600 on the newspapers. He said all print journalists were trained in blogging software, shooting and editing video, “real bare bones stuff – the message is that these are the tools that are revolutionising our business. “We are not asking print journalists to produce a radio program or do pieces to camera – we do have video talking heads but the requirements for the Web are different. Quality is obviously paramount so we do not want to have people doing something they are not comfortable doing.” In 2006 The Guardian was the first Fleet Street paper to announce it would run stories online before they appeared in print (The Times followed 24 hours later). Its reputation is the British newspaper with the most “Web-enabled” attitude. However, McIntosh said the paper had transferred online the values it espoused in print. 5.8 The original “newsroom of the future”: The Daily Telegraph When it moved to its purpose-built premises near London’s Victoria Station, the Telegraph Media Group shape-shifted from a conservative publisher of Tory-focused morning and Sunday newspapers into a 24/7 multi-media operation, running a newspaper and website featuring ITN news video and several in-house television portals for business, sport and lifestyle. TMG, majority owned by reclusive property billionaires, David and Frederick Barclay, created the “newsroom of the future” which has been widely copied, including by Fairfax Media, which adopted the “hub and spoke” model for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Screens constantly updating lists of’s most popular stories dominate this impressive newsroom. Conference goes all day and editor Will Lewis’ decisions are relayed from section heads to reporters working for both the Web and print. Digital editor Edward Roussel said, unlike most competitors, the site had to operate strictly as a business: “If you look at the Guardian, it is owned by the Scott Trust, which is run to ensure the newspaper and website are adequately funded by cross-subsidising from the more commercially successful properties in the group; News Ltd is able to subsidise its newspapers and websites from a range of different media properties. We have had to make money from the word go.” It hasn’t all been plain sailing. The National Union of Journalists was quoted in the UK’s Press Gazette this year claiming more than 150 editorial staff had left the Daily and Sunday Telegraph since the Victoria Station move in 2006i. Roussel said the new era called for a new type of reporter, with the attributes of a wire journalist or a sports reporter: “If you imagine the way a football reporter works, filing grabs every few minutes and then turning the whole thing into a story very quickly after



the end of the game, that is the way our reporters work now when filing for online,” he said. Roussel believes success lies in original stories, or “premium” content. He adheres to the Jarvis maxim: “Do what you do best and link to the rest”. He says outsourcing effectively reduces costs. He told a conference at New York’s City University in October that the Telegraph’s deal with ITN to use their video news content had paid off, as ITN could produce material technically far better than the newspaper’s, and the newspaper could concentrate on its core business.28 At the most recent audit, was Britain’s second most-visited news website, with 22.95 million unique users in September, behind on 24.19 million.

5.9 The converged newsroom: Lancashire Evening Post They modestly describe it as evolution rather than revolution, but Lancashire Evening Post reporters have, in their own small way, set a standard in online journalism for the Johnston Press group – the UK’s third largest publisher. “We are the first newspaper in the UK to be completely converged across the whole newsroom,” says the Post’s deputy editor, Mike Hill. “Every journalist has the ability to work on every platform.” Like most papers, just two-and-a-half years ago, every Post journalist filed only for the newspaper, and at some stage during the day a secretary would “shove everything up on the internet”. “Now the reporters are all trained, to varying degrees of ability, to use video and audio equipment to tape interviews,” Hill says. “All of the sub-editors, as well as producing the copy for the newspaper, produce it for the website, and the editors are making decisions across platforms.” Online content is discussed at every conference. publishes stories continuously and most stories appear online first. “We have the market to ourselves as a regional newspaper, so we can control our content, which is a bit different to our national papers,” Hill says. Profits are still heavily weighted towards the newspaper – around 90 per cent to 10 per cent, but the 10 per cent is growing, he says. Against expectations, the leap into full-time online publishing did wonders for circulation. “When we launched this a couple of years ago our circulation was poor, we were one of the worst performing newspapers in the UK; we thought privately, if we are going to jump off a cliff and give away all our content for free, it might be the end of us. “What happened was the opposite. The sales decline slowed from about -12 per cent per year to -3 per cent per year.” When the paper first moved to an integrated newsroom, Hill thought technology could defeat them – the paper’s computer system didn’t talk to the website. But then he talked to the University of Central Lancashire’s journalism school, which has a strong online program, and realised cultural change was the challenge. With the university, Post editors built a staff-training program – using the internet, search engines beyond Google, getting the most from email systems, video and audio recording, and time management in the digital age. Daily circulation is now 30,000 for the newspaper, while traffic to the site peaks at around 8am, lunchtime, and just before people leave work for home. Using Sony HD video cameras, Edirol digital recorders, Soundslide for the galleries and Avid Pro Express for editing videos, the Post, and its 65 editorial staff, blossomed into

“Platform agnostic”: the Lancashire Evening Post

The Lancashire Evening Post found the leap into full-time online publishing boosted its print circulation.



Chapter 6: Crystal-ball gazing “Unlike the doom and gloomers, I believe that newspapers will reach new heights. In the 21st century, people are hungrier for information than ever before. And they have more sources of information than ever before.” Rupert Murdoch, Boyer Lecture, ABC Radio National, November 1629 Delivering his Boyer lecture on the future of newspapers, the News Ltd CEO expressed his firm belief journalism would endure. But the business model that will take journalism forward remains elusive. Shortly after he recorded his speech and before it was broadcast, News Ltd announced a 30 per cent fall in profits for the three months to the end of September and Murdoch warned the market of belt-tightening and cost-cutting in all divisions. While debate rages about what sort of newsroom will emerge from the digital revolution, most commentators believe economic changes dictate smaller operations serving niche markets.

6.1 Niche for new junkies In the American Journalism Review, Philip Meyer recently envisaged a “smaller, less frequently published version, packed with analysis and investigative reporting and aimed at well-educated news junkies, that may well be a smart survival strategy for the beleaguered old print product”.30 Meyer highlights that high street department stores had given way to boutiques with upmarket and specialised offerings that identified and targeted their customers better. He quotes Robert Picard, who told a Future of Journalism conference at Harvard that newspapers: “keep offering an all-you-can-eat buffet of content, and keep diminishing the quality of that content because their budgets are continually thinner. This is an absurd choice because the audience least interested in news has already abandoned the newspaper.”31 One solution, says Meyer, is to narrow down to a specialised product and be the best in your field for a specialised and (hopefully) cashed-up market, representing premium value to advertisers.



Meyer analysed the possible “niches” and decided the community influence model was least vulnerable to substitution. Being the trusted source for locally produced news, analysis and investigative reporting was the optimum way to ensure influence which – as Meyer showed in his 2002 book, The Vanishing Newspaper, was most attractive to advertising revenue. Content would be evidence-based journalism, largely still the province of professional journalists. Meyer believes US markets can sustain such specialised news organisations as there is a strong demographic demanding high-quality information “as a defence against ‘persuasive communication’, the euphemism for advertising, public relations and spin that exploits the confusion of information overload”. In his AN Smith lecture in October, former The Age editor, Michael Gawenda, took up a similar theme. He described The Age he grew up reading, and later edited, as a newspaper with: “stories that formed … a daily narrative of the city’s life and its people, from the powerful to the powerless … serving a community of readers”.32 Gawenda distinguishes between “compelling, revelatory articles that only a reporter, going out there and doing the reporting work, could have brought you” and “the rest – reports of news conferences, PR-driven events, announcements”. The latter, he said, was better done online, as was commentary and analysis, of which there is no shortage on the internet. Lifestyle and reviews are also flooding on to the internet. Commentary, says Gawenda, has a place in a quality newspaper, but it should be informed and written by those who know the subject well. But a newspaper’s core function should be to discover what readers would not otherwise, to develop a bond of trust with readers and convey information elegantly and accurately, supported by strong photographs – another area where professionals will hold the edge over the millions of amateurs uploading snaps from mobile phones to sites such as Flickr.

6.2 Building a new reality A seminar at the City University of New York considered the kind of news organisation that might survive if a medium-sized city’s print newspapers folded. The News Efficiency’s Group at the university’s “New Business Models for News Summit” assumed a city such as Philadelphia had to build an online news operation from scratch. The group started with revenue and traffic assumptions and worked back to build an affordable staff. They projected a website with 800 million page annual views, and a revenue of US$4 million. They set aside US$2.1 million to pay 35 employees, based on an average salary of US$60,000. Staffing breakdown: Content creators (blogging/photography/video/curation of beats): 20 Community managers (outreach, mediation, social media evangelism): 3 Programmers/developers: 2 Designers/graphics artists: 2 Producers (site management etc): 5 Editors: 333 There was much discussion as to whether a newsroom was needed as there was a consensus that staff should be in the community as much as possible, but the group agreed a scaled-down newsroom was valuable for “collaboration”. The service would concentrate on local government, education and high school sports: “We envisioned beat reporters working with networks of local bloggers to expand the reach of the staff,” reported John Hassell of the Star-Ledger in Newark. It would jettison national and international news, national entertainment and sports and the editorial page. On latest figures, Philadelphia Inquirer staff exceeded 300, so the new model would provide jobs for only about 10 per cent. It was generally agreed that while costs would have to be cut to meet reduced advertising revenues, the group should be “smarter” than listed newspaper companies which have reduced costs by retrenching journalists. “Content providers are the last things you should be cutting, not the first”, reported Chris O’Brien from the Next Newsroom Project. Edward Roussel, digital director of the UK’s Telegraph Media, told the summit he had overseen huge cost savings by outsourcing technology: “Let’s face it, if you work at a newspaper, your technology sucks,” he said. “So get rid of it. We reduced half our technology staff.” Roussel said news companies needed to invest in what defined them: “Don’t cut editorial,” he warned - cut distribution, technology, sales and marketing.

“Content providers are the last things you should be cutting, not the first.” Chris O’Brien, Next Newsroom project



6.3 Wall Street or Main Street The other key debate is over ownership models. Private Media owner Eric Beecher, of the successful news and commentary website, concedes that while Crikey makes a little money, it does so with a very small newsroom and a subscription model guaranteeing revenue. Crikey, he said, would never be a traditional breaking and investigative news service as it could never afford to pay enough journalists. Beecher advocates some form of government intervention, but stops short of calling for direct subsidy. “I think it has probably got to the stage where politicians and governments, who, I think, genuinely support the notion and importance of journalism in the system, need to look at it and say: 'If we don't do anything, in a decade's time the idea of well-resourced quality journalism with hundreds of journalists covering parliament and business, investigative journalism and the courts will be gone.’ … I'm not necessarily saying governments should set up newspapers or set up a huge fund to support journalism. I don't have a specific remedy in mind. What I am saying is if governments believe genuinely in the importance of journalism as part of the democratic system, they need to understand that if nothing else happens outside the commercial system, over the next few years it will disappear.” Eric Beecher, ABC Radio 702, August 2008

Stop press: Reducing printing costs is one way of radically cutting overheads as circulation declines

There has been much debate in the US as to whether news organisations are better owned “by Wall Street or by Main Street”. There is also speculation a beleaguered publicly traded US newspaper group might be preparing to go private. A recent US debate, sponsored by the Society of Business Editors and Writers, concluded public ownership, particularly of the larger metro papers, was outdated. Mark Frisby, executive vice president of Philadelphia Media Holdings, owner of Philadelphia Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer, told the forum many newspaper groups would eventually “return from Wall Street to Main Street”. Wall Street had always expected a high return, with margins of 20 to 25 per cent, Frisby said. But private owners “have accepted the fact that if we can get 10 or 12 per cent margins, we are happy with that”.34 Private owners are also more able to withstand lean times in anticipation of economic recovery. Yet, as we’ve seen at PBL, private equity ownership is risky when crushing debt threatens.

6.4 A place for public broadcasting All this places public broadcasting at the centre. Australia fortunately has a tradition of a strong, independent public broadcaster. But decades of cost-cutting have sapped its strength and culture wars have undermined it. The new Australian media landscape needs a public broadcaster with the funding to parlay its strengths into the emerging platforms - online and broadcast. Commercial free-to-air networks face their own crisis, their audiences disrupted by timeshift technology, the internet and internet gaming. The financial crisis has further discouraged a lacklustre advertising market. Some networks have responded by cost-cutting: trimming news bureaus and axing shows. This is seen as tacit admission they cannot compete with the plethora of 24-hour news services. As a result, the commercial TV networks have cut news and current affairs disproportionately.



6.5 Partnerships are the key The Nine Network, through NineMSN, has the most successful multi-platform model of any of the commercial TV networks, but – like newsprint – the televisual element suffers even as the online portion begins to prosper. Seven has also teamed up with a new media company to create Yahoo!7, also rising up Australia’s top 20 websites. At a recent London conference hosted by The Guardian, the buzzword was partnerships: companies joining others in ventures, each contributing what they did best. However the future news organisation must be as flexible as the technology that is transforming it. It must attract and maintain an audience by building a community and relationship based on trust and mutual respect. The Alliance believes quality is the key to maintaining these communities. As technology changes how we produce, distribute and consume news, the fundamentals remain unchanged. In the end, news consumption is highly discretionary. Provide your audience with something worthwhile, informative, attractive, accurate and stimulating and they will come back. They will bring others with them. They will trust your message and advertisers will respect and reward that relationship. 6.6 Recommendations This report is a shapshot of where our craft sits right now. The challenge is: what are we going to do about it? How does journalism – and Australia’s journalists – surf this wave of change to a future that values and rewards our work? This will require action by media companies, by governments, by The Alliance and by individual journalists themselves. Neither as a union, nor as individuals, can we afford to be spectators. We have to shape our own futures. So, how will we do that? Training: Understanding how to use new opportunities for journalism is central. Employers, The Alliance and individuals have a responsibility to ensure the media community has the training necessary to deal with the changes. As a union, we have to demand employers provide adequate and appropriate training, and include these demands in collective bargaining and other negotiations. We need to develop and implement the training working journalists need. If we don’t, noone else will. Members must embrace training opportunities and be eager to apply the skills in their daily work. Work intensification: Employers cannot continue to expect working journalists to carry the load of change by working harder and doing more with less. Inevitably, we will end up doing less with less. The Alliance has the responsibility for campaigning to end this imposition. And members must learn when to say yes or no: yes to embracing the opportunities but no to overwork and the damage it does. Freelancers and contingent work: The Alliance recognises the changes have a major impact on the structure of work and particularly affect people working freelance, casual and on fixed contracts. Many of these changes are positive – they provide openings for more creative use of our craft and ways to communicate directly with our communities. They also threaten traditional security and methods of payment. Helping freelancers manage the transition is a key challenge for The Alliance Shaping new media: The Alliance has to shape new media based on our core values of independence and respect for truth. It must empower journalists and engage with our communities. Governments have to understand the challenges our industry faces and to accept their responsibilities for working with the industry to shape new media. A key government role will be in strengthening public broadcasting, which is central to how Australia is informed and entertained. Collective bargaining: The changes we face shape our collective bargaining agenda. We have to protect hard-won wages and conditions while adapting those conditions to the new world. We have to be prepared to specifically bargain around the issues change is throwing up. Communication: The Alliance has to keep on top of the process of change. We have to know and track those changes and how they are shaping journalism. We have to keep sharing that information with the Australian media community.

Media Alliance, November 2008



References 1. Roy Greenslade, Future of Journalism summit, Sydney, May 2008 2. Emily Bell, director of digital content for Guardian News and Media, Polis Think Tank, October 2008 3. Alan D Mutter, Reflections of a Newsosaur, October 2008 4. Craig Huber, International Business Times, October 2008 5. The end of advertising as we know it, IBM Global Business Services, December 2007 6. Big media stocks suffer a dismal month, Reuters, October 2008 7. Alan D Mutter, Reflections of a Newsosaur, October 2008 8. Ibid 9. American Society of Newspaper Editors, 2008 Census 10. Roy Greenslade, Future of Journalism summit, Sydney, May 2008 11., October 2008 12. Murdoch prepares to wield razor, Business Day, October 2008 13. Goldman Sachs JB Were, Consumer discretionary, October 2008 14. Australian Press Council, State of the print news media, 2007 15. Nielsen ratings, 2008 16. Hitwise, February 2008 17. Top 100 Australian blogs index, Blogpond, November 2008 18. Pew Research Center, Project for Excellence in Journalism, The changing newsroom, July 2008 19. Jeff Jarvis, Buzzmachine, October 2008 20. Pew Research Center, Project for Excellence in Journalism, The changing newsroom, July 2008 21. Press Gazette, July 2008 22. Centre for Investigative Reporting 23. The Australian, August 2008 24. International Federation of Journalists/International Labor Office, The changing nature of work, April 2006 25. Can the Washington Post survive? Fortune, July 2007 26. 27. 28. Edward Roussel, New business models for news, City University of New York, November 2008 29. Rupert Murdoch, Boyer Lecture, ABC Radio National, November 2008 30. Philip Meyer, The elite newspaper of the future, American Journalism Review, October/November 2008 31. Robert Picard, 32. Michael Gawenda, AN Smith lecture, Melbourne University, October 2008 33. New business models for news, City University of New York, November 2008 34. Society of American Business Editors and Writers, annual conference 2008


Life in the clickstream: The future of journalism report v1  
Life in the clickstream: The future of journalism report v1  

This is the first volume of the "Future of Journalism" report from the Media Alliance. Australia's union for the people who inform and enter...