Senate to re-open Bloggers versus Journalists

That tired “bloggers are not journalists” debate looks like it’ll surface in Australia’s Senate soon, thanks to The Greens. It’ll be annoying. But it’ll be a Good Thing.

At the end of October the House of Representatives passed the Evidence Amendment (Journalists’ Privilege) Bill 2010, which is all about protecting the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. In the usual jargon, it’s a “journalist shield law”.

Australia was apparently the only major democracy without such a law in place or in progress, so it’s welcome. And, in the words of the new Greens MP for Melbourne, Adam Bandt, “this bill is a good example of how all parties can collaborate on a worthwhile initiative in a way that would not have happened without the currently composed parliament.”

Bandt continued:

To facilitate its passage, the Greens will support the bill in its current form in the House, but I indicate now that we will seek minor amendments to it in the Senate. In particular, we believe that it should be made explicit that the bill covers bloggers, citizen journalists and documentary filmmakers, and that the privileges provided by the bill cover anyone engaged in the process of journalism, no matter who they are or in what medium they publish.

Well I reckon it’s great that the new law might cover more people, not just those who work as employee-journalists in the industrial media factories. It’s great that it might be technology- and medium-neutral. But…

What the heck is a “blogger” or a “citizen journalist”?

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Viocorp Future Forum: The Future of News Reporting

I’m one of the panellists on Viocorp’s Future Forum The Future of News Reporting next Friday 9 July at midday Sydney time.

The other panellists are: Angelos Frangepoulos, CEO, Sky News Channel; Eric Beecher, publisher of Crikey; Mark Hollands, Chief Executive of PANPA; and Sam North, Media Director at Ogilvy Public Relations. The moderator is the redoubtable Mark Jones.

Now I’m a little worried about the topics listed, because some of them seem like we’re revisiting that tired old “bloggers are not journalists” (non-)debate. I thought we’d moved on from there. And “citizen journalism”? Haven’t we killed that term yet? Truly, I’ll end up stabbing someone. So I intend to derail proceedings at the earliest opportunity. Oh. Don’t read that bit, Mark.

In case you’re late to the party, some of my thoughts on this can be found in my presentation to Media140 Sydney and my Journalism in a hyperconnected world from late 2008. Maybe I need to do an update piece.

It’s a webcast thingy, so do please watch. And tell your friends. Unless they’re bloggers. Or journalists.

Tom Connell: When the last ink’s dried

[Recently I was interviewed by Tom Connell, a journalism student at RMIT University, about the future of newspapers. Here’s his resulting feature article. I haven’t edited it, apart from imposing my own idiosyncratic typographical pedantry and linky goodness. You read it now, and I’ll add my own comments tonight. It’s long, but I think it outlines the key issues rather well.]

Newspapers are folding in the United States at an astonishing rate. According to Paper Cuts, a website tracking the newspaper industry, more than 120 have folded since January, 2008. While Australian broadsheets have not succumbed just yet, there is a real possibility that they may not survive in the long-term. But is that such a bad thing? Tom Connell reports.

Mark Scott’s recent comments about the Australian newspaper industry would have sent chills through journalists and editors across the country.

“It does strike me that much of the bold and creative thinking about the future of print seems to be happening outside the major publishers — probably because the talented people within are too busy simply attending to the fire in the building,” Scott said, in and article in The Age on 9 April.

This was hardly the first doomsday article on newspapers, but what set this apart is that Scott, current head of the ABC, was until 2006 a newspaper executive at Fairfax Media –- the second largest newspaper owner in Australia.

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New Journalism: those who get it, those who don’t

Photograph of Henry Porter

Increasingly, I’m getting annoyed with otherwise-intelligent people who simply don’t “get” what is happening as our world becomes hyperconnected and rail against it. The man in the photo is Henry Porter. He doesn’t get it. But a pseudonymous commenter at The Poll Bludger this morning does. And he explains it better than I ever have.

Ah, the contrast!

In a piece for The Observer, Porter’s headline warns that Google is just an amoral menace. The ever-growing empire produces nothing but seems determined to control everything, we’re told.

Exactly 20 years after Sir Tim Berners-Lee wrote the blueprint for the world wide web, the Internet has become the host to a small number of dangerous WWMs — worldwide monopolies that sweep all before them with exuberant contempt for people’s rights, their property and the past…

One of the chief casualties of the web revolution is the newspaper business, which now finds itself laden with debt (not Google’s fault) and having to give its content free to the search engine in order to survive. Newspapers can of course remove their content but then their own advertising revenues and profiles decline. In effect they are being held captive and tormented by their executioner, who has the gall to insist that the relationship is mutually beneficial. Were newspapers to combine to take on Google they would be almost certainly in breach of competition law.

It’s worth reading the full rantbecause it completely misses the point: I only found Porter’s piece because Google had told me about it.

Google didn’t “steal” his content. It produced a new audience member. And that’s what all media outlets produce: an audience for their advertisers — or, in the case of the ABC and SBS, an audience sufficiently large to justify their existence.

Ever though I think this one piece by Porter is full of shit, I clicked through, read about him, and discovered much better pieces about his concerns for our declining civil liberties and how the decline of one-way TV sets the scene for increased public debate. Porter now has a new reader because of Google.

However that commenter over at The Poll Bludger, yes, he got it right…

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Sunday Thoughts about Journalism

“Oh no, here we go again!” I can hear you say. “Stilgherrian’s kicking off about ‘the awful journalists’ again.”

No. This is just me pondering five stories about journalism this week. Grab yourself a cuppa and follow the links before tackling my discussion, because this’ll be a long, meandering essay — one in which I’m exploring my thoughts rather than reaching any conclusions. Yet.

  1. Veteran columnist Frank Devine used the pages of The Australian to attack Crikey publisher Eric Beecher in Keep Beecher from the hack lagoon (yes, every newspaper headline must be a pun, or the sub-editors are whipped), and Beecher responded in Beecher v Devine: The threat to public trust journalism.
  2. Another veteran journalist Mark Day (interestingly, also in The Australian) regurgitated a variation of the standard journalism versus blogging debate in Blogs can’t match probing reports. Stephen Collins’ excellent response is The Hamster Wheel.
  3. I was taken to task for my “unbalanced” commentary on Senator Stephen Conroy’s keynote speech at the Digital Economy Forum. Read the comments.
  4. The Rocky Mountain News was taken to task for (mis-)using Twitter to report a child’s funeral.
  5. The MEAA held The Future of Journalism conference in Brisbane yesterday, and from first reports the usual journalists vs bloggers “debate” emerged.

OK, back? Cool. Here we go…

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