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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Do we really care about our kids?

Photograph of Verity Firth

Despite all the rhetoric about “protecting our children” and “children are the future”, our governments seem determined to prevent them preparing for the real future. Take NSW schools minister Verity Firth…

This morning the Sydney Morning Herald tells us the NSW government will receive $285M for new laptops — which will then be blocked from accessing social media and most everything else.

The Minister for Education, Verity Firth [pictured], said the Government would prevent access to the social networking sites, and other sites, even when the laptops were used at home.

“We don’t want these kids to be using these computers for the not-so-wholesome things that can be on the net. And they won’t be able to because essentially the whole server is coming through the Department of Education.”

So kids will be prevented from using their computers to connect with and understand their peers and the real world because of this continuing paranoia about unspecified “not-so-wholesome things” and parents being too lazy to supervise their own children.

Maybe Ms Firth needs to read Mark Pesce’s Those Wacky Kids, or watch the video. As Pesce quite rightly points out, if the classroom is the only part of these kids’ lives which isn’t hyperconnected, then the classroom will be seen as irrelevant.

Rupert Murdoch is right to say we have a 19th Century education system. Our Minister seems intent on keeping it that way.

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