Peter Coleman: Who's paying for journalism when everyone's a publisher

Take a look at this cheeky picture from yesterday's Australian, and read it in the context of the same day's sad (for journalism) news that Australian news agency AAP is to close.

Apparently the 'supplied' picture comes from social media, and from what you'd read elsewhere it's because of competition like this "from tech giants" that the news agency isn't needed or supportable.

They're an easy target and must share some blame, yet journalism comes at a cost, and it's mostly the decisions of major shareholders, notably Nine and News Corp which have brought AAP to the brink. No doubt they'd blame Facebook and Google, yet it's industry mergers and consolidations waved through by the competition regulator - Nine's of Fairfax, and News' of APN News & Media and Foxtel - which have halved AAP's potential market.

Worryingly, the move - at the same time as the merger of what was once proudly the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers' Association (PANPA) into a newsmedia-TV-content conglomerate to be known as the Premium Content Alliance - looks set to muddy perceptions and leave some independents out in the cold, perhaps deliberately.

Another threat to journalism is the "everyone's a publisher" mindset that competes with newsmedia for their living and their ability to fund journalism, partly through the paid content dollars that the new PCA now seeks to embrace. Nor is the playing field level when some so-called media groups - like one formed of universities whose academics are currently commenting on this news - enjoy registered charity status, and some don't.

Maybe you'd argue that this is the new reality and I had better get used to it, but if we're serious about creating a strong newsmedia industry, able to support public-interest journalism, and not in itself dominated by a near monopoly, these things shouldn't be happening.

Peter Coleman

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