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Fairfax Vs PerthNorg … sort of, anyway!
As Axel and Mark have noted, Brisbane will get its turn to debate the The Future of Journalism this Saturday at a one-day symposium bringing journos, media makers, academics, students and more together to debate the issues. If only it wasn’t 3,500kms away … I’d love to be there, and I doubt the Future of Journalism roadshow will be stopping in Perth any time soon. That said, I’m delighted that Perth citizen journalist and citizen media advocate Bronwen Clune will be presenting on Saturday, bring a little perspective from the West coast. In anticipation of that even, I thought it worth pointing out that earlier this month, in the wake of the news Fairfax was axing more than 500 of their staff, Bronwen (who is the creator of PerthNorg) wrote a provocative post entitled ‘A Letter to Love-Stricken Fairfax Journalists’ which asked whether Fairfax was actually the best place for committed journalists today:
If you are one of the journalists standing in a picket line outside The Age and SMH, I have to ask – do you realise how pathetic you look? … David Kirk has made you an offer and is calling for volunteers before compulsory redundancies. Your relationship is clearly strained and here he is giving you a dignified out and you choose to beg him to take you back? Where is your backbone, your fire, your passion for news? Has Fairfax got you so wrapped around its finger that you think the only way you can be a good journalist is to stay with it? Guess what – people produce good news outside of news corporations everyday. And you can too. Take the divorce settlement and learn to stand on your own feet again. You are better off investing in a relationship with your audience – you’ll find it infinitely more rewarding.
Clearly Bronwen wasn’t pulling her punches, and in the heated discussion which ensued the full spectrum of opinions were heard, from those in total agreement to those who completely disagree (with the oft-heard but fair question: where is the business model for citizen journalism?). However, for my money, the most interesting thread was when Fairfax journalist Nick Miller joined in. Miller, also originally from Perth, didn’t bring a knee-jerk reaction, but instead pointed out that journalists are well aware of what’s happening in the industry, but they still need jobs! An excerpt from Nick’s argument:
I get it. You’re on the forefront of digital journalism. You reckon everyone else should be here. Um… they’re not. Yet. And we’re yet to see any proof that this medium can financially support the extent of investigative journalism that mainstream media currently supports. … I challenge you to go through Perthnorg and remove every link to, and every reference to, a story that originated or was sourced in a Fairfax or WAN or News Ltd report (or wire story, which are paid for by mainstream media). Then see what you’ve got left. A lot of gossip, sure. And gossip is often the start of a news story. But it’s not news.
I am passionate for news. And at Fairfax I have found an organisation that backs my quest for good investigative journalism with all the resources that that requires. Time, money, opportunity, logistical support, etc. The luxury of being able to say ”I didn’t file a thing today, but you should see what I’m working on”. I don’t see any online organisation in Australia that will support that kind of journalism – beyond simply giving it a place to be published. Therefore, I think it is the right thing to fight Fairfax in its attempt to reduce that support. I suggest the Norg concept is just as likely to be an online evolutionary dead end as Fairfax’s. We file for The Age online, too, after all. … The medium isn’t the issue. It’s the search for commercial support for the often highly uncommercial occupation of journalism.
While I agree that a lot of what appears on PerthNorg is more like a Digg-style take on other news sources, there is some original content in there (probably around the 10-15% mark, I’d estimate) but Nick does beg the big question of how any citizen journalism portal can support journalists financially (sure, there’s embedded advertising, but that’s more likely to pay the hosting bills and give a modest income to the site’s creator rather than anyone else creating content). Also noteworthy was the point made by another commentator that people employed by Fairfax Digital are not subject to the rights and conditions afforded even normal Fairfax Journalists, suggesting that even the digital portals for big media companies are becoming the cyber-sweatshops of the twenty-first century. There are, of course, a lot more issues at hand so I’m looking forward to hearing reports from the The Future of Journalism in Brisbane … I hope there are some optimistic answers about citizen journalism and mainstream media working together … and at least some people getting paid!
Links for August 31st 2008
Interesting links for August 28th 2008 through August 31st 2008:
- Wikipedia Edits Forecast Vice Presidential Picks [Washingtonpost.com] – “In the days leading up to Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s running mate announcement, political junkies glued to broadcasts and blogs for clues of McCain’s veep choice might have done better to keep a sharp eye on each candidate’s Wikipedia entry. Just hours before McCain declared his veep choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her Wiki page saw a flurry of activity, with editors adding details about her approval rating and husband’s employment. Perhaps more tellingly, some of the same users editing her page were almost simultaneously updating McCain’s Wiki entry, adding information dealing with accuracy, sources and footnotes to each.” [Via]
- Lewd Hudson makes waves on Facebook [Nine MSN] – “Hockeyroos captain Nikki Hudson has apologised for a sexually explicit joke she made about herself on Facebook after it made its way into the public domain. Hudson, 32, wrote she would like to be “impaled” by the Spanish men’s hockey team in a message posted on August 22, the Sunday Mail reported. “Nikki thinks the running of the bulls should be changed & we should be chased by the spainish [sic] mens hockey team,” she wrote, according to the Mail. “I would definately [sic] make sure I got caught and impaled!” The veteran Hockeyroo, whose fancied team had just been eliminated from the Olympics, regularly posted candid messages throughout her time in Beijing on topics ranging from the food to her thoughts on men.” [Via Alex @ iGeneration]
- Macquarie University opens up access to its academics’ research papers [The Australian] – “Macquarie University has joined the small club of Australian institutions that require academics to make their research papers freely available over the Internet. “We think it’s a blow for academic freedom and for universal access to scholarly work,” said Steven Schwartz, Macquarie’s vice chancellor. Under a new policy, academics must send a copy of journal articles to Macquarie’s open access repository. The open access movement seeks to maximise the public benefit from research by disseminating it beyond subscription-based journals, which are costly. The movement gained pace this year with institutions such as Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the British funding agency the Welcome Trust adopting policies that require, rather than simply encourage, researchers to use online repositories.”
- SMH columnist Carlton sacked over Fairfax strike [ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] – “Columnist Mike Carlton has been sacked from The Sydney Morning Herald. Sources have told the ABC that Mr Carlton refused to write his regular column for the paper’s Saturday edition because of the current strike by journalists and editorial staff. He was told that he would no longer be writing for the newspaper as a result.”
- YouTube Adds Captions [NewTeeVee] – YouTube has launched a captions feature to its videos. With captions, video uploaders can add a translation into a foreign language, provide clarification for garbled dialog or make the video more accessible to the hard of hearing. In order to add captions, you’ll need to have files with captions or subtitles in them, created using software or a service. Once added, the captions can be accessed by clicking on the arrow in the lower right hand corner of the video. Like video annotations, captions don’t seem to work with embeds.