At the conclusion of the ABC Radio National Forum ‘Quality Journalism: How to pay for it? Does it matter?‘ I felt the discussion had became a ‘definition debate’ which, as debaters will know, go nowhere fast. It did not seem as though ‘quality journalism’ could be defined by any party, each offering their own version of concept and forming their arguments around these. I didn’t get a sense of mutual understanding between the panellists and so there seemed, to me, a lack of connection and engagement. This is not to say that interesting and relevant points were not raised. I just felt it was missing ‘fire in the belly’ and was not as passionate as I expected a discussion to be between Eric Beecher (Eric Beecher, Publisher Crikey & Business Spectator), Wendy Bacon (Centre for Independent Journalism, UTS), Alan Kohler (Publisher, Business Spectator and Eureka Report), John Hewson (Liberal Party Federal Leader, 1990 – 1994) and Campbell Reid (Group Editorial Director, News Ltd).
Hosted by the delightful Geraldine Doogue, those involved discussed their predictions for funding their own forms of news medium through the recession, which did answer part of the forum topic but I would have liked to hear more about ‘does it matter’.
It was also very clear that many journalists do not understand the function of public relations. One particular journalist working for a NFP online news blog criticised the growth of advertising influence as the economy declines and publications are relying on ad spend to stay alive. This lead to her frustration at the difficulty finding freelance journalists as a way to secure stories, exasperated by the number of calls for ad-like media coverage from marketing and public relations professionals. Had I the courage, I would have thrown a shoe at her. Bearing in mind the topic of the forum, I wanted to say “quality journalism is knowing the difference between an advertisement and a PR person being the source of information for news about their clients.”
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