Strong journalism is essential in a strong democracy, but in some respects at least it appears that serious journalism is going down the gurgler.
Even attempts at serious journalism are questionable. Multiple news organisations put significant resources over the last couple of weeks into trying to analyse and report on the Panama papers.
Newsrooms cried wolf, in collaboration with a political activist, and seemingly in collaboration with opposition parties.
The result was overblown, a public turn off and proved and probably achieved very little.
Big news this week (amongst journalists) was the proposed merger of Fairfax Media and APN. Who knows whether that will turn journalism around or just dump a few more reporters on the scrapheap, reduce choice and impose paywalls (which will probably reduce choice further).
Today’s ODT editorial: Adapt, collaborate, or die?
Now of course, in the digital age, there is the expectation from the public that journalists will be everywhere, at all hours, that news, entertainment and opinion should be accessible at the touch of a screen, on a variety of platforms, online, live and instantaneous.
The mediums have changed. Technology has made news-gathering and presentation exciting, innovative, fast-paced, constantly evolving and challenging. It certainly does not allow for complacency, the enemy of good journalism.
Sadly, what has changed is that today’s “audiences” want and expect everything immediately – and for nothing. If they can’t get it for free, they’ll go somewhere they can.
But if good journalism is not valued, there is a huge cost – to media companies, and ultimately to the public they serve. The public often bemoan what is perceived as dropping standards of journalism, yet it is fuelling the change.
As long as the watchdog role of the fourth estate is undervalued in every sense, the democratic ideals of transparency and accountability are at risk. The ultimate winners of this race to the bottom? Those already at the top, who are striving to stay there: the Government, churches, judiciary, police, army, big business.
If a merger allows the new major entity to put up a paywall for digital content, it may safeguard its future – and that of others seeking to do the same, such as this newspaper.
We all need to go back to the future to a certain extent: back to valuing journalism and the work that goes into producing content – and back to paying for it (on whatever platform). Now more than ever, in an age of spin doctors, gatekeepers and public relations staff, we need a healthy, competent, independent and well-resourced media.
The ODT is keen on paywalled news, I thought they had announced they would have moved to subscription news by now.
How much is decent journalism worth?
I used to subscribe to the ODT but stopped that last year when I realised I was hardly ever reading it. I do most of my reading online.
I guess I pay indirectly by having to navigate a mass of advertising online – but I can’t remember if I have ever bought something prompted by an online advertisement.
I’m very practised at ignoring them and I don’t impulse shop anyway. I’m far more inclined towards research shopping online, comparing products and prices, looking for reviews and opinions.
I have subscribed to Consumer online for this purpose, but occasionally ponder whether that’s good value for money. I think I probably get a return on that investment.
I have subscribed to a couple of overseas publications but underutilised them and am unlikely to do it again, probably.
The problem for me with paying for a print subscription for online access to the ODT is that it would only be a small part of my news sourcing.
If a joint APN/Fairfax media also paywalled that would be an additional cost – and I would still want to view other news sources.
One of the key things I do is research across multiple sources, and I don’t feel inclined to subscribe to a heap of them. Publicly funded and free (currently) RNZ would get more attractive, but I would want much wider coverage.
I value good journalism and good news, and detest a lot of the media junk food.
I’m an on again off again subscriber to Sky and hate all the crap and self promotion (advertising on a subscription service).
I don’t think a bunch of separate news subscriptions are the answer. Especially when they want print prices for online access, that just doesn’t add up to me.
I would happily pay something for good journalism and good news and analysis, up to a point.
But I have seen nothing yet that attracts my custom.
And I really have no idea what would. I haven’t seen any yet that’s attractive.
I’d really like to hear other opinions on this. I think it’s an important issue with no obvious or easy answers.