The loss of jobs and titles in the media today is indeed a sad time for journalism but it is equally a worrying time for society. Let’s hope the necessary forces can pull together to ensure this important profession continues to do its job well into the future, for the sake of us all.
The cuts and closures happening across the media today are not just bad for the media. They are bad for democracy, social capital and the economy – in other words, they are bad for everyone.
In an era of fake news, increased social media use, war, political and environmental crises, people need news they can trust, now more than ever.
They need experienced ethical journalists to cut through the noise and relentless stream of information and misinformation, they need to know their interests are being looked out for, the powerful are being held to account, history is being recorded and all sides of the story are being covered.
And at a grassroots level in particular, people have for years relied on their local and regional newspapers to represent their interests and inform them of matters that directly affect their lifestyle and livelihood.
The media industry has been steadily crumbling over the past few years as advertisers have decreased their spend and media organisations struggle to find a sustainable business model. COVID 19 has accelerated that decline, with the recent closures at Buzzfeed Australia, ten daily and the print editions of more than 100 hundred News Corp regional and suburban mastheads, all on the back of cuts and mergers at Fairfax, Bauer magazines and AAP.
Ironically the cuts have come at a time when audiences are growing. However few media organisations have been successful at getting people to pay for their product.
Now, at least at a local level, it seems people won’t have a choice. News that was previously delivered free to their letterboxes will only be available online and, in many cases, locked behind a paywall. Depleted newsrooms operating in a central location away from the communities they cover will not have the time, resources or motivation to undertake proactive investigations that might expose dodgy council dealings or low police numbers or high hospital emergency department wait times. They will no longer have the space to provide junior sports stars or local heroes the recognition they deserve or promote worthy community fundraisers and events. News in towns and suburbs across Australia will become more centralised and more homogenous.
From college steps to courtroom steps, Tima Halloum and Helena Abdou have entered the world of journalism on fire.
News Corp's Australian boss Michael Miller claims it is only the journalists losing their jobs who care about the loss of physical papers, with people pivoting in droves to digital news.
And it is sad but true for many reasons that in 2020 more young people are getting their news from Facebook than a hard copy newspaper (that’s another column for another day).
Newsroom digital lecturer Cisco Corea directs students for their HatchNow news production.
But the journalists are not purely lamenting the loss of their print editions, or even the loss of their own jobs and those of their colleagues in the art departments, advertising departments, circulation, payroll or administration that supported the journalism produced. The loss goes far deeper than that.
The old adage “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” rings true for what we are seeing in the media industry today. When there are fewer journalists covering larger areas with limited time and resources across an industry with less media voices it will be the general public that suffers the most.