We’ve become a little too much in awe of the technology and not protective enough of fundamental journalistic values, according to Kerry OBrien.
OBrien, Australia’s leading political interviewer, presents the 730 Report on Australian Broadcasting Corporation Television
He was speaking to Queensland University of Technology students, after being presented with an honorary Doctorate.
Trying to bring any kind of journalistic depth to an innately superficial medium such as television, had always been a struggle, he said. “…the advent of 24-hour television, the obsession with personality-driven journalism, the endless hunt for breathless melodrama by reporters dreaming of their first or next award, has meant that much of today’s television news is more superficial than ever.”
During the invasion of Iraq, “…even the best in the business seemed like actors on a stage, rather than journalists”. “It felt disturbingly like war as entertainment. For the networks, and probably at least some of the journalists, it was technology delivering ratings. For the military it was about controlling the media while prosecuting a controversial war.”
Dr OBrien said the jury was still out, as to whether the depth and quality of content would be maintained, let alone enhanced, by the new technology. “Never … forget that technology is supposed to exist to serve humanity; to enhance lives and community, not to help some at the expense of others.” he said.
Transcript of Speech
Further Reading: The Hollywoodisation of war: The media handling of the Iraq war
It all began with a simple news release. I had surveyed about two hundred of my journalism students and found that while 95% said they enjoyed keeping up with the news, more than sixty percent said they read a newspaper once a week or less.”If the journalists of the future don’t want to read newspapers, who will?” I asked in the media release.
Australia’s Radio National Breakfast show followed it up with an interview. That sparked a series of interviews and talk backs with local radio stations, as well as Radio Australia. The story moved onto the web with the Brisbane Times.com.au and ABC online. It rapidly spread across the globe, getting a particularly good run in India in outlets like the Deccan Post (India), the Hindu and the Sentinel. I was interviewed by a young blogger called Ben Grubb for his blog Techwired.com.au. Other bloggers picked up the story, including Woolly Days, who corrected a mistake made by other correspondents in interpreting the data, which had been repeated elsewhere.
Conventional newspapers seemed uninterested in the story. This was odd because the survey had been prompted by by a conversation I had with the editor of the local daily, who said he wanted to know what journalism students thought about the future of newspapers. I did get an email from the Washington Post. However, the reporter was interested in whether it had been me who made the mistake with the data. When I was able to show it wasn’t me, he seemed to lose interest.
However, the international responses continue. Today, I am reviewing the survey questions to produce a “vanilla” version which can be completed by communications and journalism students across Asia.
It will work like this. Academics in Jakarta, Manila, Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur have agreed to be involved.
I will send them a pdf of the vanilla questions. They can amend these questions to suit local conditions. EG One of the Australian questions refers to “community radio”; a form of broadcasting which does not exist in some Asian countries. This reference can be edited out, while the core of the survey remains common.
The collaborating academics will send me an edited version of the survey, which I will then place online for their students.
The results will be compiled centrally and presented in an academic paper I will give at the international AMIC conference in New Delhi in July.
Newspapers will wither and perhaps die, unless they become online media platforms, according to the next generation of journalists.
More than 200 first year journalism students this year took part in an online survey of their news reading habits conducted by QUT Journalism Professor, Alan Knight. More than 90% of the respondents were aged under twenty one.
Many of these want-to-be journalists don’t read newspapers. More than sixty percent read a printed newspaper once a week or less. Yet 95 percent said they enjoyed keeping up with news.
Their preferred source of news was broadcast on television, particularly commercial television, with at least half watching television news at least once a day.
Online News was their next preferred source with students nominating Google,, Ninemsn and then other mainstream journalism sites. Facebook, specialist websites and Wikipedia followed.
The results confirmed educators’ suspicions. Even journalism students are not reading newspapers.
This poses a greater threat to the printed press than the global economic cirisis or the loss of advertising revenue to the web.
If the journalists of the future don’t want to read newspapers, who will?
The next stage of the study will involve focus groups of students discussing how news can be made more interesting and attractive to netizens. Parallel studies are being conducted in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Singapore, Hong Kong. and otehr international centres.