Them and us? Cool cultural studies and sweaty journalism! Reply

Journalists tell stories it for a living and are supposed to seek the truth. Cultural studies academics often see this as a sham and journalists’ pretentsions to professionalism, a joke. Baffled journalists say some cultural studies academics are just embroidering their own prejudices. More…

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Journalism’s futures 1

A streetside newsagency in Beijing.

If there is a crisis in journalism, its centred in American newspaper groups whose economic models have been undermined by the net.

We know that most Americans are too ideologically blinkered to even consider taxpayer supported alternatives like the BBC or the ABC. If anyone doesn’t consider obvious answers for the future, it would seem to be some of our American colleagues.

We should learn from American media. But the action is increasingly elsewhere, as information and cultural dominance begins to shift from the US towards the new economic superpowers. While we should be concerned about journalists’ jobs in older media empires, this is the future we need to address.

I reckon we should be looking to Asia, where journalism is booming.
Sure some Americans have been doing interesting things on the net. But there are now more than 300 million Chinese net users, plugged into a vibrant blogosphere which often critiques and interacts with government policies.

In Australia, we see the ABC’s News 24 as an important initiative, and considered locally, it is. But when I was in Beijing last year, I took my student interns to the CCTV master control, which was simultaneously broadcasting 40 high definition channels. China has just launched a new, global English-language television channel,operated by the Xinhua News Network. To quote my old pal, Hong Kong University Professor, Ying Chan:

“At a time when western media is retreating … China could be flooding the world with its perspective, giving the country a boost of soft power” said Chan. “With a lot of funding and improvements in its reporting, this new expansion should not be written off.”

The Australian Centre for Independent Journalism did a study this year on the explosion of international television news services. When it comes to such news, most people in the west think of CNN,or perhaps the BBC or al Jazeera. We identified more than fifteen major services, including innovative new news channels from France, Russia and even Iran. We found more than fifty minor services operating in the Indian sub-continent alone.

Perhaps our focus on American concerns about journalism may be another post colonial hangover, reflecting the ways we still get our news and agendas from the traditional sources, which privilege American newspapers justifiably worried about their futures.

So why are Australians holding a national conference about the future of journalism which takes the lead from American experts?

The Walkley Media Conference: “What’s the story? Powerful narrative and other tales from the future”, runs from August 9-12 in Sydney.

Asia online Reply

Master control at CCTV in Beijing.

Global media is at a tipping point. The western news establishment is reeling as profits collapse and revenue moves to the internet. Only today, Canwest, Canada’s largest newspaper publisher, with twelve daily newspapers, sought bankruptcy protection for its entire newspaper division. Canwest is not the first big newspaper chain to go bust. It won’t be the last. The old international news order, which has been dominated by the west since the invention of the telegraph, is undergoing radical and widespread change, driven by the internet.
But what many people maybe don’t realise is that while there’s a crisis in the west, its boom time in Asian media.
Already, there may be almost three times as many internet users in Asia as in north America. As literacy grows and fast broadband spreads to even the most remote communities, the gap will grow even wider. Cheap new technology will mean that this new majority will not only be media consumers but also be increasingly sophisticated producers.
Which is why I’ve spent the last few days in Singapore.
I’ve been attending the Board meeting of AMIC, the Asian centred media research group, which has been investigating and charting these changes. Based in Singapore, AMIC is a truly international organisation with Board members from Malaysia, India, Japan, the Philippines and yours truly from Australia.
It was set up with German assistance more than thirty years ago to promote and educate socially responsible media in the interests of development and democracy. Today it runs websites, published scholarly books, organises training workshops and holds an annual conference which bring together academics, practitioners and activists from all over the Asia Pacific. This year, they will be discussing the new wave sweeping through “Technology and Culture: Communication Connectors and Dividers”.
AMIC might not have all the answers to what’s going on. But Asia is where the real questions will be asked.

Combat vests and macho men (and women) Reply

Writing about foreign correspondents has got me into a fair bit of trouble at times. A couple of years ago, I was foolish enough to suggest that in the age of the internet, many of them were just blow ins, decked out in safari suits, delivering rehashed locals’ stories, as they were videoed in front of exotic locations.
Obviously, I was wrong.
Safari suits are rarely worn these days.
In fact the favoured attire more recently, was the combat photographer’s vest, which had lots of little pockets where one could stash passports, hangover cures, condoms and other paraphernalia required to explore the Orient. More…