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.