Major announcements by Fairfax and News Ltd in the past three days about sweeping changes to Australia’s media landscape, have significant implications for the future of how we convey and consume news.
As public relations practitioners, the Sefiani team and I feel a high degree of empathy with the many journalists who will be affected by the considerable cuts in staffing in both organisations.
While journalists joke about public relations people being on “the dark side” of the communication highway, the truth is that effective and professional working relationships are established over years of engagement between media and agencies.
Journalists seek information from, and access to our clients, and we contact journalists to generate interest and coverage of company announcements and thought leadership initiatives on behalf of our clients. Many of us count journalists among our friends.
In what turned out to be an uncanny coincidence of timing, several months ago I’d scheduled our quarterly Sefiani CEO Boardroom Lunch for Wednesday 20 June with the theme “Changes in the Australian Media Landscape”, and invited a senior journalist from the The Australian, as our guest speaker to share his thoughts on the topic.
So here we were, just two days after Fairfax’s announcement of 1900 job cuts, planned closure of printing presses and a significant move to digital, and two hours after News Ltd announced a $2billion bid for James Packer’s pay TV Consolidated Media Holdings, gathering in the Sefiani Boardroom to discuss the potential implications of these changes for businesses and consumers.
But more was to come: during our lunch News Ltd announced major job cuts and the acquisition of Alan Kohler’s digital properties Business Spectator and Eureka Report.
Time will tell as to which newspaper titles survive the cuts, and Fairfax will be hoping the mooted “compact” (never tabloid) format Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers lift circulation, but it regrettably seems clear that days are numbered for journalists who simply report the news.
The immediacy of online news breaking by the minute, or the second, through Twitter, Facebook and other digital channels, has tolled the death knell for straight reporting.
Those journalists who provide opinion, insights and analysis are the ones media proprietors will presumably value and keep. And is it conceivable therefore, newspapers might in the future be published less frequently, such as every second or third day, to provide in-depth analysis of the news we’ll all be reading as it happens online?
And with the anticipated demise of many sub-editors who ensure the rigours of source checking, correct grammar and spelling are adhered to, will the last bastion of the preservers of the English language vanish along with the inevitable rush to digital, where immediacy is king?