“The question everyone in the industry has to ask is ‘how do people perceive I add value?’ For many, including myself, the answer is ‘we don’t’.” – Paul Wallbank, Towards the post journalist media world
Why Journalism Matters.
I read this last night around 1am. Made me angry, the ways things will at 1am.
I lay awake wondering why I was angry. I think it’s because that statement feels like a surrender, and that’s so not what journalism is about.
Sometimes journalists get disheartened. They have right to. I was speaking with another, younger journalist friend a couple of days back. She was proper angry. A publisher had failed to have her back on a story – a situation I’m sure most every journalist has come across.
Let me say this: I’m not a journalist. I’m a journalist fanboy. I love proper journalism. Long-form articles, in-depth career pieces, old 40’s and 50’s and 60’s sports journalism .
I hate Rupert Murdoch, almost by reflex; but I took a job at News Ltd on the Australian in part because his journalists once went to jail rather than reveal a source.
I‘m very proud to have also worked at MediaConnect, because I got to play up close with journos. Fascinating beasts that you are.
Yes. I’m a journalism fan. I love Mark Twain, he makes me laugh out loud on public transport – as does PJ O’Rourke, whose writing I once defended in a barfight with a largish former bush-rugby-reporting/playing journalist whose name escapes me (but his size doesn’t).
I’m a fan of journalism. Woodward & Bernstein. David Frost. And closer to home, as a kid I loved watching Jana Wendt stun politicians with simple directness; and then pin them to the table like a moth collector with an odd specimen – laid out, there for the study, shorn of pretence. Or George Negus, one on one with the Iron Lady. Magic, thrilling stuff.
And we need that now, more than ever. We need journalists. We need that moral courage. That willingness to tell the truth to power, without fear or favour.
We especially need it in the face of the swathe of pretend, placating, placebo politicians we’re saddled with. (Yes Mr Turnbull, I’m looking at you.) There is an argument that part of the reason Donald Trump is so popular, is simply because of a vacuum of real analysis, in front of a body politic that’s been trained to ignore informed commentary in favour of opinion. To rely on feelings, instead of analysis.
And we need it to ward off the avalanche of spun, filtered, finely minced, extruded paste, news-like substance corporates like to call content marketing. Clicks are all well and good, but they tell you nothing about the mind that clicked.
Yes, one good piece of content marketing can change a campaign metric. But one good piece of journalism can change hearts, can change minds, can even change the world.
So we need journalism. We need it back. We need all of you to buck up. We need publishers to stand behind journalists, because when they do that they are standing up for their readers.
But most of all we need good journalism because without it, without speaking truth to power, without that moral courage to call a spade in detail, the emperor goes naked, and we will all follow like lambs.