Media

Upheaval: Disrupted lives in journalism edited by Andrew Dodd and Matthew Ricketson

by
November 2021, no. 437

If you have even a passing interest in the state of the Australian media, you may have come across the estimate that between four and five thousand journalism jobs were lost nationally in the past decade. This estimate suggests the scale of an industry-wide crisis in which successive rounds of redundancies became a feature of life in many newsrooms as media organisations turned to cost-cutting in their struggle to adapt to a rapidly changing landscape. The figure, which originated from the journalists’ union, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, also points, albeit more obliquely, to the human impact of such cultural changes and the thousands of distinctive individual experiences that such numbers can elide.

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In early September, the High Court of Australia handed down its decision in Fairfax Media Publications v Voller. The case attracted significant public attention in Australia due to the high profile of the plaintiff. It also attracted not only national but international attention, due to the nature of the central issue: are media outlets liable for the comments posted on their public Facebook pages by third parties?

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The myth and reality of the Anzac legend has proven a perennial subject of inquiry and argument for over thirty years now, since the publication of Ken Inglis’s justly famous articles in Meanjin and elsewhere in 1964–65. These prompted a spirited exchange with the late Geoff Serle and others. More recently, John Robertson examined the Gallipoli campaign in terms of the myth (1990), and found the critics of Australian martial performance wanting, while Eric Andrews took the Anglo-Australian relationship between 1914 and 1918 to task (1993), and found duplicity and manipulation in the construction of the Australians’ image.

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In the era of perpetual Covid lockdowns, many of us can relate to the isolation of the mid-twentieth-century housewife. Like her, we’re stuck at home, orbiting our kitchens, watching the light move across the floorboards. Each day mirrors the last, a quiet existence spent mostly in the company of the immediate household. Yet whereas we can flee our domestic confines via Netflix or TikTok, last century’s housewife had fewer avenues to the wider world. There was reading, of course – books or magazines or newspapers – but this was usually reserved for the end of the day. For most waking hours, her hands and eyes were needed for cooking, cleaning, mending, childcare, and a thousand other tasks.

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In Future Active, Graham Meikle roams the electronic landscape picking out highlights and lowlights. Like all travellers, what he finds is influenced by his interests and perspectives. Sometimes this leads to illuminating insights; sometimes I marvelled at what he might have seen but didn’t.

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Is there a profession on Earth more mythologised than journalism? It’s hard to think of one. All that talk about the principles of the Fourth Estate, of keeping the powerful in check and guarding the public interest. In the days of well-funded journalism, university graduates were ushered into weekly shorthand training and could not advance further until their hand flew across the page at an unlikely 140 words per minute. Distinct from other forms of employment, the newspaper ‘profession’ (or is it a trade?) developed a weird and delightful lexicon around its daily production: page layouts were ‘furniture’, sub-editors were taught to avoid ungainly paragraph breaks known as ‘widows’ and ‘orphans’, while copy that was spaced out too sparsely was deemed to be ‘windy’. Meanwhile, many journalists, myself included, were seduced by the clubbish and contrarian quality of the profession, with offices resembling pool halls after 10 pm, rather than formal workspaces. There were certainly no key performance indicators to abide by, let alone an annual performance review.

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The Guardian’s Australian bird of the year survey recently had the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) council in a flap. The student newspaper Farrago reported that the council had passed a motion condemning The Guardian for its failure to provide a preferential voting system ...

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In 2009 Sonya Voumard read about a legal claim brought by Martin Bryant's mother, Carleen, against journalists Robert Wainwright and Paola Totaro, accusing them of using her personal manuscript, letters, and family photos without her permission in their book Born or Bred? Martin Bryant: The Making of a Mass Murderer. Struck by the complex ethics of the case ...

Jason Stanley argues in his new book that propaganda is more prevalent within liberal democracies – and is of far greater concern – than is typically assumed. Indeed, Stanley suggests that the very idea that propaganda only proliferates within authoritarian regimes, which have ministries set aside for its production, is a central tenet of the propaganda of the W ...

Hector Crawford is a unique figure in the history of Australian radio and television. The Australian Dictionary of Biography article (also by the author of this book) describes him as 'television producer, media lobbyist and musician', to which could be added radio producer, showman, and entrepreneur. Above all, he was a persistent and canny advocate of Aus ...