Saturday, 19 March 2016

Mainstream media takes another drubbing

A couple of days ago they announced in the news that Fairfax Media - which publishes the Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and the Financial Review - would lay off 120 people from its news rooms. At lunchtime yesterday as I was passing my local pub I saw Fairfax strikers having lunch inside. A lot of them wore identical red-and-black T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Fair go, Fairfax". A man wearing this T-shirt arrived on a bike at first as I was leaving home to go to the supermarket. On the way home with the shopping I could see a whole pub full of people wearing the same shirt.

Then yesterday it was announced that the Guardian would lay off even more staff than this. They have had a website in Australia, and staffed in Sydney, for a couple of years now.

Two senior Fairfax journalists sent out an email today using an MEAA email account. The MEAA is the Australian journalist's union. They were asking for support with a petition to Fairfax management.

When I see stories like those we saw over the past two days I feel slightly sick with apprehension. There is also a certain frisson of excitement there, as the media world shifts slightly on its axis once more. We should be used to these stories by now but each time they appear the same sense of foreboding arises. We wonder how things can work if there is no independent media. How will the public sphere operate in such a world? Who will publish the stories that keep people in positions of power honest? What other entity has the strength to hold powerful people to account?

Most people will not do anything however. Some people already subscribe to one or more newspapers, as I do. But unless there is a pressing need for people to subscribe, they won't. Nobody believes that their individual actions can make the difference between the mainstream media surviving or going broke, and shutting down. It's sort of like the way things operate in countries where voting is optional. Noone thinks that their vote can make a difference. So they stay at home on polling day. With the media, it's again all about individuals. But who in their right mind would make the decision to pay for something they can just as easily get for free?

The media is in a difficult position. But it's all of us who will lose if the mainstream media goes broke, and shuts down its websites. Our democracies cannot function without an independent media. An independent media is the thing that tyrants fear most of all, because it will continue to ask the tough questions that the corrupt would prefer not to be asked. We owe it to ourselves to pay for journalism. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

that is very true.