Friday, 6 October 2017

“Producing original journalism costs a lot of money”

These are the words of Emma Alberici, host of the ABC’s Lateline program, which yesterday the broadcaster said would not continue in 2018. Instead, the ABC will be setting up an investigative bureau with beats covered by some 30 journalists, including Alberici (who will take the economics beat) and Stan Grant (who will take the Asia beat).

Alberici went on the ABC’s Radio National to explain. This is some of what she said:
And management, I guess – and I understand this – had to make a decision about when audiences are defrayed as they are and splintered all over the place – you know, on-demand services, Netflix, Stan, Foxtel and everywhere else in-between – iTunes – we’re competing with all those players that are new for eyeballs, so you need to work out where your money’s best spent. And the ABC has made a decision that you need to protect our history of breaking stories, original journalism, and investigations, and put our money there.  
So, management has been very clear that there is no cost-cutting agenda here. We’ve been told no money will be saved by losing Lateline, and no net journalism jobs will be lost. So, the same number of journalists will be employed by the ABC next year as are now. So, that’s very comforting, and I’m very happy to hear that because I, like those who do what I do, care about quality journalism. And if what we’re doing is investing more money into that, and worrying less about the platforms through which that’s delivered – that is, you don’t have to be attached to a particular program – as long as you’re making a fantastic story that breaks news, is original, uncovers something that others didn’t want uncovered, then that will find an outlet these days. You put it online.  
You know, at the moment journalism can be a post on Facebook, as it can be a story on 4 Corners. Things have changed so dramatically in terms of how you define journalism and we need to be where our audiences are. And I think that’s the challenge for all media organisations.
The ABC’s position as a trusted source will hopefully be enhanced by this move toward a more investigative stance vis-à-vis the public sphere.

In the US, local news organisations are going to be supported, in another initiative, by ProPublica – the New York non-profit journalism organisation that was set up in 2007 with money from philanthropists Herbert and Marion Sandler. ProPublica will be funding journalists to work on investigative projects in local newsrooms (in cities with a population below 1 million).

Trust is a rare commodity – but one that is prized by all journalists – in the polarised public sphere that we are nowadays confronted with, which is why Google’s head of news Richard Gingras has been working on The Trust Project with Sally Lehrman, a senior scholar on journalism ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at the University of Santa Clara, in California, developing ethics policies. There are 90 news organisations involved. The project is, for example, encouraging the visibility of ethics policies on news websites.

For my own part, when I start publishing new stories when my new website has been launched, I will be following the code of ethics of the journalist’s union in Australia, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, which you can read here.

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