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Changing journalism for the likely present

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conference contribution
posted on 2008-01-01, 00:00 authored by Stephen Quinn
Media convergence and newsroom integration have become industry buzzwords as the ideas spread through newsrooms around the world. In November 2007 Fairfax Media in Australia introduced the newsroom of the future model, as its flagship newspapers moved into a purpose-built newsroom in Sydney. News Ltd, the country’s next biggest media group, is also embracing multi-media forms of reporting. What are the implications of this development for journalism? This paper examines changes in the practice of journalism in Australia and around the world. It attempts to answer the question: How does the practice of journalism need to change to prepare not for the future, but for the likely present.

Early in November 2007 The Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Financial Review and the Sun-Herald moved into a new building dubbed the ‘newsroom of the future’ at One Darling Island Road in Sydney’s Darling Harbour precinct. Phil McLean, at the time Fairfax Media’s group executive editor and the man in charge of the move, said three quarters of the entire process involved getting people to ‘think differently’ – that is, to modify their mindset so they could work with multi-media.

The new newsroom symbolised the culmination of a series of major changes at Fairfax. In August 2006 the traditional newspaper company, John Fairfax Ltd, changed its name to Fairfax Media to reflect its multi-platform future. In March 2007 Fairfax launched Australia’s first online-only daily publication in Queensland, brisbanetimes.com.au. In May 2007 Fairfax completed its merger with Rural Press to become the biggest media company in Australasia, with annual revenues of about $2.5 billion and market capitalisation of about $7 billion. Two months later Fairfax got even bigger when it acquired at least one radio station in all Australian capital cities plus television studios when it bought Southern Cross Broadcasting. Fairfax is expected to bid for one of the two digital television licences made available by the changes to media ownership laws promulgated in May 2007.

The aim in moving Fairfax from a print to a multi-platform company was to reach as large an audience as possible. ‘We have a total readership in print of over 4 million per day and online of over 5 million per month’, CEO David Kirk said at the time of the Rural Press merger. ‘Our brand of quality, independent, balanced journalism will serve and support more communities than ever’ (Kirk 2007). A few months earlier chairman Ron Walker had written in the company’s annual report: ‘Fairfax is evolving into a truly digital media company’ (2006: 2). Within five years Fairfax would be a significantly bigger Internet company that distributed its content ‘over more media’, Kirk wrote in the same report (2006: 5).

Kirk developed a three-pronged strategy. The first part of the strategy involved the need to ‘defend and grow our newspaper publishing businesses’ – that is, to consolidate and develop the existing newspapers, whose circulations were holding steady during the week and improving on Saturdays. The second part involved plans to ‘accelerate the revenue and earnings of our digital business’. The third part was ‘to build a digital media company for the twenty-first century’ (Fairfax annual report 2006: 3). In June 2007 Kirk appointed Tim Mannes project leader for the Fairfax Media-Rural Press integration. ‘The purpose of the integration work is to bring the two companies together and build what is truly Australasia’s leading media company’, Mannes wrote in a memo to all staff on 7 June 2007. ‘It’s vital throughout this process that we maintain continuity and momentum and protect the interests and needs of our customers’ (2007: 1).

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History

Pagination

21 - 29

Location

University of Technology, Sydney, N.S.W.

Open access

  • Yes

Start date

2008-09-29

End date

2008-09-30

ISBN-13

9780980434415

Language

eng

Notes

This paper is located on the 45th page in the attached link.

Publication classification

E1 Full written paper - refereed

Copyright notice

2008, The Author

Editor/Contributor(s)

F Papandrea, M Armstrong

Title of proceedings

CPRF 2008 : Record of the Communications Policy & Research Forum 2008

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