When I was growing up, Sunday mornings were always “dad’s time”. He’d grab the newspaper, a cup of coffee and some toast and sit on the balcony for an hour of undisturbed reading time, and we weren’t allowed to interrupt unless we were bleeding (and not even then).
That was back in the time when newspapers were almost an inch thick, well before the internet had killed the classified section.
Nowadays, newspapers are getting impossibly thin and news journalists are increasingly out of work.
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They’re set to get even slimmer, with news on Friday that Fairfax has announced 120 new job losses in their editorial team. (If you’ve read the book Killing Fairfax, then you knew this was inevitable – that place is about as stable at the Titanic).
It makes me sad – and not just because I’m nostalgic.
You see, I like reading news that someone else has ‘curated’. I like picking up a newspaper and know I’m absorbing a collection of stories that someone, somewhere, has deemed worthy of society’s time and attention.
Yes, there are politics involved in story placement, and yes you can get the same stories online. But to me, reading a newspaper is like visiting an art gallery and seeing two-dozen carefully selected pieces, versus visiting a warehouse (the internet) where you have access to 10,000 artworks stacked wall-to-wall. It’s not always about access to content; curation has its role to play as well.
I’m also worried. As a collective, we need investigative journalists to help keep humanity honest. Once newspapers have gone the way of the dinosaurs, who is going to fund ongoing quality investigative journalism?
Who is going to fund weeks-long investigations about important issues, like the Australian Wheat Board scandal?
Who is going to put their safety on the line to report on the horrific government-sanctioned abuse happening at Nauru?
Who is going to pore through endless boring financial statements to unearth finance-related political scandals, aka Chopergate?
I mean, even Tiger Woods’ undoing came about because of journalistic sleuthing!
So what is the future of this industry?
In researching this column I was browsing articles on The Australian and hit the paywall after a few clicks. So, I stopped reading articles on The Australian. End of story. No more clicks, no more eyeballs. A paywall online just isn’t the answer.
Are we destined to a future without journalists keeping people accountable?
And just as importantly: once newspapers are officially dead, what are people going to use to pack their crockery when they move?
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