On World Press Freedom Day, the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA) applauds those who champion freedom of expression and support media around the world.
What’s in a name? Many journalists may feel nostalgic today as Fairfax Media merges with Nine Entertainment. Denise Ryan Costello attempts to explain why.
Denise Ryan Costello and the late News Corp journalist Annette Finnigan in Sydney, 1987.
To enter the Fairfax building on Sydney’s Broadway, you first had to acknowledge the homeless man living outside, sometimes with coins; other days with a cooked chicken.
Then, in the lift, you could study the top of Warwick Fairfax’s head as he studiously avoided eye contact.
You towered over the part-owner of Fairfax only because of heels, a shoulder-padded suit, very big hair and enormous owl-like glasses.
This was the ‘80s and you were living the dream. A very independent one as a ‘foreign correspondent’, posted to Fairfax’s Sydney headquarters from Wellington, New Zealand.
Being a correspondent for National Business Review, Kiwi sister to the Australian Financial Review, meant being parked outside a senior AFR writer’s office. He chain-smoked, which in hindsight meant you stank.
No point in complaining because you had no rights - you were the newcomer and these were acceptable working conditions at the time.
Instead you revelled in the fact that your job was – and this expression was most appropriate then – ‘to keep the bastards honest’.
This foreign correspondent stint was not dangerous, even though you enjoyed the same benefits as someone posted to Beirut. It could be exciting though when you boarded helicopters at short notice to skirt around the latest building purchased by the likes of Alan Bond.
Fairfax’s allocation for accommodation allowed for rental of a tiny, but perfectly formed apartment in Darling Point. The harbour bridge could be seen even from the loo, which made it the venue of choice for the Bicentennial celebrations. So many boats in the harbour that day, fellow journalists felt they could walk on water.
The quid pro pro for the benefits was having to work all the time, including for now defunct papers such as the Times on Sunday and Business Review Weekly.
It wasn’t surprising that the more excessive aspects of this life – the apartment, for example – only lasted 18 months.
On October 19, 1987, a strange primal moan emitted from the crowd, noses pressed against the glass, at the Sydney Stock Exchange. Global sharemarkets were crashing after record bullish times - and the net worth of many was evaporating.
Your lift companion, Warwick Fairfax, had unwisely made a $2.2 billion takeover bid for Fairfax just before the Black Monday crash. The 26-year-old wanted to take the company back into the fold. Instead the family dynasty lost control and the company went into receivership in 1990.
Warwick’s machinations affected staff lifestyles. In this case, there was still a job but no digs. You didn’t raise this with ‘Young Wokka’, as he was cruelly dubbed, when you both entered the Fairfax building around 9am each day. He seemed downcast.
Some time later, mocked mercilessly by the business gossip columnists of the day, Warwick moved to the United States.
You moved to Melbourne in 1989 to be part of the founding business team of The Sunday Age. Again everyone worked all the time – and most loved it.
When commentators talk about the loss of the Fairfax name today as it ‘merges’ with Nine Entertainment, some will roll their eyes at those of us who are sentimentalists about the name.
Business reporters know that a 51/49 percent merger is, in effect, a takeover and the Fairfax name is a diminished brand to some advertisers, who associate it with poor profit results, excesses such as some of the ‘80s arrangements and Warwick Fairfax’s poorly timed takeover bid.
But for those who were camped at their desks when The Sunday Age was an underdog new paper up against Rupert Murdoch’s much better resourced Sunday Herald, there are likely to be pangs.
As there will be for those who tenaciously fought similar battles for survival in the The Sydney Morning Herald, AFR and regional offices.
Of course this angst is not rational - the name is technically still there as a subsidiary. It’s just that so many worked so hard to keep Fairfax going (even as management failed to make strategic purchases) and were proud to work for it – giving their jobs their all, often to the detriment of relationships and health.
Some will see an attachment to the ‘good old days’ as misplaced. As former Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood says in an insightful interview with one-time executive Peter Fray (link below), the years of the ‘Rivers of Gold’ – where house, job and car advertising paid handsome salaries – were unusual. There had been lean times before – and plenty more since.
Rose colored they may be, but many former journalists cherish their memories. There were similar incongruous pangs when the Age building, with its stained green carpet and grotty stairwells, was razed to the ground for apartments in Lonsdale Street. That awful brown box, now replaced by a glamorous glass shell, was where so many grew up and passed their best years.
Hundreds who took a redundancy lovingly recall Con and Ritza’s fried food in the café or valued invitations to the Bog bar (drinks from a locker in the men’s changing rooms) for a beer after The Sunday Age went to press. There were many more idiosyncratic, often politically incorrect, moments of living and breathing work.
Some former editors couldn’t let it go. This writer’s chapter in the recent book, Media Innovation & Disruption, edited by Andrew Dodd and Helen Sykes, records how some became entrepreneurs, creating digital newspapers or services. See the link to the chapter below.
Former Fairfax editor Bruce Guthrie was not welcomed into the digital landscape when he launched The New Daily. Nor was Peter Fray’s fact-checking service Politifact universally supported by his peers. Former senior editor Veronica Ridge had to “pivot fast” for her beautiful online magazine Issimo, and its website design operation, to survive. Another former editor Andrew Jaspan says he launched The Conversation because it was an intellectual challenge, more so than another project he had discussed with former Fairfax go-getter, Antony Catalano. Jaspan missed out on making lots of money but says he didn’t care.
Why did these former Fairfax leaders risk their reputation, money and being subject to ridicule? When pressed, they admit to ink in the veins or an abiding love for the work. For some it’s about working in the public interest and a sense of purpose; for others it’s the identity it gives and the camaraderie it brings.
The loss of these motivators can lead to depression, even despair, as former journalist Lawrie Zion and other academics found with their ground-breaking research on how Australian journalists who became redundant have fared. See the findings below.
Many have suggested that Nine will dominate from today and that its more commercial – some say blokey - culture will prevail. But that may not be the case.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Robert Muldoon once wisecracked that Kiwis moving to Australia “raised the IQ of both countries”. Could not the same hold true for the Nine/Fairfax merger, with the brains and integrity of investigative journalists such as Kate McClymont, Nick McKenzie, Adele Ferguson or Richard Baker setting the standard?
This may be optimistic but it’s important that the Nine/Fairfax merger works. In these times of fake news, distraction and noise, there is a greater need than ever for passion, knowledge, curation and a stubborn ambition to uncover the truth.
Denise Ryan Costello worked for News Corporation and Fairfax Media for 25 years. She now works as a journalism lecturer at Swinburne University.
Former Fairfax chief executive Greg Hywood is interviewed by UTS academic and former Fairfax executive Peter Fray in this podcast: https://player.whooshkaa.com/episode/?id=309185
A chapter on how former Fairfax editors risked all to set up digital businesses from the book Media Innovation & Disruption:
Latest research on how journalists who lost their jobs have fared:
The latest New Beats report: http://www.newbeatsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/New_Beats_Report.pdf
Statement on Ministerial interference in the ARC rounds, 2017-2018
Saturday November 3, 2018
The Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia calls on the Federal government to reverse its decision to veto 11 ARC-recommended grants in the 2017-18 Discovery Project, Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards and Future Fellowship rounds; and to fund them in the forthcoming round.
This personal intervention by the then-Minister Simon Birmingham has received widespread condemnation from the national and international research community — including in the world’s leading scientific journal, Nature.
The intervention potentially does irreparable harm to Australia’s reputation as a nation that values academic freedom and independence.
The vetoed projects were judged by numerous peer reviewers, and the distinguished ARC College of Experts, to deliver work of national importance and benefit.
It is rare for Ministers not to accept the advice of the ARC, and even rarer for the Minister to intervene in so many grants — the last time this happened was in 2005 and Ministerial intervention was confirmed in only 3 grants at that time.
We note that all 11 vetoed grants were in the Humanities, with several researchers working in our field of media, journalism and communication directly affected.
JERAA celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and is committed to the centrality of media, communication and journalism research in the modern Humanities.
JERAA Vice President (Research), Professor Susan Forde said better understanding of our media systems and content, and the role media play in society, was one of the most pressing considerations for many advanced nations experiencing major media change. Research from our field has clear social and national benefit.
“If we don’t defend these researchers now, the independence and autonomy of the academy is under threat. The ARC is the primary source of funding for the best Australian research.
“The flow-on effect of this is what concerns us most — will researchers now start self-censoring their research ideas and the expression of them if they sense it might not ‘get through’ the Minister?
“Will the ARC College of Experts put to the bottom of the pile projects that they feel might also be rejected, in order to protect the pot of funding allocated for Humanities grants?”
The former Minister has indicated that the $4.1million in lost funding was ‘reallocated’, but he has not indicated where; and it appears it was not reallocated to other Humanities projects.
We are now within weeks of the new funding announcements being made — this means the Minister currently has the ARC’s recommendations for 2019 projects before him for sign-off.
We therefore call on the new Minister to help regain Australia’s reputation in the eyes of the world by confirming the projects vetoed by former-Minister Birmingham will now be funded as part of his 2019 Project announcement.
We also call on Minister Tehan not to intervene in the decisions for new grants that have already been confirmed and recommended by the highly regarded Australian Research Council.
For media enquiries, contact Professor Susan Forde, 0438 513249 or email@example.com
Click here for a pdf version of this statement to download and distribute
Congratulations to 2018 JERAA award winners
JERAA is pleased to announce the recipients of our 2018 awards.
The recipient of the $6000 2018 JERAA Research Grant is Dr Peter English, from the University of the Sunshine Coast for his project 'A typology of Australian sports journalism'.
The panel has also granted a Highly Commended award to Dr Alex Wake for her project 'Brave new worlds of international broadcasting'. Alex will receive $3000 to carry out fieldwork associated with her project.
The 2018 Anne Dunn Scholar Award has been won by Dr Caroline Fisher from the University of Canberra.
Caroline was commended by the panel for her body of work as an early career researcher, which features a range of high-quality national and international publications. Her research highlights the connections between journalism and other communication forms, and aims to increase understanding about the changing relationship between these different forms.
The Anne Dunn Scholar Award is jointly sponsored by Anne's family, JERAA, and the Australia New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA), and honours Anne's lifetime dedication to public service journalism.
Upsurge in journalist killings coincides with World Press Freedom Day
Australian journalism educators are deeply concerned that this year’s World Pres Freedom Day, marked annually on May 3, coincides with a recent upsurge in violence against journalists.
Professor Matthew Ricketson, president of the Journalism Education and Research Association of Australia (JERAA), the peak body for journalism academics, said 32 journalists and media staff had been killed already this year, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) data showed.
Ten journalists were killed in Afghanistan on April 30, nine by a single suicide bomber, making it the deadliest day for media, according to the IFJ. This appalling loss of life was the result of a coordinated double suicide bombing in Kabul, in which the nine died while doing their job – reporting on the first blast. The tenth, a BBC Afghan service journalist, was shot in the country’s east.
“Earlier last month two Palestinian journalists were killed in Gaza during the Israel-Gaza protests – two more names on the list of the more than 1100 journalists who have died in the past 12 years while simply doing their job, according to the IFJ,” he said.
Imprisonment is also an occupational hazard for journalists. Two journalists are being held in jail in Myanmar for reporting for Reuters on the murder of Rohingya Muslims and the Committee to Protect Journalists says 262 journalists were imprisoned in 2017.
Prof Ricketson said 82 journalists and media staff were killed last year, leading the IFJ to call for a new international convention on the safety and independence of journalists.
“Journalists risk imprisonment, torture and even death, which shows how dangerous the activity of finding and telling the truth can be,” he said.
World Press Freedom Day has been held each year since being proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993. It aims to encourage initiatives supporting press freedom, yet this year’s celebration of those principles comes as efforts to clamp down on terrorism are leading to constraints on press freedom, including in Australia, he said.
“Proposed new Australian national security legislation is being opposed by journalists and media organisations because it would criminalise reporting done in the public interest.
“Staff cuts in Australian media organisations also impinge on press freedom. Thinly spread resources mean less time for journalism conducted in the public interest, whether that be covering the courts or digging into issues hidden far from public view. There are also fears for the erosion of the editorial independence of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation,” Prof Ricketson said.
The theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day is ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law’. This emphasises the importance of prosecuting crimes against journalists, even those that happened long ago, such as the killing of five Australian journalists at Balibo, in East Timor, in 1975 and the death of Australian journalist Roger East in East Timor a few months later. “No one has been prosecuted for those killings,” Prof Ricketson said.
The importance of an independent judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for press freedom is also highlighted by this year’s theme.
Prof Ricketson said World Press Freedom Day comes just one week after the annual world press freedom index, compiled by Reporters without Borders, found that alongside the rise of “fake news” an increasing number of democratically elected leaders were fostering hostility towards the media in the past year.
“US president Donald Trump, in particular, continues to characterise the press as the enemy of the people, in dangerously inflammatory ways that go far beyond the normal, healthy tension between the news media and the White House,” he said.
“Such a climate of hostility is becoming an insidious threat to press freedom as it undermines the public trust that journalists need to continue doing their important, sometimes dangerous work.”
JERAA statement on perceived government intervention at the ABC
Senate Inquiry Report Into the Future of Journalism
The Senate has tabled its committee’s report on the Inquiry into the future of public interest journalism.