Yesterday came the big announcement that Fairfax was going to sack around 1,900 workers of whom it was reported around 20% will be editorial staff. The news was greeted with much sadness especially from most journalists. This is not surprising, many of those who work for Fairfax would be worried about their own job, many would have friends who work there. As with any factory/business closure, it is a horrible position for those involved.
The discussion, as with all such announcements, turned to the future of media and why people won’t pay for news.
Well here’s a tip – I am finding less and less I have any need of what is written, and secondly less and less I trust that which I read.
The announcement of the Fairfax “restructure” was a case in point. It was reported quickly and widely by many on Twitter and many on Twitter provided a link to the ASX announcement. It detailed the cutbacks, the changes to the format of the papers; it even had a few quotes at the end from the CEO Greg Hywood explaining why they needed to be done.
I felt zero need to read any media reports on the issue, knowing that they would merely regurgitate what was in the announcement. I knew by that afternoon/evening there’d be a few quotes from the unions and maybe some media talking head, but they’d all just be speculating on what they think will happen. In terms of actual “news” and “facts” I had received all I needed from the primary source. All other information such as how journalists were reacting, how many of the positions to be cut were editorial etc I received via Twitter. In fact if I wanted to I could actually converse with those journalists personally.
The 7:30 Report coverage of the issue was good, giving a bit of background some quotes from the unions, the Minister, and a few more talking heads with some analysis of what they think might happen, but if I hadn’t seen it I wouldn’t really have missed anything because I had viewed the primary source material that morning the same as every journalist writing on it.
The issue with the internet is that people (like me) who are pretty heavily engaged in news find less need to wait for a media report of a document because we can read the document. In the past the only way we would have found that report is through the media. Now, I often don’t need the media; I may however at times prefer to get such news via the media – because it’s easier, because I can’t be bothered reading the whole report etc or because (on those rare occasions) someone on Twitter hasn’t provided a link. On ABC 24 of Sky or APAC (both of which I pay for) I often see unedited speeches and new conferences, and they do me fine – in fact much better than any report of what was said in that press conference.
I do read some journalist’s coverage of issues/reports/announcements because I value their views and analysis – they often provide interesting points of view I likely would not have considered – in effect they provide me with a need – they increase my understanding. Most importantly I value their knowledge, and I trust their reportage. (On this point, I will say that this is what I try to do with my weekly Drum pieces. I use data and primary sources available to all, but my aim is to increase the readers’ understanding, and to do so in a manner that readers can trust I am not leaving out certain data etc just because it doesn’t fit with my argument.)
Often I am unable to view the primary material/source and in that case I really need to trust the journalist.
But often when I read news now, I find I don’t trust what many journalists report.
Today was a prime example.
This morning The Australian’s Dennis Shanahan ran this story on Julia Gillard’s attendance at the G20:
Europe won't be 'lectured' by Julia Gillard, EC chief Jose Manuel Barroso has said
- BY:DENNIS SHANAHAN, LOS CABOS
- From:The Australian
- June 19, 2012 7:26AM
EUROPE has struck back at Julia Gillard's written demands for stimulus and political courage to solve the eurozone debt crisis.
European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, has told the G20 summit in Mexico on its opening day that the EU is not the cause of the current crisis and won't be "lectured" by anyone.
Speaking at the isolated luxury resort area in Mexico, Mr Barroso said: “Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy or in terms of how to handle the economy.”
Mr Barroso said he expected all G20 leaders "speak clearly in favour of the approach the EU is following".
Before the conference, the Prime Minister wrote to all G20 leaders urging them to adopt a spending as well as austerity policy and later urged them to follow “the Australian way” to economic success.
Note how Shanahan infers Mr Barroso’s comments are linked to the Prime Minister’s letter. Note how the headline uses direct quotes and specifically has Barroso’s statement directed to Gillard?
Shanahan then went on to get this comment from a “spokesperson” for Mr Barroso:
Mr Barroso said through a spokesperson he was sure Ms Gillard "will acknowledge that Europe is doing a lot to boost growth and consolidate public finances. No effort will be spared to get our economies back on track, including through a banking union and deeper fiscal integration, completing ongoing structural reform and targeted investment for growth and jobs."
Gee, can’t you just feel Europe striking back!
The G20 meeting was also covered on the ABC’s AM program in much the same way:
EU responds coolly to Julia Gillard's G20 sermon
JANE COWAN: Well, Tony what's happened is that the leadership at the European Union has held a news conference here in Los Cabos, and really launched a rather fierce defence of their handling of the crisis.
This is in response to some of the finger wagging and the criticisms they've already received. The Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said that the solution for instance lies in courageous leadership and that everyone should look at Australia's example.
The president of the European Commission - which is the union's executive agency - Jose Manuel Barroso, has said that frankly we didn't come to the G20 to receive lessons in how to run a democracy or how to handle an economy. And instead of criticism, he's saying that he wants to hear approval from other G20 leaders and support for the efforts that are being made in Europe, especially, he says, in light of the public opposition to austerity measures in countries like Greece.
Note Jane Cowan also links the comments at the news conference to things said by the Prime Minister.
Then there was Simon Benson on The Daily Telegraph:
PM Julia Gillard 'slapped down' at G20 summit by the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso
THE PM has been publicly slapped down at the G20 summit by the President of the European Commission for lecturing Europe on how to solve its economic crisis.
In an embarrassing swipe at the PM, on the first day of the official meeting of leaders gathered at the Mexican luxury resort region of Los Cabos, EC President Jose Manuel Barroso said he would not be lectured by anyone.
“Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy or in terms of how to handle the economy,” he said.
Embarrassing!! It’s a “swipe at the PM”. And given ‘slapped down’ is in quotes I guess someone has actually said that. Yes someone has – Simon Benson has. Wow what great journalism!
The ABC online took up the story as well:
Europe fires back over Gillard's G20 criticism
By chief political correspondent Simon Cullen
Updated June 19, 2012 11:22:52
European leaders have fired back at criticism from Australia and other G20 countries about their handling of the economic crisis.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Treasurer Wayne Swan wrote to world leaders ahead of this week's G20 summit in Mexico, urging them to adopt policies designed to stimulate the economy while also implementing austerity measures.
But European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso has hit back at those critical of Europe's approach, telling reporters: "We are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy or in terms of how to handle the economy".
"By the way, this crisis was not originated in Europe," he said.
"This crisis originated in North America and much of our financial sector was contaminated by, how can I put it, unorthodox practices, from some sectors of the financial market."
I always worry about a report that starts “Europe leaders” and then only quotes one such leader. I guess singular is the new plural. And note again how the letter from the Prime Minister is linked to the comments from Mr Barroso.
The SMH took a different tack:
Gillard delivers good news, but few are there to hear it
Gillard had a good story to tell. But was anyone listening?
Certainly not the world's media. If the Factiva news database is a guide, a letter she wrote on the weekend to G20 leaders was not reported outside Australia.
Oh well dear, if the media doesn’t report something I guess it is a total failure then…
So all this is nice and of course Tony Abbott bought into the whole thing as well, which creates another angle via Malcolm Farr:
Prime Minister Julia Gillard slammed for 'hypocrisy' over Europe advice
TONY Abbott today scoffed at Prime Minister Julia Gillard's advice to European leaders at a summit in Mexico to follow the "Australian way".
The Opposition Leader said the G20 summit, a meeting of the world's top economic powers, should know Ms Gillard had yet to deliver a surplus.
This comes as the PM was been publicly slapped down by the President of the European Commission for lecturing Europe on how to solve its economic crisis.
Yes again, the PM has been “publicly slapped down by the President of the European Commission”.
So there you go. Here is the coverage of the “news” that people think we should pay for (and which we all do via taxes when it comes to the ABC).
Clearly Julia Gillard has been slapped down by the European Commission President. That is A FACT PEOPLE. IT IS IN THE NEWS.
And then on Twitter at around 11:30 Annabel Crabb tweeted:
Just listened to the entire Barroso press conference. His rant about criticism of Europe was in response to Canada. Not Julia Gillard.
She then provided a link to the video of the press conference (ie the primary source).
The relevant bit start at the 36 min mark. It begins with a question from a Canadian journalist, David Akin.
AKIN: As you know President Barroso, Prime Minister Stephen Harper [ie the Canadian PM] has indicated that Europe should not seek money outside of Europe. He believes that Europe has enough financial fire power, the Euro area is a tremendously wealthy area, that funds with the IMF are better used in developing countries that do not have the resources that Europe has. You’re in North America right now – and I think President Obama feels the same way – you’re in North America right now, please make the pitch why North Americans should risk their assets for Europe that many North Americans believe is wealthy enough to sort out its own problems?
Did you notice any mention of Australia or of Julia Gillard’s remarks or letter? No neither did I – but then I am not a journalist, so what the hell do I know. It is clear Akin is asking about North America, and especially Stephen Harper’s comments.
OK here’s the answer, which you can watch above, but I have transcribed in full:
BARROSO: Regarding the IMF, the IMF is an international financial institution and it should work for the common good. And if there is an issue that is recognized as important for the common good like financial stability, including in some European countries I don’t see any reason why that institution should not contribute. Let me tell you by the way that European states are by far the biggest contributors to the IMF. Even Euro member area states alone are the biggest contributor – bigger than the United States, certainly much, much bigger than Canada. [now that is a swipe!]
So the biggest contribution for the IMF all these years has been European Union member states. And it is quite interesting to know that even in times of crisis – now when we have decided to increase the funding for the IMF once again it is the Europe member states that have given the biggest part, the biggest share.
And by the way we are on time to do it. Others unfortunately are not on time
So let’s put things in the right perspective. The European Union is the biggest economy in the world, yes we know that. Taken together the 27 member states, the biggest economy and the biggest trade partner (By the way we are trying to conclude an important on trade with Canada – why? Because all parts of the world look at Europe as a source of possible growth for them.) [another mention of Canada]
And in fact they also have an interest. The sooner the situation is stabilized in Europe, the better for them.
Sop that’s why my position and the position of the European Union has been to say , “Let’s work cooperatively for this. Let’s work together”.
By the way this crisis was not originated in Europe – since you mention North America – this crisis was originated in North America! And many of our financial sector were contaminated by… how can I put is… ‘unorthodoxed’ practice from some sections of the financial market. But we are not putting the blame on our partners. What we are saying is “Let’s work together, when we have a proble… little problem like the one we have today”.
And so that’s why I am expecting today the G20 leaders today and tomorrow to speak very clearly in favour of the approach that the European Union is following – understanding one thing that is very important is that in Europe we are open democracies. Not all the members of the G20 are democracies.[China of course is the biggest non-democracy in the G20] But we are democracies and we take decisions democratically, sometimes this means taking more time. Yes because we are a union of 27 democracies and we have to find necessary consensus. But frankly we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy or in terms of how to handle the economy. Because European Union is a model that we may be very proud of. We are not complacent about the difficulties. We are extremely open. I wish that all our partners we so open about their own difficulties. We are extremely open and we are engaging with our partners, but we certainly are not coming here to receive lessons from nobody.
Barroso’s answer is mostly about IMF payments with a slap at the non-democratic members of the G20 (and last time I checked, Australia remains a democracy, despite all protestations to the contrary). And then he ends with a sentence that is directed at no one in particular, but given it comes off the back of statements about non-democratic states, could be more linked to them than any other country – although Barros is looking at the journalist the whole time, so the Canadian/ North Americans aspect is also close to his mind.
A slap at Julia Gillard? Only if you are a journalist looking for an angle that has no connection to the truth, you are lazy and have just read other’s reports, or you are out of your depth and struggle at listening-comprehension.
Nowhere in his answer did Barroso mention, even by inference, Julia Gillard’s comments or her letter addressed to the G20. Nor would he slap her down given the banking reforms she is advocating the G20 help implement are essentially the same ones the EU is trying to implement. (I know, the gall of her!)
So how did David Akin (you know the bloke who actually asked the question) write of the answer?
At G20, top euro leader blows up at Harper
Whether you think Akin’s report is more or less accurate doesn’t actually matter – we can all now view the primary source and make up our own minds.
And note, that this didn’t come via any media organisation’s report but from a Tweet by a journalist – a journalist who herself seemed surprised by the coverage. Does any think the future will be one where the ability to get primary data/reports etc outside of standard media will decline?
I am loath to pretend to know how to solve the business model of the media’s, but here’s one thing – I’ll pay for things I need, or that media companies can convince me are things I should need. But most importantly, I’ll only pay for news from people I can trust.
On the matter of Gillard’s trip to the G20, thus far, all have failed the trust standard.