The Public Knowledge Forum generated plenty of interest in media circles both during and after the event with an active Twitter conversation backed up by coverage by many of the major news outlets. Here’s a wrap up of some of the major stories.
In a column syndicated across the Fairfax network, former ABC Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes looked at the how the new media revolution had remarkably induced a revival of a 19th century style of argumentative and passionate journalism at the expense of a more familiar ‘objective’ style. Quoting the comments fellow panelist Jay Rosen from New York University posted to his blog PressThink ahead of the forum, he discussed the tension between the impartial style of the 20th century and what Rosen calls “old testament journalism”.
This revival of the old model, however, did not mean the complete displacement of the new form, a fact clearly expressed in a widely quoted dialogue between New York Times editor Bill Keller and proverbial cat amongst the pigeons of establishment journalism Glenn Greenwald. As Rosen put it, “neither form has a monopoly on virtue. Great journalism, as Greenwald often says, can come from both traditions. I too think we need both, plus future forms that combine the two in novel fashion. The messiah hasn’t come yet.” Read a riposte to Holmes’s column by News Limited columnist Andrew Bolt as well for a different perspective.
Rosen also joined ABC Radio Melbourne and ABC TV’s The World to discuss this old vs. new dichotomy. “There is something deceptive about saying ‘we don’t have any views, we’re just telling you the news’,” he told The World. “We’re better off with an ecosystem where both have their place.”
In the two media-focused discussions, he also noted the challenges of producing 24-hour news, analysed the unique Australian media environment and argued that the professionalisation of journalism has led to an elitism in political media that may be failing to inform the public at large.
Following on from her op-ed in The Guardian and essay published in the US Studies Centre’s American Review, Mary Kissel from the Wall Street Journal struck an optimistic tone in The Conversation on the future of journalism. Despite the disruption in media business wrought by the Internet, she believed the market would ultimately find a solution to provide quality, informed and profitable journalism. “I think that competition should be welcomed in the media business just as it is welcomed in every other industry that we cover and that we write about.” Kissel however she also questioned the role of public broadcasters like the ABC, a point she reiterated on Sky News Agenda. “How can you have a watchdog that is basically overseen by government?”, she asked. “It just seems to be an oxymoron.”
PKF convener James Fallows told ABC TV’s The Drum that although local accountability journalism and investigative reporting appeared to be in decline, the media business continued to thrive through innovation. Using his own publication The Atlantic as an example, he said going online had allowed them to revive the print brand, hire more journalists, run an events business and find new revenue streams. “I think the ‘everything that’s possible’ solution is probably going to be the way forward for many journalistic outlets.” Fallows also spoke to ABC Radio's The World Today about the conference, saying that the recent influence of technology entrepreneurs should be viewed as a positive development. “If there is anybody who knows about how to make money from online activity it would be Mr Bezos (new owner of WaPo) or Mr Omidyar (announced new journalism venture last month)”, he said.
The Australian also reported on the conference, noting that outlets that placed a high value on impartiality were struggling for market share in the US against more opinionated outlets such as Fox News. The lunchtime session featuring Conrad Black and Bob Carr also drew a lot of attention, with The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian Financial Review and Sky News Online all publishing stories.
Of course, with so many international renowned journalists in the country, the media wasn’t the only subject on peoples minds. Interviews on the widening NSA scandal, the ongoing crises in Washington and recent writings by speakers like Jay Newton-Small on the Deep Web and Jonathan Rauch on gay marriage are all available to watch, listen to and read at the US Studies Centre website.
Hungry for more? Check back here next week for full video of the conference or subscribe to the WalkleyTalks podcast, which will be running full audio of each session over the coming weeks. You can also review the @PKFSydney twitter feed from the weekend to read some of the more eye-opening statements made by the speakers, including this one from ninemsn’s Hal Crawford.
The US government shutdown has grabbed headlines around the world this week, but many media critics have been scathing of the reporting surrounding the issue. Rather than skewering Republicans for their obstructionism, the major media outlets have been accused of creating a false equivalence and unfairly laying the blame at the feet of both the Democrats and the GOP. See what PKF speakers Jay Rosen and James Fallows have to say.
In this ground-breaking essay in The Atlantic in April 2011, Public Knowledge Forum convenor James Fallows responds to the rising level of scepticism about the new media. Yes, the digital-media world may be leading to a decline in journalistic substance, seriousness and sense of proportion. But digital upstarts — consumer-obsessed, sensationalist, and passionate about their work — may also be pointing the way to a brighter future. Here’s how.
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Ten years on, PKF speaker and professor of journalism at NYU Jay Rosen's blog PressThink remains a must-read for anyone interested in the past, present and future of the press. With classes resuming in the US, we look at some of Rosen's best summer writing.