Listening to journalists and authors Ros Thomas and Geraldine Doogue in conversation about the media cycle with Patricia Karvelas at the Perth Writers Festival 2015 was a joy. It also made me think. A lot.
Ros and Geraldine are well-known to Western Australian audiences. Indeed, some of us claim them as ours. They both began their careers in journalism as cadets at the West Australian Newspaper. Both are authors of new books.
Their experience now extends through print, radio and television journalism in a variety of national media. Patricia, herself an accomplished journalist, interjected with exactly the right questions.
Three such articulate journalists ensured the session was crammed with information, good humour and good sense. These women are consummate professionals. In the Romeo tent with its noisy fans, everyone could hear every word.
There’s a lesson here for people who take part in future Perth Writers Festivals. The sound technicians actually know how to place the microphones to best advantage. Audiences benefit when speakers use well-placed microphones properly.
Surprisingly, Geraldine Doogue and Ros Thomas discussed their new books only in passing during their session, ‘Media Cycle’. The conversation was wide-ranging. At times as I listened I thought how out of touch I am, with my tenuous grasp of digital technology. And sadly the gap seems to be widening almost daily.
I’m constantly surprised (and sometimes shocked) at how easily my grandchildren (and occasionally, my three-year-old great-granddaughter) access what they want. That’s probably the reason why I thoroughly enjoyed some of the questions at the session on media cycle. Obviously there were other older folk there with limited understanding, as well!
My friend, Louise Allan, blogged recently about limiting her family’s use of digital technology. I sympathise with her position.
Internet and the media cycle
‘These days, everyone is a journalist,’ Geraldine said. ‘But there is a craft involved in journalism. It begins with accuracy. People who provide clarity and context, and a keen interest, will still be needed [as media continues to change].’
‘Accuracy is a major issue,’ Ros agreed. ‘In the olden days, we were one person from the source of the news. Now we don’t know the source, and we see inaccuracies. The craft is truth-telling. But internet information seems like a free grocery story – there’s lots of noise, but not enough balance.’
‘We need to be alert. Who is creating content? Who is taking notice of who is creating content? This is not a safe time,’ Geraldine added.
Geraldine said she’d been pressured to join Twitter. It is one way a journalist can be their own publisher. In an age of reduced advertising budgets, it is also a way to keep in contact.
Ros does not have a Twitter account. She believes Twitter leads to more noise and a distortion of the message. Instead, she enjoys feedback from her readers via email each week. She likes the conversations with them. Interaction like that isn’t possible within 140 character limits.
The journalists all agreed that in the wake of new media, television will be the biggest loser. It will be superseded by newer media..
On the other hand, print media ‘does the heavy lifting’ in the news cycle. Geraldine said that newspapers can be educational, durable and entertaining. They will have to find a good angle to survive. This especially so for the weekend papers and their quality magazines. The growth of beautiful weekend magazines is a good development in our culture. Eventually, people may be happy to pay double for the benefits of this niche.
One of the problems with print news is that perhaps the ‘broad church’ daily papers may be sending out stuff that we no longer care about.
Radio will be the big winner in the long run.
According to Ros, ‘Radio is about the spoken word. There is nothing more fabulous.’
‘Radio is most immediate,’ Patricia agreed. ‘Programs are podcast. Stories are shared at different times.’
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Ros Thomas’s new book, Was it something I said? Misadventures in Suburbia, is a collection of writings from the column she presents every week in The Weekend West. I was surprised at first when she called her book memoir – but of course that is exactly what it is.
Geraldine Doogue’s new book is The Climb: Conversations with Australian Women in Power. In conversations with fourteen women across a variety of fields, she provides a snapshot of contemporary Australia.
Look for my reviews, coming to this blog soon for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2015.