News

Journalism at the speed of bytes


7 August 2012

Internet memes like the 'Y U No Guy' (pictured) are an increasingly popular form of succinct, humorous expression used in the fast-paced digital information space that traditional journalism competes in.
Internet memes like the 'Y U No Guy' (pictured) are an increasingly popular form of succinct, humorous expression used in the fast-paced digital information space that traditional journalism competes in.

In a turbulent media landscape in which journalism's traditional business model has collapsed, an Australian-first survey has revealed the attitudes of 100 journalists and media executives about the dramatic transformations currently underway in newspapers and online media.

Journalism at the speed of bytes (PDF, 1.8MB), which was co-authored by Dr Penny O'Donnell from the University of Sydney and Dr David McKnight from the University of New South Wales, examines the pace and scale of change in Australian newspaper journalism and the capacity of newsrooms to continue to fulfill their traditional role as the driver of "quality" news and current affairs content in Australia.

The report argues the industry should aim for a better understanding between readers and journalists to ensure that readers understand how the news process works and the constraints under which journalists operate.

The report found there is already an increased interaction between journalists and readers, with about 69 percent of journalists favouring increased interactivity, and just under half (45 percent) in favour of content co-creation. And 54 percent of executives said their editorial priorities had changed as a result of increased interaction with readers.

Optimistically, 75 percent of journalists nominated informing the public as the most important role for journalists in Australia, and journalism with a "strong element of public benefit" emerged as the most important characteristic of quality journalism.

The report was part of an ARC Linkage Project in conjunction with The Walkley Foundation.


Summary of findings

  • 87 percent said finding a viable new business model to replace declining advertising revenue was the key issue facing newspapers.
  • 68 percent said readers would have to pay for online news through either paywalls or apps.
  • 21 percent were opposed in principle to the idea of "user pays".
  • 75 percent said informing the public was the most important role for journalists, while scrutinising the powerful was also mentioned by 34 percent of respondents. Further down the list were entertaining (15 percent), supporting democracy (13 percent) and comment and analysis (8 percent).


Some recommendations of the report:

  • Rather than judging "quality journalism" merely as something that readers will pay for, the industry needs to talk to readers about journalism standards and values, to ensure that they understand how the news process works and the constraints under which journalists operate
  • Adequate training in best-practice digital journalism, rather than on-the-job training provided on an "as-needed" basis will be critical to ensure the existing workforce gains a holistic understanding of how digital technology has changed journalism
  • The Walkley Awards - and other journalism awards - should be used to showcase and encourage best practice digital journalism performance and standards and need to be reviewed in light of this critical role.

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Media enquiries: Jacqueline Chowns, 02 9036 5404, 0434 605 018, jacqueline.chowns@sydney.edu.au