Editors, Journalists and Audiences: Towards a new compact

First Decade Fellow Lecture, Department of Media and Communications, University of Sydney

01:01 minutes

16 November, 2011
Peter Fray

The economic, technological and social pressures faced by journalists and editors today are well-documented and subject to much discussion, in the media, the academy and the broader community. An oft-repeated view is that the journalism, and the watchdog functions of the fourth estate, are under unprecedented threat, as audiences leave traditional media companies, taking advertisers and other revenues with them. The growth of digital media which is cheap, pervasive and audience-centred, has essentially destroyed the old business model and shifted power and influence away from journalists and editors to the people formerly known as the audience.

But is it as grim as it appears? And to what extent can journalists and editors find a new, and better, way to serve the needs of their audiences and harness the power of both the old and the new media worlds?

Big, traditional media is too important to a functioning democracy to wither and die. And there are already signs of a green shoot revival, despite the doomsday predictions.

The federal government's media inquiry is considering how 'quality journalism' can be supported. A noble thought, but the seeds of the media's salvation rest in the same place as its destruction: its own hands. It is high time for a new compact - or contract - between journalists, editors and their audiences.

As the culmination of his research project with the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney investigating the role of the editor, Peter Fray brings a combination of academic study and industry practice to some of the key questions being asked by journalists, editors and anyone who uses and abuses media today.


Peter Fray

Peter Fray was appointed Publisher and Editor-in-Chief in February of this year, following on from his appointment as Editor-in-Chief of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sun-Herald in 2010.

Before becoming editor of The Sydney Morning Herald in January 2009, Peter edited both The Canberra Times and The Sunday Age (not at the same time), and prior to that was the Deputy Editor of The Sun-Herald. He has held various reporting and editing roles over a career spanning 25 years. These include European correspondent (London-based) for the SMH and The Age, Spectrum editor (SMH), news editor (SMH, the Sunday Age), political correspondent (The Bulletin). He first joined the Herald in 1987, leaving in 1990, to become a foundation member of Rural Press's Australian Rural Times. He rejoined the Herald in 1995 as religious writer.