Saturday, May 13, 2017

Saturday Morning Musings - remembering Mark Colvin, the future of the Australian media

ABC's Mark Colvin's death has affected many people including me. His voice, his intelligence, have been part of my life for many years. You will find some details on his life here and here. . He was one of those people who gave the ABC its  credibility.

During the week I was approached by the Melbourne Press Club. They wanted a photo of someone for their Australian Media Hall of Fame and the best photo they could find was one from me.

I couldn't help them. While I could give provenance, the photo simply wasn't of the resolution required. The best I could do was to provide them with some leads on possible sources that might have photos. Finding specific photos on the internet has become a huge problem. Its partly the sheer increase in volume, but its also due to loss of sites over time, to changes in search algorithms, to changing treatment of photos.

Its very frustrating when you have seen a photo before but can no longer find it no matter how hard you search. I'ts also frustrating, especially for someone interested in Australian history, when entire series vanish. Bottom line. If you see a photo that is important, save it with details. You may never see it again.

Meantime, media change continued. In April came the latest round of the never-ending Fairfax restructuring followed by the opportunistic TPG proposal. Then came the opening of the New York Time's Australian front, adding to the proliferation of centre, left of centre online mastheads.  

Roy Morgan released the results of the print readership for major newspapers in the twelve months to end March 2017 showing further declines in readership of the main Fairfax newspapers except for the Financial Review.The Australian also recorded an increase in its readership during the week, with a decline at the weekend.

From time to time I have complained about what I see as weaknesses in Fairfax's strategic directions. Like many, I am worried about the decline in journalism, in the scope for in-depth coverage, in basic reporting.

Mark Colvin was a reporter, now an under-valued breed. I wonder whether the future development of the Australian Media Hall of Fame will simply document the end of reporting? I don't think that it need be this way, although I struggle to articulate a proper alternative. I just think that Fairfax is perhaps a case study in what not to do!   

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