Pacific Media Centre Pacific Media Watch Pacific Journalism Review Asia Pacific Report

Open letter to The Australian on trust and the future of journalism

Pacific Media Centre

14 March, 2012

Why the market can't ensure a free press - Wendy Bacon, New Matilda

Attack by The Australian supports case against 'self-regulation' - Mark Pearson, Journlaw

Finkelstein report: Media’s great divide - Cameron Stewart, The Australian

Finkelstein inquiry report cause for 'cautious optimism' - Andrea Carson, The Conversation

Why Finkelstein is not Judge Dread - Alan Kohler, Business Spectator

Media inquiry ignores value of diversity - Jason Wilson, The Drum

The Finkelstein Report

OPINION: Open letter in response to the article ‘Finkelstein report: Media’s great divide’ and editorial ‘It depends who you talk to’ in the Weekend Australian, March 9–11:

Your coverage  of  the  The Finkelstein media inquiry report  is  a  classic  case  of   ‘shooting  the  messenger’.  Instead  of  engaging  with  the  message  in  Chapter   4  of  the report,  which  clearly  outlines  the  emergency  of  public  trust  facing   newspapers  in  Australia,  you  instead  chose  to  focus  on  only  one  aspect  of   the  report.    

If  the  Australian  public  believe  the  current  accountability  system  for  the  press  in   Australia  to  be  satisfactory  (self-­‐regulation  via  the  Australian  Press  Council),  this   inquiry would  never  have  happened.     

Judging  from  their  submissions  to  the  independent  media  inquiry,  the   newspaper  owners  and  their  associations  believe  there  is  nothing  wrong  with  the  status  quo. Indeed,  the  vast  majority  of  their  submissions  avoided  any  serious  discussion  of  trust  and  accountability  issues.  This  is  remarkable  for  an  industry  with  trust  at  the heart  of  its  contract  with  the  public. 

The  Finkelstein  report  is  the  first  stage  of  a  discussion  we  need  to  have  about  the   future  of  media  accountability  in  Australia.  The  ground  is  shifting  fast  in  an   environment  where  news  media  are  expanding  beyond  their  traditional  markets   into  online  broadcasting.  The  concept  of  different  accountability  systems  for   press and broadcast  is  outdated,  as  well  as  confusing  for  both  the  industry  and   the  public.  This  is  why  we  need  an  engaged  conversation  about  the  Finkelstein   report and  its recommendations,  rather  than  the  attack-­‐style  reporting  displayed   by  the  coverage  in  the  Weekend  Australian.   

A  statutory  media  regulator  would  be  problematic,  and  this  is  acknowledged  by   many  of  those  cited  in  your  article.  If  you  had  contacted  for  comment  all  of  those   named  in  the  Weekend  Australian  story,  a  richer,  more  complex  and  hence  truer   picture  would  have  emerged.  The  discussion  is  far  from  finished;  the  report  from   the convergence  review  is  yet  to  come.  We  suggest  that  the  most  constructive   way  for  News  Limited  and  the  other  major  newspaper  owners  in  Australia  to   influence  the outcome  would  be  to  engage  in  serious,  constructive  discussion   about  how  to  strengthen  the  independence  and  authority  of  the  Australian  Press   Council.  Had  the media  companies  done  this  in  their  submissions,  Ray  Finkelstein  QC  might  not  have  perceived  such  a  pressing  need  to  recommend  a   statutory news  media  council.   

Journalism  academics  have  been,  and  always  will  be,  supporters  of  freedom  of   speech—the  foundation  for  an  independent  and  free  media. To  accuse   journalism educators  of  anything  less  is  an  insult  to  an  entire  profession.  However,  we  will  not  remain  silent  when  unethical  behaviour  in  certain  sectors   of  the  news  media threatens  the  integrity  of  the  whole.  Part  of  our  brief  as  both   practitioners  and  researchers  is  to  engage  in  public  debate  beyond  the  confines   of  industry  and  our universities.  This  is  what  we  have  done  in  our  discussions   about  the  Finkelstein  report,  and  we  will  continue  to  do  so.  

Anne Dunn, University of Sydney
Alex Wake, RMIT University
Maree Curtis, RMIT University
Mandy Oakham, RMIT University
Margaret Simons, Melbourne University
Chris Nash, Monash University
Johan Lidberg, Monash University
Fay Anderson, Monash University
Mia Lindgren, Monash University
Alan Knight, UTS
Martin Hirst, Deakin University
Trevor Cullen, Edith Cowan University
Beate Josephi, Edith Cowan University
Rhonda Breit, University of Queensland
Michael Meadows, Griffith University
Lawrie Zion, La Trobe University
Julie Posetti, University of Canberra
Willa McDonald, Macquarie University
Roger Patching, Bond University
Gail Phillips, Murdoch University
Marcus O’Donnell, University of Wollongong
David Robie, Auckland University of Technology
Chris Scanlon, La Trobe University
Erdem Koç, La Trobe University
Rob Burgess, La Trobe University
David Lowden, La Trobe University
Steinar Ellingsen, La Trobe University
John Tebbutt, La Trobe University
Lee Duffield, Queensland University of Technology
Colleen Murrell, Deakin University
Tracy Sorensen, Charles Sturt University
Fiona Martin, University of Sydney
Ian Richards, University of South Australia
Amy Forbes, James Cook University
Andrew Dodd, Swinburne University  

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand Licence.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.