Report finds newspaper editors struggling with dwindling resources, quality of journalism in Australia deemed ‘average’ or ‘poor’

At one of the most turbulent times in the history of the newspaper industry, the Media Alliance has released a report that finds publishers struggling to maintain editorial quality as resources and staff dwindle.

Billed as the most detailed report of its kind ever carried out in Australia, the ‘Journalism at the Speed of Bytes’ is a survey of 100 editors, deputy editors and senior editorial staff from the major Australian metropolitan and national newspapers.

Sixty-two per cent of those asked said the most difficult challenge they face is coping with tighter resources, while 56% said it was proving difficult to keep staff motivated.

And this is impacting on the quality of journalism in Australia, the report found.

Sixty-two per cent of respondents said that the quality of newspaper journalism in Australia was “average” or “poor”. Only 34% said it was excellent.

Two-thirds of respondents described the quality of online journalism in Australia as “average” or “poor” while only 14% said it was “excellent”.

The survey follows in the wake of troubles at Australia’s top newspapers, which have claimed 1,500 jobs, according to the Alliance.

The report also found that journalists are slow to embrace digital techniques.

Only a quarter of Walkey-winning journalists use social media tools to research their stories, while only about 17% said they had used different digital platforms to produce multimedia news stories.

And ironically, when asked what they were looking for in new hires, digital media skills emerged as the most important qualification – compared to only 28% who said writing skills were more important.

Another finding from the report was that 75% of senior journalists said that informing the public was the most important role for journalists in Australia. Journalism with a “strong element of public benefit” was seen as the most important characteristic of quality journalism, according to the report.

The report made a number of recommendations, which include:

  • 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 that 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

The research was backed by the Australian Research Council and The Walkley Foundation, and carried out by researchers at University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and The Walkley Foundation.



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