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Stop making wagon wheels – start making cars, journos are told

Regardless of the impact of online on newspaper economics, the new discipline is offering journalists new opportunities, a debate on the future of the industry was told.  

Colin James, a 20 year print media veteran before becoming afternoon editor of News Ltd’s Adelaide Now, told the Future of Journalism debate in Adelaide: “I’ve found it the best 12 months of my life. So far I’ve loved it. There are no deadlines – the deadline is now. I’ve had stressful jobs before but this is the most stressful.”

The event – organised by the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance – focused on the changing economics of newspapers, with MEAA federal secretary Christopher Warren saying that around 500 journalism jobs have already been lost in Australia.

However, the debate was told that the impact of the changing market has been felt less keenly by television journalists, although that would come as news sites run more video. Graham Archer, a producer for Seven’s Today Tonight, said: “We’ve not been standing on the edge of the Rubicon in the same way. In television things have changed less dramatically. In terms of our core business it’s largely remained the same. But in the long run we will be challenged in our core business and that’s audio visual.

But Greg Barilla, online editor of News Ltd’s Messenger Community News, said that journalists had dialled back on producing video for practical reasons. He said: “When we started flirting with online in the beginning we experimented quite heavily with video but 12 months down the track we have pulled back a bit. You don’t have to file a piece of video with everything.”

And the ABC’s state editor Rick Keegan admitted that for a time the organisation had fallen behind on its online news. He said: “The ABC was a leader five years ago but then we fell behind and now we are picking up again. Over the last 12 months we have gone from being a bi-media news room to a tri-media newsroom.”

Meanwhile, lecturer Collette Snowden, from the University of South Australia, said many of those at the debate were missing the scale of the changes to come. She said: “I feel a bit like someone at a conference of wagon wheel manufacturers at the time that automobiles are being made up the road. You have no idea what’s going to hit you.”

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