Guest post: With The Punch we will celebrate journalism

In this guest posting, David Penberthy, editor of newly-launched The Punch explains what he and his team are trying to achieve.

The launch today of thepunch.com.au adds a new dimension to the Australian journalistic landscape and fills what we believe is a gap in the market for readers.  

There are many excellent opinion sites in Australia but there is no mainstream opinion site aimed at general readers with a love of broad discussion and debate.

Despite the explosion in the size and scope of the blogosphere, opinion sites in Australia are generally confined to a particular industry or field of interest – sites such as Breakfast Politics, which brilliantly serves the needs of political junkies, or Mumbrella, which does a great job covering media and marketing. Others such as Larvatus Prodeo or individual blogs by journalists such as Andrew Bolt or Tim Blair come at issues in a provocative and energetic way but from a generally set position on the ideological spectrum. And then there’s Crikey, which operates on the presumption that nothing good has ever come out of mainstream journalism.

The Punch has many aims, one of which is kind of novel in the current dour climate – to celebrate journalism. And not just News Limited journalism. The Punch is obviously owned and operated by News and will showcase the writing of journalists from around our company. But there are great writers at rival news organisations, with individual blogs, and there are people who write brilliantly but work in fields other than journalism. Many of them will be regular columnists for The Punch, providing exclusive, original content every day.

With our aggregation to news and opinion from elsewhere we will also link without prejudice to sites not owned by News, so that our site becomes a handy entry point for every Australian with a love of words, ideas and debate.

Our site is clean and simple and easy to use. We have avoided the clutter of sites overseas which have slavishly replicated every section of a general news structure and can leave readers overwhelmed. At any given time The Punch will feature 10 exclusive original posts on its homepage and 20 links to aggregated news and opinion. We will change the site throughout the day, “breaking” opinion the way other sites break news, delivering real-time analysis from ourselves and others on news events as they unfold. Readers can subscribe to a free morning email alerting them to the content at the start of each weekday.

While the site has been designed to let the writing speak for itself, and to use strong headlines around stills and video to tell a story, it will also use new mediums such as Twitter to deliver content to readers. We will try to do new things with journalism, some of which will hopefully work, some of which will inevitably fail. We will make some unintentional mistakes, and we will correct them. We will celebrate many people, and have a decent crack at others, and afford them a right of reply.

We will take a lateral and permissive approach to advertising and are well-up for creative executions which may struggle to find acceptance on conventional news sites.

We will encourage readers to log on as themselves, not just to encourage civil debate, but to give them the chance to become contributors also. Unless we’re asked a question, we will butt out of the readers’ section and let them have their say.

Politics will be the backbone of the site but it will in not be limited to politics. As today’s edition demonstrates, at any given time the conversation may range from the politics of group sex to the unfairness of modern cricket, the flawed defence by civil libertarians of biker gangs, the full-cream fascists running our trendier coffee shops and the commercialisation of Kokoda.

Our political contributors include Mike Rann, Maxine McKew, Anthony Albanese, Joe Hockey, Mark Arbib, Nick Xenophon, Barnaby Joyce, Bronwyn Bishop and Peter Dutton, as well as Mark Textor, Peter Lewis and Tim Gartrell. Our sportswriters include Kate Ellis, Ben Buckley, Anthony Sharwood and Luke Foley, on business and economics we have Clive Mathieson, Steve Keen, Frank Zumbo and Cameron England, and a broad suite of writers including Catharine Lumby, Tracey Spicer, Fergus Linehan, Ed Charles, Matt Kirkegaard and Nedahl Stelio covering entertainment, technology, food, fashion and trends.

The Punch will also include exclusive original content from established and emerging News Limited journalists as well as journos from other outlets including Leigh Sales from the ABC and Fiona Connolly from ACP.

It is a free site but down the track may examine a subscription model – not to bar readers from continuing to access it unless they pay, but to offer additional premium content for a reasonable fee.

We have billed The Punch as Australia’s Best Conversation. We intend to honour that promise.

David Penberthy, is Editor of The Punch, which launched today


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