The Australian‘s main editorial today is a gigantic spruik job for The Australian and other great newspapers like The Australian. “Despite the hype, the internet has not crippled the newspaper industry,” The Australian informs us. “Well-run newspapers, such as The Australian, continue to build circulation and readership, providing the core around which an online presence can be built.”

That pronouncement was preceded by a column in yesterday’s Australian by media writer Mark Day, who believes that the main threat to journalism is from navel-gazers, especially American navel-gazers, who spend their time bemoaning the future of journalism because of the rise of the internet. “I firmly believe the survival and growth of journalism does not depend on technology or new and different methods of delivery,” writes Day. “A rattling good yarn is a rattling good yarn whether it is created by quill pen, typewriter or computer and regardless of whether it is delivered on printed paper, by electronic transfer, by broadcast television or radio, or on the back of a tram ticket.”

But if Mark Day and his editors are right, what is the explanation for the barrage of bad news about newspapers and journalism that pours out of the US and Britain on an almost daily basis?

Last week, for example, it was revealed that advertising revenue in US newspapers in 2007 dropped 9.4% — the sharpest decline since the Newspaper Association of America began measuring ad revenues in 1950. Figures like that are part of a depressing inventory of stories about sharply declining newspaper circulations, constant lay-offs of journalists, sales of newspapers at bargain prices, reductions in spending on journalism at most media companies and, as Mark Day describes it, “navel-gazing introspection” about the gloomy future of American and British journalism from all quarters.

If The Australian is right about the positive future of newspapers and journalism in this country, and all the facts and figures are right about the negative future of newspapers and journalism in the US and UK, journalism in Australia is apparently avoiding a technology train wreck that is causing chaos elsewhere.

And that improbable hype-based scenario would indeed be a rattling good yarn.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey