Crikey Says

Oct 20, 2009

Does journalism still need a separation of church and state? editor David Higgins believes the commercial-editorial division is a "luxury" the media can no longer afford. Oh dear.

For those grappling to see some of the dangers to real journalism inherent in the current crisis, this extract from a piece in the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance's Walkley Magazine gives cause for a moment's contemplation.
Acknowledging the importance of independent reporting, (editor at David) Higgins believes there's a need to rethink the role of journalists within the context of a digital media newsroom. He argues that the study of media as a business should be introduced into the core units of journalism and media courses. "The extremes with which (the separation of church and state) was applied in the past are a luxury that perhaps we cannot afford any more," Higgins said. "Journalists now need to be proactive in working with the sales people, give sales people a bit more leeway and say 'I can work with this, but I can't work with that'. It can no longer simply be the responsibility of the sales people to come up with ideas."
Yes, this man is the editor of a significant online franchise operated by News Ltd, the people now leading the charge to erect paywalls in every media portal. The issue with the church-state divide in media is simply, one feels compelled to point out to the likes of Mr Higgins, one of trust. If you do not maintain a scrupulous division between the commercial and the journalistic, then readers are entitled to imagine that everything they read carries the taint of cash-driven comment and reporting ... that they may simply be reading what someone has paid someone else to write. Which is apparently more the object of aspiration than anxiety at

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6 thoughts on “Does journalism still need a separation of church and state?

  1. theviewfromasia

    Listen mate, times change. I’m sure that there are a lot of Catholics still upset about the Protestant movement.

    So come down from the pulpit and exhibit a little tolerance in the examination of practical reality. We live in an era of massive disruptions to established business models.

    And media is a business whether you like it or not. Capital is at risk and it wants a return.

    Journalists also have a choice as to where to ply their trade. Some of them might actually prefer start ups like Crikey and want to recieve stock options on top of salary (you give your jounos options right?).

    So why wouldn’t they want to learn what type of models are out there? What’s working and why?

    The world is not just black and white. There are also profitable niche audiences across the many shades of grey.

    In the end, the audience is not dumb and will pay for what they really want.

  2. troll

    How quaint. Next up on Crikey: Why a woman’s place really is in the home. Followed up by a cutting edge piece on How Children Should be Seen and Not Heard.

    Get Real, Crikey. “One feels compelled to point out” that this post really does say a lot more about you than it does about Mr Higgins.

  3. santacruzoperation

    Having just come across from an entertaining comment read at The Hun (I’m an optimist), I really don’t get how THEVIEWFROMASIA can say the audience is not dumb. The readers of The Hun are more cesspool than genepool.

  4. Durutticolumn

    Is John Laws sock puppeting on this site? All these replies show a total ignorance of what journalism is. if you can’t present news free from the taint of being paid for then what you have is a lot of advertising. Canny advertisers like to advertise in sections where the news is credible and untainted and they will pay a premium for it.
    Higgin’s white flag was pathetic and really if that is the approach it signals the end of News Ltd as a serious news organisation. I imagine if the coal lobby was sponsoring Bolt. Although when you read his stuff you know what Churchll meant when he said “why bother bribing the British journalist when you see what he will do for nothing.”

  5. theviewfromasia

    Copied from

    “Journalism: writing that reflects superficial thought and research, a popular slant, and hurried composition, conceived of as exemplifying topical newspaper or popular magazine writing as distinguished from scholarly writing”

    I read that as provocative sensationism to generate newspaper sales and site comments (like this one), which boosts banner ad revenue through higher page views under a CPM model (well done Crikey!).

    But I’m probably being too harsh. Look at the “death of newspapers” statistics. The WSJ circulation is expanding and they earn over US$100 million in online subscriptions.

    What about Thomsonreuters? Data subscriptions wrapped in journalism.

    And eTrade? Brokerage services wrapped in wire feeds.

    Higgins is correct, the sooner journos re-examine their role within the multitude of emerging business models, the happier they will be.

  6. troll

    Where in Higgins’ comments does he say anything about biasing his editorial coverage to suit an advertiser? In fact, traditional media have been crossing the church-state boundary for years: Special Features, Supplements, Wraparounds, “This News Update brought to you by….” etc etc etc

    If you’re offended by Higgins’ comments, best you not read about what’s happening at the NYT:

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