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Nov 2, 2011

The quality journalism project: under the media Mumbrella

Mumbrella editor-in-chief Tim Burrowes is obsessed with the media and marketing worlds. He's the latest candidate in Crikey's quality journalism project.

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Mumbrella editor-in-chief Tim Burrowes is obsessed with the media and marketing worlds. Every day the site covers the latest happenings in the Australian industry — from advertising agencies losing big clients to which TV show has just nabbed an exclusive interview and how the media industry is handling the loss of traditional income. The news is all online, independent and much of it is written by Burrowes.

Burrowes is a former editor of B&T magazine and the UK’s MediaWeek. He’s also editor-in-chief of Encore Magazine, a news site covering the Australian film industry.

So where does Burrowes go to find good media news?

Burrowes is the latest expert in Crikey‘s quality journalism project, which picks the brains of Australia’s top journalists and editors on their definition of good journalism and where they go to get it. So far we’ve quizzed Laura Tingle, Leigh Sales, Chris Mitchell, Alan Kohler, Wendy Bacon, Mark Colvin, George Negus, George MegalogenisMarni CordellTom SwitzerAshleigh GillonIta Buttrose, Michael Gawenda and Fran Kelly — if there’s an expert you’d love to hear from, please let us know.

What is your definition of quality journalism?

Almost always, quality journalism is a result of the efforts and experience of a trained journalist, who’s being paid. Sometimes that’s based on large amounts of legwork put into a single story or series; sometimes it’s based on contacts developed over a long period of time, eventually putting the journalist in the right position at the right time; sometimes it’s them simply having the experience and knowledge to write a better piece of analysis than anyone else.

It’s this final category where some bloggers are beginning to give more established media a run for its money (in my space, I’m thinking of people like Stilgherrian and Ben Shepherd).

Tim Burrowes’ top 10 quality journalism sources in Australia

  1. The Australian: Writing about media and marketing, I’m biased in that direction. You can’t miss The Australian‘s media section on a Monday, or indeed (agree or disagree with the direction), The Oz‘s agenda-setting the rest of the week. Editors are supposed to start feuds and fight vendettas — even to go further than is reasonable. The Oz is world class at this. Sometimes wrong, always relevant.
  2. Four Corners, ABC1: Influences the public debate and, often, government policy. Live animal exports, for instance.
  3. Australian Story, ABC1: For anyone who saw the Gavin Larkin episode this year, it was impossible not to reassess your attitudes towards suicide, and the need to tackle the issue.
  4. The Sydney Morning Herald: Of course.
  5. The Australia Financial Review‘s marketing section: A reliable weekly roundup of what Australia’s three biggest media buyers have been saying about Australia’s three biggest TV networks. Every single f-cking Monday.
  6. TV Tonight: If we get a good TV story it’s the first place we’ll look to check it’s not already broken.
  7. Seven: Seven News is still serious about journalism. And did you see this week’s Sunday Night piece on motor neurone disease? Incredible.
  8. Nine: one man gravitas machine Laurie Oakes, plus 60 Minutes.
  9. Paul Murray (Sky News/ 2UE): Refuses to be cheap, probably at the expense of ratings.
  10. Breakfast, ABC Radio National: Helps set the day’s political agenda, but the 8.30am finish is half an hour too early.

What media do you consume on a daily basis?

I generally fall asleep/wake up to ABC News Radio playing all night (which overnight tends to be more the BBC World Service with a smattering of Al Jazeera and Radio Netherlands and a soupcon of US Public Service Radio).

I get the SMH home delivered and read it first before picking up free copies of The Daily Telegraph and The Australian at the gym to read over breakfast while listening to the ABC’s AM and Breakfast with Fran Kelly. If telly’s on it’s a quick look at Sky News then Sunrise or Today. On the walk in to the office, it’s a podcast — BBC Newspod, the Fitzy & Wippa or Hamish & Andy podcast, This American Life, Mediaweek Australia, Guardian Media Talk or Dr Karl on Up All Night (BBC). At the office, Australian Financial Review to start the day, particularly for the Monday marketing section.

Throughout the day, the sites I’ll check regularly are the media section of The Australian, smh.com.au, and an occasionally guilty look at Media Guardian. If the TV’s on in the office, it’s generally Sky News unless we’re watching for something on one of the morning shows.

A new habit on the way home is to stop for a coffee and The Guardian‘s iPad app. Fabulous. Because of the writing, not the technology. Ditto The Economist on iPad.

Evening’s TV is more guilty pleasure — The Celebrity Apprentice if home in time, plus ABC1’s Gruen Transfer and Media Watch are obligatory. Fall asleep to ABC News Radio …

What particular stories — either Australian or international — do you think are classic examples of quality journalism?

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