Jun 8, 2012

Simons: the bottom line … news or profitability?

There is a respectable point of view among those who analyse media businesses that the smart thing to do for serious news journalism is move to the political right.

Margaret Simons

Journalist, author and director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism

There is a respectable point of view among those who analyse media businesses that the smartest thing serious news journalism could do is move to the political right.

Why? Because most of those with the willingness and capacity to pay for news content are comparatively wealthy individuals in business — business news being one of the things they are willing to pay for. Also, that these are the individuals premium advertisers most wish to reach.

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23 thoughts on “Simons: the bottom line … news or profitability?

  1. tinman_au

    “I subscribe to the view that there is a public trust that makes journalism special.”

    I think that sums up the problem some people have with current media. That is, it’s just a view, it isn’t a law. Current media can, and does, create reports and even tailors facts to support alternative agendas (just look at climate change and pokies issues for examples). This isn’t “reporting the other side of the story”, this is PR.

    There are, more than likely, many journos/editors/media who subscribe to your view as well Margaret, unfortunately, there also seems to be many who don’t. If it was another market (selling/making cars, running an airline, etc) and you had a situation like that wouldn’t it make sense to regulate it? Or is it OK to protect society from shonky car sales people but we should just turn a blind eye to an industry that can have shonky journalists/reporting?

  2. atticusdash

    OK. Let’s accept that a newspaper or other media outlet is a business like any other, with a responsibility for the board to maximize profits for the shareholders. It then ought to be regulated like any other product for public consumption, with appropriate regulation, clearly labelled ingredient warnings, and the onus to name sources and stop whining about being a pillar of democracy and name itself for what it is: an advertising vehicle not only for products but for political bias and promotion of particular business interests.
    Political stories ought to carry a label of political affiliation and voting habits. News stories regarding legitimate political subjects, such as climate change, labour regulation, education et al should be clearly bylined with the papers’ editorial policy regarding these subjects. And there ought to be an onus on all newspapers to print in a separate box the running tally of articles published for and against subjects of a political and socio-political nature. That’s for starters. Write what you want, but if it’s advertising – and much of what we call ‘spin’ is actually part of a larger advertising campaign aimed at policy influence – it ought to be clearly labelled thus.
    Spin is not harmless or unbiased point of view, it is aimed at advantage. Whether that advantage is for the news outlet itself (see Murdoch) or for other advertisers and ‘friends’ of the board and editorial staff, the whole edifice of the fourth estate as a champion of democracy has been revealed as nothing more than a facade, a hollow movie set painted up with a front behind which there are some cheap struts concealing… nothing. In the now standard phrasing of Fox News: ‘some say… ‘. What tosh. What a sad state of affairs.

  3. Mr Denmore

    Who gave the media their rights? What defines a journalist? Why should some organisations have privileged access to politicians and decision makers and not others? None of this is written down anywhere. It’s just convention.

    We ASSUME that media companies mean it when they say they have a public trust responsibility, but there’s little sign of it. In fact, anyone who has worked in the mainstream media in the past 20 years will tell you the bottom line is now everything. The Chinese walls that separated advertising from editorial are breaking down completely – and the pretence of public responsibility is just that.

    I’ve written about this same issue on The Failed Estate this week for those who are interested. But essentially, I’m making the same point as Margaret – the idea of journalism as an activity exclusively done behind the walls of industrial age media companies is becoming obsolete.

  4. Gavin Moodie

    The Australian mainstream media long ago forfeited any right to be treated as a public trust, if this were ever anything more than a pretentious conceit.

    The media would be much better for being subject to standard law, including commercial law. But I don’t think this would make it subject to the consumer law prohibition against misleading OR deceptive conduct (it is *or* not and) in the way apparently envisaged by Simons. Many non fiction books are published which include errors and even distortions but are not sued for misleading or deceptive conduct.

  5. klewso

    Moving to the Right, also helps your chances of promotion – within the dominant forces of our media?
    When’s the last time Murdoch ever promoted anyone that doesn’t think politics like him – so he doesn’t have to “supervise every headline”, and can claim that, at least, in all honesty?

  6. Michael


    Let’s face it Margaret, what you are saying in a round about way is that Leftist views by journalists working for Left wing media, are ok BUT Conservative views are not to be tolerated and at best subjected to rigorous (see manipulative) laws, right?

    I mean, the Q&A debacle last week where a band of progressive halfwits on heat, tore apart the character, sexuality and integrity of a decent hard working & clearly brilliant businesswoman, for sport – that was aok with you right?

    Had that despicable bile & hatred been directed to say, Helen Mundine, a progressive aboriginal, by say, Alan Jones, there would have been a lynch mob at 2GE within the hour, outrage in Fairfax newspapers & off course outrage at OUR ABC, right?

  7. mattsui

    Great article, enjoyed reading it immensly.
    A shift to the right, you say? It might work for the bottom line and , no doubt editorial staff can be found to toe the line…… But where will the journalists come from (or go to).
    The claim that there’s a left wing bias in “the Media” is entirely correct – at least, that is, from the POV of those who make it. I believe that Journalism, like teaching, writing generally and many of the social services that make our lives possible, is a career that naturally attracts people with a social conscience. The best writers and reporters will always be those who are driven to expose injustice, uncover hidden connections and tell of the daily struggles going on around us which we would otherwise be unaware.
    As the print media barrons make their medium less conducive to such noble persuits, we will surely see the true journalists move to the online realm. Unfortunately, they will now have to compete with amateurs and ratbag bloggers and other noise in order to be heard but I believe we are still – through sites like Crikey, HuffPo and through trend filters – seeing the cream rise up.
    Plus, thankfully, we still have the ABC and it’s counterpart in Britain.
    Let the fools have their daily chip-wrapper.

  8. klewso

    “Chip wrapper”? Food – in contact, with where it’s come from? Not even in an “emergency” and the bog roll’s run out. The budgie gets mine.

  9. mattsui

    I stand corrected. It was chip wrapper BEFORE it was sullied by newsprint.

  10. Shwe Min

    Wrong. The Australian has actually proved only that opinion does not pay. It has never been a business but only at best a knuckler for murdoch in the game of who has clout in Australia. Nowadays even that is not a useful role.
    People who have money often don’t give a rats about turgidly argued repetitive opinion. Left or right. They often have an interest in knowledge and facts and will pay for both. Which is why the economist is successful. Not to mention the. Ew York review of books.
    Let gina have Fairfax. It is rotten to the core. Run by Corbett for gods sake. And the age or SMH are barely different from the desperation of the oz. which it seems the fin wants to emulate.
    The smart money will find a home.

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