Jun 25, 2012

As News and Fairfax vacate, local councils should open up

For all the hand-wringing about the future of journalism and the importance of quality newspapers for our democracy, there’s a very simple solution.

Stephen Mayne — Journalist and Founder

Stephen Mayne

Journalist and Founder

For all the hand-wringing about the future of journalism and the importance of quality newspapers for our democracy, there’s a very simple solution: if there are less journalists ferreting out secret information for the public, then we should encourage a greater culture of voluntary disclosure, plus regulate or legislate to force the release of much more information about key institutions.

We all know that “sunlight is the best disinfectant” yet even something as basic as expense claims by politicians are not disclosed on a mandatory basis.

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4 thoughts on “As News and Fairfax vacate, local councils should open up

  1. Salamander

    Just because you are s***-hot at sussing out the lie of the land doesn’t exempt you from accurate and elegant expression. It’s “fewer journalists”.

  2. Russell

    Local councillors do like reading about themselves… and having their agendas pushed, even if they have to pay to do so! That’s right, isn’t it Cr Mayne?

    Local newspapers are free. They will never, NEVER risk offending advertisers. A cosy relationship with a Council like the one Cr Mayne has suggested will only produce more cut and paste… More “scrutiny” like the fluff in their real estate and restaurant pages.

    That’s a management decision, it’s not the journos fault. Ad revenue is siphoned off to protect more vulnerable bits of these print businesses, its not pumped back into editorial. News, Fairfax and the other big chains are the worst offenders. Local journalism is so undervalued now that few people open these papers up for anything other than the “adult” classifieds.

  3. barfiller

    Less journalists, stationary — no one subs anything any more.

  4. Susieq

    As a community journalist working in local media for 40 years and a former councillor, I too lament the lack of experienced journalists covering local news. the pressure is such that emailed press releases are used to fill the spaces. Also, many younger journalists are not trained on how to cover council meetings. As soon as someone moves a motion or amendment, they are lost. Many years ago, one cadet adopted the policy of “if in doubt leave it out” so very little council coverage was reported. There is no substitute for training and mentoring but with the impending cuts, I bet the training programs will be lost.
    Everyone is talking about changing media and lamenting the changes. Instead it would be refreshing to hear someone looking at the positives that could, in fact should be taken up. History repeats itself and the media is no exception. I am not advocating we go back to the parish pump for our local news but the technology is now available for committed people to create truly local newspaper – one for each suburb or neighbourhood as country towns are now doing. Many of these are produced by local community organisations. Computers, the internet and social media could create a viable working model. Afterall, newspapers and the media are about communicating the message aren’t they? The question is how can it be done on a national, state and local level.

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