The media is more fragmented than ever before, yet journalists and editors remain a powerful group in society. Journalists because they break news and help set the political, social and business agenda — exposing wrongdoing, holding governments to account or provoking discussion through the commentary and analysis. Editors because they determine which stories get pursued, which stories are given prominence, which stories get spiked.
Over the next month The Power Index will be running our next power list on the most powerful journalists and editors. Here is our shortlist …
Mark Colvin (host, ABC PM)
Those who think Twitter is only for twits who want to tell the world what they had for breakfast obviously haven’t discovered @colvinius. Colvin, who spends 15 hours a week on dialysis because of faltering kidneys, has become an indispensible news aggregator for his 28,000-plus followers. If Colvin tweets it, you know it’s worth a read.
Sarah Ferguson (reporter, ABC Four Corners)
From rugby league s-x scandals to cruelty in Australia’s live export trade, Ferguson has delivered a dazzling array of scoops since joining Four Corners as an investigative reporter in 2008. Famed for her willingness to tackle topics other hacks are too timid to touch, the ex-Brit is married to fellow Walkley winner, Q&A host Tony Jones.
Fran Kelly (host, ABC Radio National Breakfast)
Every self-respecting political junkie wakes up listening to Fran. Kelly’s show, ABC RN Breakfast, doesn’t top the ratings in any city and rarely breaks news, but her political interviews set the daily agenda — not just in Canberra but in the cities and the bush too. The former punk-rocker’s ability to range across politics, sport, business and culture is unmatched.
Alan Kohler (editor-in-chief, Eureka Report and Business Spectator)
The former Age and Australian Financial Review editor is the Mr Everywhere of the Australian media. Kohler presents finance each night on ABC News, hosts Inside Business on Sunday mornings and is editor-in-chief of Business Spectator and Eureka Report. Drinks were on him in June, after he pocketed $8 million selling his Spectator empire to News Limited.
Helen McCabe (editor-in-chief, The Australian Women’s Weekly)
With a readership of 2.4 million, the Weekly remains a national institution despite the tough financial climate for magazine publishers. McCabe, former senior editor at News Limited, has given a magazine a more modern, newsier tone — and readers have responded.
Kate McClymont (investigative reporter, The Sydney Morning Herald)
It’s no wonder the SMH veteran was on a “protected species” list of journos forbidden from taking redundancy from Fairfax: she’s so damned good. Over the past year, her forensic reporting helped force Michael Williamson out of the Health Service Union (he was arrested today) and sparked an ICAC inquiry into allegedly dodgy dealings by Eddie Obeid.
Peter McEvoy (executive producer, Q&A)
Critics say Q&A, led by low-profile ABC veteran Peter McEvoy, provides more heat than insight – but it’s been a pioneer for audience and social media engagement. Germaine Greer’s fashion critique of Julia Gillard, a protester hurling a shoe at John Howard’s head and George Pell’s clash with Richard Dawkins are among the recent highlights.
Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker (investigative reporters, The Age)
Fairfax’s financial strife hasn’t stopped these young guns from dishing up cracker yarn after cracker yarn over recent years. McKenzie’s and Baker’s stories on alleged bribery in RBA subsidiaries, s-x slavery and clergy s-xual abuse have led to parliamentary inquiries and criminal charges. McKenzie is notable for using his ABC connections to give his stories more exposure.
Chris Mitchell (editor-in-chief, The Australian)
Mitchell’s aggressive, self-aggrandising paper is far more influential than its daily circulation of 130,000 would suggest. With some of the best journalism in the country and an obsession with attacking ideological enemies, The Oz is impossible to ignore for serious followers of national affairs.