A final lament this year — indulgently, because somebody has to — on the state of Australian media. Today we award the best of it; individuals at least, because the organisations that support good journalists are letting them down.
You try picking a publication of the year. The News Corporation tabloids are barely profitable fluff that turned feral during the election; the failing Fairfax metros aim higher but the delivery is remarkably thin. The Australian‘s admirable focus on national affairs is tarnished by its vendettas and weird obsessions; The Australian Financial Review is blinded by its readers’ interests and increasingly irrelevant due to alarming circulation declines. And commercial television and radio is a wasteland of populist pap.
So we seek out the reporters — too many to name, beavering away in every publication — who are committed to truth and understanding without fear or favour. And we tune into the ABC, of course, which has the freedom to follow stories for the sake of it. But they can only do so much.
This was the year Australian media went bust. Terrestrial TV continues to hoard content and play to the masses while audiences download what they want for free. Newspapers now won’t ever arrest their accelerating redundancy. Online sites are failing to convert more eyeballs into profitable enterprises. The digital wave has washed over the landscape and what’s left next year won’t be pretty.
But revolution in consumer behaviour is one thing. Short-sighted management — veering from naivety to outright negligence in some media houses — is another. Few media outlets are putting journalism and reader interest first — and their balance sheets are in a dire state as a result.
We hope for better in 2014. We fear the worst.