The collapse of the newspaper and journalism industry is one of the least-covered stories in the mainstream Australian media. The big media companies want us to believe that there’s no real problem with journalism, that they’re in control and that they know how to fix their business models.
Today, Crikey publishes the stark truth about the news business that you’ll never read in the mainstream media — the detailed full-year figures that disclose the rapid demise of News Corp’s Australian news business.
In a broader context, these figures reveal the unravelling of the legacy newspaper industry — the industry that still funds the bulk of Australia’s “accountability” public trust journalism that is a centrepiece of our democracy. They are a year old, but in fact in the year since, publicly released results suggest the numbers have continued their alarming decline.
Why does this matter? Isn’t this just another story of the Darwinian impact of the internet on so many industries?
No, it isn’t. This matters because large-scale accountability journalism is central to everything that underpins democracy in Australia. Without this journalism — manned by a few thousand independent reporters and editors whose wages are paid mainly by the revenues from commercial newspaper advertising — every part of our system of government and civic life will be measurably weaker.
What is revealed in the figures published by Crikey today is that unless another funding source can be found, the number of journalists and newspapers capable of being financed by commercial media will continue to spiral downward.
Let us be clear: News Corp is still profitable. But this is through its continued diversification away from its journalism assets.
Today we can see the awful truth, laid out in hundreds of pages of data: without large-scale cross-subsidisation, the commercial business model for paying for expensive journalism is over.