Connecting independent journalists
A prominent Australian academic believes the fresh culling of journalist jobs across the country will put the industry in crisis and give rise to more ‘fake news factories’.
Margaret Simons, a prominent Melbourne academic and Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne, has called the latest round of staff cuts in Australia’s two biggest news organisations, Fairfax Media and News Corporation the “latest local lurch in a crisis that is engulfing journalism worldwide”.
Writing in the Australian edition of the Guardian she said recent events, including the rise to power of Donald Trump, means “many more people are turning their mind to the future of news, including “fake” news and its opposite.”
But, she asked, “How, in the future, are we to know the difference between truth, myth and lies?”
Simons believes the recent rise in concern for the truth and the role of traditional newsrooms in upholding this ideal is possibly too late.
“As this week’s announcements make clear, the newsrooms that have traditionally provided most original journalism are radically shrinking,” she said. “In 2013, industry commentators estimated that more than 3000 Australian journalists had lost their jobs in the previous five years.
“Since then, there have been further deep cuts, and last week’s announcements were merely the latest. In the US, it is estimated that 15 per cent of journalistic jobs disappeared between 2005 and 2009, and the cuts haven’t paused since then.”
She predicts a bleak future for truth in news, and gently suggests that while audiences ignore factual reporting such as the publication of Barack Obama’s birth certificate and continue to believe the myth that he was born overseas, the predicted ‘enlightenment’ from global internet-connected populations will, in fact, be the opposite.
“I think it is clear we will have many more smaller newsrooms in the future – including new entrants, non-media organisations touting their wares and the wasted remains of the old businesses.
“Some of these newsrooms will operate on the slippery slopes that lie between news, advocacy and advertising.
“Some of them will be the fake news factories, devoted to earning an income from spreading clickable, outrageous lies.”
A recent investigation has revealed that Facebook is still earning money on the back of hoax content despite its promise to crack down on fake news.
The Press Association revealed that dodgy adverts and posts about celebrities such as Professor Stephen Hawking, Lord Sugar and the Queen persist – earning millions for the social media platform.
One advert about Lord Sugar used a webpage pretending to be The Sun to make money from gullible readers.
Similar scams on Facebook’s pages solicit clicks by claiming the death of the Queen, Professor Stephen Hawking and actor, Hugh Laurie.
A British publication for the journalism industry has launched a campaign to expose the duopoly of Facebook and Google, and stop the two destroying the UK journalism industry.
Press Gazette, a publication that has focused on journalism issues for over 50 years is seeking a fairer deal between news publishers and the internet giants that will better reward the creators of the content that the two platforms rely on.
“We want Google and Facebook to become more responsible digital citizens, acting in a way that allows diverse digital news sources rather than gorging themselves on all the available digital advertising in a way which will lead smaller players to starve,” said editor, Dominic Ponsford, who questioned why the two internet giants receive special treatment over British news publishers.
“Imagine if two news publishers dominated digital media in the way that Facebook and Google do,” he said. “The Government would not allow such a duopoly to stand. Campaigners would call for them to be broken up in the name of media plurality.
“Yet by 2020 Google and Facebook are expected to take 71 per cent of all the money spent in the UK on digital advertising, according to a report by analysts OC&C.”
The Press Gazette has launched a petition for people to register their concern.
Ponsford said that while news publishers are using digital channels more effectively than ever to reach their audiences, the advertising share they enjoy is continually being eroded by Facebook and Google.
“The effect of this can already be seen and is devastating for both the news industry and for society in general,” he said. “To add insult to injury, Google and Facebook are masters at avoiding paying tax in the UK on their vast profits.
“Journalism, which is broadly a social good, is being replaced by entities which have little responsibility and are complicit in creating a good deal of harm by distributing misleading and extremist content.”
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is holding a meeting at its Paris headquarters to discuss “the international landscape facing media actors”.
“Media leaders, journalists, experts and Member States will have an opportunity to analyze the extent to which there is a “crisis of journalism”, and unpack the main driving forces involved,” the organisation says on its website.
The meeting on March 23, will be part of a week-long La Presse en Liberté event.