As the Coronavirus pandemic hit Australia, media empires shifted before our eyes as advertising dollars dried up and audience behaviour changed in a matter of months.
On this week’s On The Job with Francis Leach and Sally Rugg, Ginger Gorman, an award-winning print and radio journalist and fierce advocate for journalism, says that it’s a good time to take stock of how journalism works, and is funded, in Australia.
“We’ve seen the rivers of gold, the classified advertising dry up, a lot of outlets have gone online so there’s a huge digital hole to fill. And of course, at the same time, there’s less and less journalists.” Gorman said.
Data from the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) suggests there are now 5,000 fewer journalists serving Australians over the past decade, with 1,000 losing their jobs in the past 12 months. As these journalism roles diminish, Gorman believes it is important to ask what role journalism plays in today’s society.
“What did journalists do? Essentially, our role is to hold power to account. What you now have in the broader society, if you think about all these mastheads, all these papers that have closed, all these journalists who are no longer investigating these stories, you have a huge public interest gap.
“We don’t even know what we don’t know. I think there’s something like 21 government areas, local government areas in this country that have no press at all. What is going on that we don’t know?
“This is really damaging to democracy overall. You have to have those really great investigative journalists and journalists of all kinds going in there and asking the hard questions. Otherwise, you end up with a really corrupt and damaged democracy.”
Even for those who have retained or recently started jobs in journalism, Gorman has concerns about the casual nature of work in Australian media, where journalists are getting paid less and less for their work, or not paid at all.
“If you are a 21-year-old just coming out of university, you’re trying desperately to get your foot on the ladder, you will write for Mamamia for free, or other similar outlets, you will do unpaid internships.
“I know from colleagues of mine who have worked inside Mamamia in particular, they always at any one time have dozens of unpaid young female interns. And that bothers me because they (Mamamia) are making a lot of money.”