Edited by academics, Andrew Dodd and Matthew Ricketson (both with media experience as well), Upheaval: Disrupted Lives in Journalism, is the result of 260 interviews with 57 journalists who, with the exception of one, were made redundant from various Australian media outlets in 2012-2016. Produced with technical support from the National Library of Australia (NLA), the book details people’s shock at going from many years of the hurly burly of journalism to the ranks of the unemployed, and, how fewer numbers and changed dynamics also changed Australia’s media landscape. Covering regional, rural and metropolitan journalists, the book includes details of people’s backgrounds, what attracted them to journalism, the culture of particular newsrooms, and how interviewees had to come to terms with suddenly having no job. The interviewees include sub-editors, veteran journalists, photographers, cartoonists, magazine writers, and section editors, from all rounds. Some people were happy enough to leave. But this was not necessarily true for others, especially younger people. Some of the departing journalists obtained work in academia, public relations, other media outlets, politicians’ offices, or in non-government organisations. Hosting an NLA panel recently, Dr Ricketson noted the importance of documenting the stories that encompassed huge tolls as the ground shifted and journalists felt that they had been “knocked sideways”. The loss for consumers has also been marked, including the diminution of specialist reporter numbers in certain policy areas where journalists are needed to analyse, explain and simplify for their audiences, what can be complex and complicated issues. As Katharine Murphy from The Guardian noted, journalists are the best-equipped professionals because their training and analytical abilities ensures that they are able to explain complex issues to everyday Australians, and this in turn can be beneficial, especially if we are able to make informed decisions say, at election time. She also noted that with diminishing advertising revenue, most of the big mastheads do not have the resources to employ policy specialist writers, and that of course results in a lowering in the quantity and quality of journalism. According to Steve Lewis (who experienced redundancy), with fewer journalists now in Australian media outlets, journalists are increasingly feeling under pressure to produce more work, with less support, and “a lot of the camaraderie of earlier times, is gone from newsrooms”. He suggests that the “gotcha” questions (often directed at politicians), are a reflection of journalists “trying to build their own profile rather than properly do their craft”. Dr Ricketson also made the point that in earlier times, younger people in newsrooms benefitted from the stored wisdom of “how-to-do-good-journalism” from the more experienced people. But nowadays the more-senior journalists are no longer there. Apart from bookshops, the publication can be accessed free, via the NLA’s TROVE.
Geri Bryant-Badham is a Canberra-based freelance researcher and journalist.
Geri has substantial experience in advocacy, policy and organising and managing projects, including handling budgets and finances. She has worked in various offices for a small business, a university and in the parliamentary, political, government and non-government sectors.