Despite the seismic rearrangement of the media industry, journalism is still about collecting and disseminating information according to ABC journalist and Sun-Herald columnist Annabel Crabb.
“We’ve been entirely deregulated on both those fronts,” she told the media forum Mumbrella in Sydney.
“It used to be that having the cranking old apparatus of a printing press was a distinct market advantage. It’s getting to the point where you could start to look at that infrastructure as a disadvantage.”
Structural changes in the industry are forcing journalists to realise they have always been collators of information.
Social media technology makes collating information easier by giving easy access to people.
“Often people in our audience known more about what we’re writing about that we do,” said Ms Crabb.
“The opportunity to pick peoples’ brains through interactive social media is one of the most exciting things for journalists.”
Media editor at The Australian, Stephen Brook, said Twitter was a key component in eyewitness coverage of a live event, citing its use by The Guardian during the London riots.
“There’s a very strong culture overseas of people contributing material in this way.
“Much less so here and that’s something we need to think about.”
Mr Brook cautioned that Twitter could go the way of Citizens Band radio – popular for a short time, faddish, then dying away.
Another weakness of Twitter is its circular nature, according to Mr Brook.
“We think that it’s an amazing resource that we’re getting the world’s opinion to us but often it’s quite a distorted opinion because the types of people on Twitter are … media professionals.”
He reminded the audience that 21 percent of Australians don’t have a computer and more than half don’t have a smartphone.
“As Twitter becomes increasingly popular and mainstream media continues to struggle, my fear is that people are going to get left behind. As journalists we need to be very conscious of that,” he said.
The old, young, poor, and those in remote areas were cited as groups not using Twitter but who still deserve quality journalism.