What early French female press can tell us about a key period for women in public life



Lady Reading in an Interior (between 1795 and 1800).
Marguerite Gérard (1761–1837)

Siobhán McIlvanney, King’s College London

Straddling the private and public domains, the early French women’s press – the various published journals and pamphlets that began to appear in the 18th and early 19th centuries – can provide a unique insight into women’s everyday struggles and successes during a particularly turbulent period in France’s history.

Women’s magazines today are often thought of as ideologically somewhat conformist. They are seen to promote a limited range of feminine role models and to reinforce norms regarding women’s position within patriarchal society. The content of much of the early French women’s press presents a very different picture.

The origins of the French women’s press date back to the 18th century. The first women’s journal of any substance and longevity, Le Journal des dames, was published from 1759 until 1778. Over the next few decades a variety of different subsections and types of article emerged – many of which, whether the domestic magazine or the problem page, remain current in today’s women’s press.

It was my interest in the “political” potential of these representations of French women’s daily lives that gave rise to my book Figurations of the Feminine in the Early French Women’s Press, 1758-1848. During this period, French women had no right to political representation. Despite the Enlightenment emphasis on the rights of the individual, women were not considered of equal status to men. Their education was significantly less extensive than men’s in terms of both subjects taught and duration, resulting in high levels of illiteracy.

Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793)
Unknown artist

The playwright and social reformer Olympe de Gouges famously drafted her own Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Citizen in 1791 in response to what she viewed as the gendered inequalities of the original Declaration in 1789.

The Napoleonic Code of 1804 legally obliged wives to obey their husbands and gave the latter complete control of all property. So how did these earliest women’s journals engage with the rights and roles of French women at the time?

Building communities of women

The early French women’s press spans a range of genres, from the literary review (Le Journal des dames) to the fashion journal (Le Journal des dames et des modes [1797-1839]) to the more socially conscious feminist journal, La Femme libre (1832-34), which strove to improve employment conditions for women. These publications had a variety of target readerships, depending on the sorts of issues they covered – and these, in turn, partly depend on their historical period of publication.

Just as the Revolution of 1789 provided an impetus for women’s journals and pamphlets, such as Les Étrennes nationales des dames(1789) to intensify their demands for sexual equality, journals during the Restoration adopt a moralistic tone (Le Journal des dames et des modes, focusing on more light-hearted subjects such as fashion and characterising female readers as guardians of the hearth and paragons of virtue.

The actual readership of early French women’s journals, aside from what we can glean from articles and letters submitted by readers, is more difficult to establish and circulation claims are notoriously unreliable. Both literacy levels and the expense of the earliest women’s journals clearly limited their readership, although journals were passed among friends and within households – and, according to the correspondence of readers in Le Journal des dames et des modes (July 1803) were even read aloud.

What is clear is the pleasure expressed by many women readers at engaging in dialogue with a community of like-minded individuals and the resulting sense of collective identity and political consciousness based on gender. For the first time, French women readers – largely confined to the domestic realm – were encouraged to articulate their “private” opinions in a public forum.

Many women writers, such as George Sand, chose to adopt male pseudonyms when publishing.
Jean-Baptiste Bonjour (1801-1882)

Women authors too, such as Madame de Savignac – who published educational fiction for young people – writing in Le Journal des femmes in May 1833, appreciated the role played by women’s journals in supporting women’s intellectual achievements and in giving women authors the confidence to renounce their male pseudonyms.

Many contemporary women authors adopted male pseudonyms – Savignac makes specific mention of George Sand – in order to maintain anonymity and increase the likelihood of publication in a male-dominated publishing world.

Civic feminism

Women’s journals both act as a mirror to the society in which they are produced but can also help modify aspects of that society. Like today’s women’s press, early women’s journals in France were also selling the notion of a better life. But rather than appealing to the reader’s materialist aspirations, they did so by highlighting the need for women’s personal and public responsibility. They demonstrated a form of “civic feminism”, to employ a term adopted by the historian Carla Hesse.

If the content varies depending on the journal and the historical context in question, the radicalness of the agenda and of the narratives these journals promote is striking. Many journals – in particular the fashion press – still remained conservative in their worldview. But many others confronted legislative and social prejudices against women in an endeavour to strengthen their rights – whether to divorce or to vote – and to improve their standing in French society through the promotion of a more intellectually challenging education for women. As Suellen Diaconoff remarks in her study Through the Reading Glass: Women, Books, and Sex in the French Enlightenment:

It would be overstating the case to say that female editors focused on setting a full pro-woman agenda in their periodicals, or to assert that they saw themselves first as feminist activists and secondarily as journalists. But it is, nonetheless, true that their journals often carried a competing and alternative discourse for women, at significant variance from the model widely accepted in the mainstream.

Early French women’s journals also fought for a more inclusive French canon that treated women authors seriously. They championed women’s right to choose their own husbands in an age of arranged marriages and encouraged those women with unhappy marriages to write in anonymously about their problems, thereby providing the first example of the problem page (Le Courier de l’hymen, journal des dames, 1791).

They petitioned for improvements in women’s education and employment conditions (La Femme libre and La Voix des femmes, 1848). In short, for their contemporary readers, these early journals promoted women’s intellectual, familial and professional contributions to French society.

For today’s reader, they provide a privileged and – as yet – largely un-navigated mapping of French women’s evolving personal and political trajectories.The Conversation

Siobhán McIlvanney, Reader in French and Francophone Women’s Writing; Head of Department of French, King’s College London

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Edward Lloyd: 100 years before Murdoch, the father of English tabloid journalism



Edward Lloyd founded the first million-selling newspaper.
William Morris Gallery, Waltham Forest Council

Rohan McWilliam, Anglia Ruskin University

We live at probably the last moment when press barons such as Rupert Murdoch can hope to shape the political agenda, such are the waning fortunes of the print media. But who founded the popular press – and who created the sensationalist approach of the tabloids?

Some say it was Lord Northcliffe, who established the Daily Mail in 1896. Northcliffe was, however, preceded by the transformative figure of Edward Lloyd. Never heard of him? Lloyd (1815-1890) has never been given his due. He published the first newspaper to sell a million copies and shaped the popular imagination in fundamental ways.

Before he became a Victorian press baron, Lloyd was one of the dominant forces behind the sale of popular fiction to a growing market of increasingly literate working-class people. When we think of the 1840s, we think of the publication of major novels such as Jane Eyre or Vanity Fair. The reality is that many readers were as likely to consume Ada the Betrayed as well as Vileroy, or, The Horrors of Zindorf Castle – both shockers issued by Lloyd’s publishing house.

It might have been a penny dreadful, but it was very popular in its day.
AMazon

Hailing from a humble background, Lloyd became a leading publisher in London, promoting a group of hacks who would knock out cheap fiction. He knew what would sell: horrors, romance and thrills.

He launched a wave of “penny dreadfuls” on to the market in the 1830s and 1840s, all assisted by lurid pictures. As Lloyd exclaimed to his illustrators: “There must be blood … much more blood!”

The best known of these stories was The String of Pearls in 1846 which introduced the enduring character of Sweeney Todd. Even before the serial had finished publication, Sweeney Todd had been taken up by the popular stage.

Sweeney Todd origin story.
Amazon

Audiences loved the barber who murdered men who came to his Fleet Street shop for a shave and gave their bodies to Mrs Lovett next door to be made into meat pies. The dark humour is captured in the words of one character who says: “I’d eat my mother, if she was a pork chop.”

This was not the only ghoulish character to emerge from Lloyd’s offices. James Malcolm Rymer wrote Varney the Vampire for Lloyd, the most important undead character before Dracula. This was a form of distinctly working-class horror fiction, marked by a taste for blood and violence.

Nicking Dickens

Lloyd had no time for originality. He built up his firm by publishing plagiarisms of Charles Dickens’s works. The reading public was thus treated to works such as The Penny Pickwick, Oliver Twiss and Nickelas Nickelbery. Dickens was outraged by this treatment but was powerless to prevent such works appearing.

It is possible that many working-class readers first encountered Dickens via a Lloyd plagiarism, rather than one of the author’s own works (a perspective that should make us rethink the initial reception of Dickens).

Dickens plagiarised: the cover of the Edward Lloyd rip-off of Oliver Twist.:
source goes here, Author provided

Cheap newspapers came to dominate Lloyd’s output. Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper was launched in 1842 and became one of the most important newspapers aimed at a popular readership at a time when the press had been forced since 1819 by the government to pay stamp duties (the “Taxes on Knowledge”) which inflated the price of print. He combined serious news reporting with stories of horrible murders, train crashes and aristocratic divorces. In some respects, his newspaper employed the techniques of popular fiction to grab an audience with accounts of true crime.

Lloyd also revolutionised newspaper production by introducing Richard Hoe’s rotary press to Britain, which sped up the process of putting out newspapers and made mass publication possible. With the abolition of the stamp and paper duties by the early 1860s, Lloyd was able to lower the price of his paper to one penny. The popular press had arrived.

Yellow press

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper was one of a series of mass circulation Sunday papers, including The News of the World (issued in 1843), which created a newspaper reading habit in increasingly literate workers.

Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, from 1891.

Lloyd was also a great believer in self-promotion. At one point he took to embossing coins with which he paid his workers with a stamp promoting his paper. This was denounced by The Times and an act of parliament had to be passed in 1853, making the defacing of the coinage illegal.

As his newspaper became more popular, Lloyd left his penny dreadfuls behind and was later embarrassed that they had been the source of his fortune. His paper tended to support Gladstone and the Liberal party, helping it to dominate mid-Victorian politics. The Conservative Party identified Lloyd’s as promoting “pernicious doctrines”, which included worker rights, free trade and democracy.

Lloyd died in 1890 but his newspaper remained popular, selling a million copies for the first time in 1896. As it went into the 20th century, the paper was outgunned by new rivals such as the Daily Mail and came to an end in 1931, having appeared for almost 90 years.

Lloyd’s reputation has gone into eclipse and he is seldom remembered. He was, however, a true pioneer. His legacy remains the sensationalism of the popular press but it can also be found in every slasher film, vampire drama and gothic romance from Twilight to the television series Penny Dreadful.The Conversation

Rohan McWilliam, Professor of Modern British History, Anglia Ruskin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Future of journalism: papers must deliver value – to readers not shareholders


Mark Bradley, University of Sheffield

The conflict that exists within the organisations that own Britain’s newspapers, and the strategies that they employ in running their businesses, was recently brought into sharp focus. One of the key regional players, Johnston Press, went from publicly-listed administration to a controversial, private rebirth within 24 hours, prompting a wider debate around the state of the industry.

The company, which owns major regionals such as The Scotsman and the Yorkshire Post as well as the nationally popular i newspaper, announced on November 16 that it was in administration only to reveal the following day it had been bought out by its debtors and would continue to operate as before but under the new name of JPIMedia.

While it undoubtedly leaves the newspaper titles in a healthier financial position for now, whether or not any optimism will be long-lasting, given the state of the UK’s print newspaper market, is a matter of some conjecture.

In September 2018, I made a submission to the Cairncross Review – a government initiative to examine the options for securing a sustainable future for high quality journalism. The events of the past week have led me back to the following extract:

During the past decade of declining revenues, the traditional local news publishers have used a smoke and mirrors approach to mask their editorial cutbacks. News content has become more regionalised and less relevant, patch offices and receptions have been closing, while titles have continued to be branded as local. There are understandable business reasons for this happening, but these public limited companies have always had profits at their core, often prioritising their shareholders over their readers.

This tension remains at the heart of many newspaper companies – and it is also a parallel to the historic and counter-intuitive decision-making that still remains when it comes to print and web content.

If everyone in the industry – regional or national – knew then what they know now about the challenges faced with monetising their websites through a commercial base then I’m sure the landscape would be very different. The assumption that display advertisers, classifieds, property and motors would migrate seamlessly into digital was fatally flawed because the traditional media giants did not anticipate the competition that would spring up. They had no track record of overcoming it by making their own offerings better than the rest.

And while they were struggling to compete online, time and cash should have been reinvested into the printed products which, while on a declining sales trend, still remain profitable and well-read by certain key demographics.

What the events surrounding the Johnston Press have done is to complete a jigsaw whose outline was already well-known – that the eye-watering return on sales figures pocketed during the 1990s and 2000s were part of a recipe for the mess the industry now finds itself in.

Printing money

So what value remains in printing traditional newspapers, as opposed to an online-only approach favoured by titles such as The Independent?

There is plenty of evidence that demonstrates the continuing demise of print. But the value of print is not purely economic in nature, and should not be placed in a silo away from the value it brings to news brands as a whole.

There is a negative correlation between the popularity of a newspaper and the trust the reader has in it. If you were to place the sales and trust rankings of the main ten titles in the UK side-by-side you’d see the order turned on its head. Trust is a valuable commodity that not only gives credibility to the printed product but also pervades into the perception of the online offering of the same brand.

Take the Guardian. With one of the highest trust ratings for a national newspaper – and despite its relatively low print sales – it has been able to leverage that emotional attachment and use it to develop an online contribution scheme that will enable it to break even by April 2019. While the printed product may appear to be in decline, it still acts as a firm foundation for the overall news brand as it seeks to evolve.

Newspapers also remain an integral part of the profits in many media portfolios. Within Johnston Press, the printed offshoot of The Independent, the i newspaper, was the jewel in the crown, bought for £24m in 2016 and now being touted at a value of £60m. At a regional level, concentrating resources and a focus on print remains a core and profitable component of several groups, especially those in private ownership, such as Iliffe Media, which owns a range of local newspapers.

For the many

But the perceived value of the newspaper format should not be limited to the balance sheet – there is value for the reader, too. And sometimes it takes a holistic view to fully appreciate what this consists of. While the web may be ideal for delivering bespoke content that can be accessed via search, the newspaper allows people an opportunity for a deep dive into the news – not only reading the stories they are primarily concerned with, but stumbling across material they would never have known about otherwise.

Stories that educate and inform them about their community, their country, their world. Curated for them by trained professionals, rather than through the vagaries of any unregulated social platform. Providing what society needs rather than what an audience wants.

There is a compelling argument that printed newspapers will cease to exist, or may remain in existence as a niche offering. But freed from the shackles of shareholdings – and with a model that promotes a long-term sustainable future over short-term profits – there is an equally compelling argument that newspapers, and the journalism within them, can continue to be a universally valuable part of the media landscape for some time to come.The Conversation

Mark Bradley, Director of Postgraduate Studies, Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

New bill would make Australia worst in the free world for criminalising journalism


Random Thoughts

File 20180131 157481 116ctzp.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Would the ABC’s publication of confidential cabinet documents would be in breach of a proposed government bill?
AAP/Joel Carrett

Johan Lidberg, Monash University

Australia is a world leader in passing the most amendments to existing and new anti-terror and security laws in the liberal democratic world. Since September 11, 2001, it has passed 54 laws.

The latest suggested addition is the Turnbull government’s crackdown on foreign interference. The bill has been heavily criticised by Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, and major media organisations for being too heavy-handed and far-reaching in the limits it would place on freedom of expression and several other civil liberties.

The government’s own intelligence watchdog, the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, argues the bill is so widely worded that its own staff could break the law for handling documents they need to access to do their job.

A case…

View original post 821 more words

Beyond cats and Kardashians: can journalism satisfy audiences without dumbing down?


Peter Fray, University of Technology Sydney

Jeff Jarvis, director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism speaking with Peter Fray.

As the Federal government attempts to reform Australia’s media ownership laws, evidence is emerging that journalists are moving away from the traditional watchdog role of the press towards satisfying the demands of audiences.

Decades of debate about whether journalists ought to give audiences what they like rather than what journalists think they need is being resolved in favour of what US journalism thinker Jeff Jarvis dismisses as the “cats and Kardashians” model of digital journalism.

But is giving audiences what they want the same as dumbing down?

Results from a recently published study of Australian journalists indicate that journalists are shifting their thinking away from the “citizen orientation” typically associated with the watchdog role of the press to a more consumer focus.

Senior editors say that understanding what audiences want — as recorded by clicks and other forms of web-based feedback — is an essential part of contemporary journalism.

Growing advertising revenues on the basis of audience reach and volume remains the dominant journalism business model.

As Kate de Brito, the editor-in-chief of the country’s most visited news website, news.com.au, puts it, if no one clicks, “you may as well have just emailed it to your mum”.

But Jarvis, the director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at City University New York, argues news organisations need to understand that getting more clicks isn’t the same as listening to your audience.

The price of advertising is going down, desperation up. Journalism gets cheapened in the process.

Efforts to reshape how journalism survives and makes money — and serves its multiple roles in society — has emerged as a key sticking point in Federal government moves to change Australia’s media ownership laws.

Reform of the media ownership laws that restrict any one person controlling radio, TV and a newspaper in the same market hinges on the government’s willingness to back measures promoted by Senator Nick Xenophon to support public interest journalism.

Xenophon, a key member of a current senate journalism inquiry, has supported tax breaks to small media companies and other ways to develop new business models for journalism.

The government has been reluctant to support tax relief but reportedly has a more positive attitude to other measures to boost journalism jobs and explore new business models.

Without support from Labor or the Greens, Team Xenophon’s votes will be crucial to the passage of any deal that would also end restrictions on any one person controlling TV licenses that reach more than 75% of the population.

Indications from Canberra are that a compromise deal could be close.

Alternatives to one-size-fits-all mass audience model are under trial or development across the journalism sector, from experiments in surfacing quality journalism using artificial intelligence to moves to personalise news and information feeds.

The New York Times, for instance, has stated it wants to deliver individualised news based on what individuals read, where they live and how often they come to the site.

Given the NYT has 2.3 million digital-only subscribers, this is perhaps the most ambitious attempt yet at active audience listening.

Jarvis calls on media companies of all sizes to recreate journalism as a service based on “relevance and value”; cast aside the idea of mass, rethink audiences as communities and individuals.

But, as he concedes, media companies are understandably finding it hard to build a new house (based on his notion of service) when the old one (based on volume) is burning down.

Audience reach and volume — and the constant flow of metrics that reveal them — drive the news agenda for most media companies. Ratings always have in commercial radio and TV.

But now few media outlets can afford to ignore what audiences are doing (or not) with their content. Advertisers won’t let them.

In the recently published study of Australian journalists, Folker Hanusch, from the University of Vienna, and Edson Tandoc, from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, explored the impact of audience feedback via readers’ comments, Twitter and web analytics on journalists’ thinking.

In a survey of 358 journalists, they found a marked shift towards providing “the kind of news that attracts the largest audience” as opposed to the more traditional role of holding the politicians and business to account.

This especially held true for journalists working in competitive markets; those freed from market pressures were “able to prioritize their normative functions of being watchdogs and shaping public opinion”.

Even so, most Australian media companies, including the national broadcaster, are enamoured by the sugar hit of audience reach.

In the most recent Nielsen digital ratings, the closest competitor to news.com.au, with its 5,905,000 unique visitors a month, is the ABC. Its combined news sites reach 4,651,000 Australians a month.

Little wonder then that Fairfax chief Greg Hywood gets so upset about the ABC using taxpayers’ money to buy Google ads: smh.com.au is about half a million behind the ABC and no other Fairfax site is in the current top 10.

Hanusch and Tandoc’s work indicates that a radical reshaping of how journalists see their roles is underway.

“Seeing the number of unique visitors to the site, the number of page views a page gets, and the amount of time readers spend on a story, among others, easily and regularly, could be socializing journalists into prioritizing these metrics.”

But what do clicks actually mean?

Results of a recently published Dutch study of news consumers indicate that the act of clicking — or not — is more complex than like or not and driven by a host of considerations. The study also makes the obvious but useful observation: clicks do not account for the preference of consumers who browse without clicking.

The study by Tim Groot Kormelink and Irene Costera Meijer, both from Vrije University in Amsterdam, described 30 considerations for clicking or not clicking among a group of 56 news consumers.

Reasons for not clicking included supersaturation (“not another story about Syria”, said one participant) to “bullshit”: the users instantly dismissed the “pettiness of the headline”.

The study’s participants often engaged in “online browsing patterns that did express interest in news, yet did not necessitate a click”. The authors conclude that “even if one seeks a rough estimate of people’s news interests, clicks are a flawed instrument”.

The ConversationTherein lies a pressing conundrum for the online news industry: if not clicks, what? If audiences — and advertisers — are going to be fully served, there needs to be better way.


CC BY-ND

Peter Fray, Professor of Journalism Practice, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Journalists in war zones tread a fine line between safety and freedom of speech



File 20170619 26255 11ajri1
Free speech exists in war zones, even if there is a need to take into account the sensitivities of military operations.
Reuters/Danish Siddiqui

Simon Levett, Western Sydney University

Journalists are increasingly threatened and assassinated in conflict zones worldwide. But could the need for their protection be causing harm to free speech, and increasing the production of one-sided journalism?

Reducing access over time

For journalists, the Vietnam War was the halcyon days of conflict reporting. The media – far from being a target – had access to both parties in the conflict.

Concern about journalists’ safety entered the official discourse with the United States’ 1983 invasion of Grenada. Inspired by similar British operations during the occupation of the Falkland Islands in 1982, the US successfully imposed a media blackout. Journalists – waiting on nearby Barbados – were prohibited from reporting on Grenada for 48 hours. After that time, they were progressively given permission to enter.

The US State Department suggested that a key reason for excluding journalists was that their safety couldn’t be guaranteed. At any rate, the media’s absence meant the main excuses for the invasion – such as the much-hyped rescue of students – went unexamined.

Backlash at the media blackout led to a reversal of policy, but the motivating principle remained the same. In 1984, the Sidle Commission planned greater journalistic engagement through pooling reporters in combat situations. This, it was said, would protect both operational security and journalist safety in future conflicts such as the Gulf War.

The option of embedding journalists with armed forces coincided with increasingly dangerous and protracted conflicts in which journalists were becoming targets. The embedding of journalists began in 1995 with the British in Bosnia. This practice continued in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.

Embedding with the military is a more immediate and practical solution. But critics say journalists inevitably become partial to their military hosts, and the diversity of journalism suffers.

The proliferation of one-sided journalism had been flagged as a concern in war zones even before the rise of embedded journalism. In pursuit of a much-vaunted “objectivity”, “parachute” journalists reporting on armed conflict can rely too much on accessible official sources._

Can international law help?

Countries have broad powers under international law to organise and restrict journalistic access to information if there are concerns about safety. This is regardless of the impact on free speech.

According to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, the criteria are simply that the exercise of power be “not arbitrary”, and that it is “necessary and proportionate to the goal in question”.

International human rights law regards the diversity of journalism as critical, because the journalist’s watchdog function is vital to democracy. This invokes the public’s right to receive information in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, even in the European Court of Human Rights, where the need for a plurality of information has received much attention, the judges do not favour one sort of journalism over the other as a human right. In one hate speech case, the European Court said:

… it is not for this court, nor for the national courts for that matter, to substitute their own views for those of the press as to what technique of reporting should be adopted by journalists.

International human rights law mainly talks of free speech values in terms of rights. Duties are also relevant, but generally underdeveloped. The “duties and responsibilities” clause in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is an exception to the rule.

The original “duties and responsibilities” clause was inspired by the mass media’s abuses of power. One example relates to excessive concentration of media ownership. The drafters of the European Convention were concerned about:

… the powerful influence of the modern media on expression upon the minds of men and upon national and international affairs.

The clause has now been applied to a range of situations where journalists have “overstepped the bounds”. These include defamation, incitement to violence and hate speech, whistleblowing, and safeguarding source protection.

Could the “duties and responsibilities” clause be indirectly applied to promote an ethical approach to diversity in the media in wartime?

In relation to a case concerning the disclosure of a leaked document, the European Court of Human Rights suggested, in connection with journalistic duties, that:

… steps taken by journalists to verify the accuracy of the information may be one of the factors taken into consideration by the courts.

The ConversationHow the duty for “accurate and reliable” journalism translates in modern war zones is a matter for future decision-makers, though the decision is a trend away from one-sided journalism towards a broader debate about ethics. In the meantime, a code of conduct for journalism in war zones might be useful to clarify free speech priorities in a safety-conscious environment.

Simon Levett, PhD Candidate, Western Sydney University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Should governments provide funding grants to encourage public interest journalism?



File 20170619 17384 o2335t
Publicly funded grants could help journalists break and cover important stories.
Shutterstock

Andrew Dodd, Swinburne University of Technology

Whether government should fund public interest journalism in Australia is a question a Senate select committee is currently being asked to consider. It’s a question that’s both simple and hard, as it raises all sorts of issues about the relationship between government, the media and consumers.

There’s an important reason for asking. There is now clear evidence that the market is failing us. There are gaps in coverage and no sign that they are going to be filled anytime soon.

Courts, local councils, state institutions, and even state parliaments are now missing out on proper coverage. The arts are under-covered. The regions are not properly represented, either to themselves or to the rest of Australia. Entire communities are missing out on local news services.

A cynic might say that some of these were never covered all that well by the news media. However, it’s certainly true that things have become much worse. This is mostly a result of digital disruption and the breaking of the model in which advertising paid for editorial content.

The ads have moved online, to Google and Facebook – which do not have an imperative to serve local communities, at least not with news and certainly not with public interest journalism.

There are several ideas about how to tackle this. These include creating a form of charitable status for news organisations, as well as tax incentives to encourage greater philanthropy. Together these could help sustain existing media players or encourage start-ups. They might help create a culture in which people donate to fund journalistic investigations.

Another way might be to provide publicly funded grants for journalism.

The Public Interest Journalism Foundation, of which I’m a board member, has made a submission to the Senate inquiry calling for an Independent Production Fund for public interest journalism. Its principal function would be to help make important journalism happen.

Along the way, it might encourage experimentation and new forms of storytelling, while fostering coverage of neglected topics or regions.

Imagine if a freelance reporter – or even one working for a larger media company – could apply to the fund for financial support to develop an important story. Imagine if the fund was focused on supporting the type of journalism that was in the public’s interest.

Immediately this might conjure an image of undue government control, or of Big Brother intervening in the editorial process. Or you might ask: what government would hand out funds to a journalist working on a story about, say, government corruption?

The answer is it’s happening already. The government already funds journalism at SBS and the ABC. It does this through triennial funding and in a way that ensures the national broadcasters retain editorial control. A raft of conventions and a healthy editorial culture ensure both organisations are free to report critically on the federal government and any other institution.

And the government already does it through bodies like Screen Australia, which funds films and documentaries. It doesn’t set editorial parameters on those funds by insisting that certain things get taken out or left in.

But all of these examples are for screen-based journalism, not text – or what used to be called print – reporting.

Print media companies have not generally received grants to support journalism, although there are exceptions such as The Australian newspaper, which once accepted subsidies to fund its Australian Literary Review. Other literary/journalism publications, such as Meanjin, have also been supported over the years through government grants.

So, the concept has already been tried. Now might be the time to expand it to cover several forms of journalism, across all mediums and specifically for public interest reporting.

Perhaps this could be funded by revenue derived from taxing media conglomerates like Google and Facebook? After all, they’re the companies that have contributed to the problem by taking away advertising revenue without any concomitant requirement to provide news for consumers. Nor are they currently compelled to pay much taxation in the jurisdictions in which they operate.

I’d like to see a production fund with a clear vision and a sense of adventure about what it can achieve. It doesn’t need to be weighed down by corporate structures or old costly modes of production.

This could fund projects from across public, commercial and community media, and it could play an important role in nurturing young investigative reporters, audio storytellers and videographers – many of whom are now missing out on the opportunities and mentoring that were traditionally provided by established media companies.

Imagine if an Independent Production Fund encouraged reportage on important issues that are not well-served by the established media, and if the national broadcasters and commercial media companies opened their doors to publishing the content created.

As a journalism educator, I know how much a keen graduate can do with a cheap video camera, some off-the-shelf editing gear, and a small grant to kick-start a great idea. As a member of the New Beats project tracking the progress of Australia’s many redundant journalists, I know how much older reporters still have to contribute and how financial support can make great things happen.

The ConversationSo yes, there is a role for governments to play, and providing small grants to encourage public interest journalism has definitely got merit.

Andrew Dodd, Program Director – Journalism, Swinburne University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Science journalism is in Australia’s interest, but needs support to thrive



File 20170620 21787 njr1ix
Interviewing scientists – shown here is physicist Louise Harra – is a skill that takes experience and in depth knowledge on the part of the journalist.
uclmaps/flickr , CC BY-SA

Joan Leach, Australian National University

The oldest known human bones; the first detection of gravitational waves; the successful landing of a rover on Mars, and the discovery of the Higgs boson particle: all of these highly read global science stories illustrate the public’s thirst for the latest research and technological innovations.

But is science journalism in the public interest?

Specialist science journalists are vital in our society in a few key ways. These include as public disseminators of sound science that can lead to policy, as identifiers of flawed journalism and “dodgy” (even life-threatening) science, and as gatekeepers between public relations departments in research institutions and the general media.

And yet the number of specialist science reporters in Australia is in serious decline.

Journalism can drive science policy

Over 2012 and 2013 a range of media outlets teamed up with the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Academy of Science to coordinate a national immunisation campaign.

Channel 10’s The Project presented evidence-based coverage of the science of vaccination. The Roast (ABC TV) also took a humorous approach to covering the story.

Not only was the story given robust and prominent coverage across Australian news media platforms, the Daily Telegraph and news site MamaMia also ran campaigns encouraging readers to pledge to immunise their children.

In 2013 the Daily Telegraph followed up with a “No jab, no play” concept, promoting the idea that childcare centres should ban children who had not been immunised. State and federal governments have subsequently introduced legislation to effect this proposal. The program is still being monitored.

Linked to this coverage, a successful case was mounted in the NSW Office of Fair Trading against anti-immunisation activist group the Australian Vaccination Network. The network’s name was found to be misleading and the group has now re-badged itself as the “Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network”.

Journalism as a gatekeeper for “bad” science

Sound peer review and editorial procedures are in place in many research journals, but sometimes what can best be described as “dodgy” science is published, and this can lead to disastrous results.

The classic example is the (now falsified) study in 1998 that reported on autism-like symptoms and gastrointestinal abnormalities in children associated with the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccination. The study was small (only 12 children), observational, and submitted for publication without key disclosures from lead author Andrew Wakefield.

In a subsequent press conference, Wakefield expressed his concerns about the MMR vaccine. The media’s enthusiastic reporting and less than critical response to these claims took an ethically and scientifically unsound report and turned it into what has been described as “perhaps the most damaging medical hoax of the last 100 years”. In 2008 measles was reported to be once again endemic in the UK, a development that has been linked to reduced MMR take-up.

Don’t open the floodgate! Not all science deserves media attention.
from www.shutterstock.com

Had the journalists at that initial press conference been equipped to appraise the findings critically, the poor science may have been revealed from the start. The paper was later found to be fraudulent by investigative journalist Brian Deer, who published stories in print and made a documentary revealing the hoax.

Science journalism vs science PR

Science journalism and science public relations (PR) can be difficult to distinguish. The job of the PR specialist is to maximise eyeballs on each story. The job of the journalist is to find the story and report the evidence behind it, no matter whose story it is.

Stories that are written with a university press release – rather than a peer-reviewed science paper – as the main source of evidence can easily cross the line into infotainment rather than independent reporting.

It’s also the case that some stories that look like science journalism are heavily sponsored by universities and research institutions. This so-called “native content” – in that it looks appropriate for its context – is becoming more prevalent.

It’s a trend exacerbated by the movement of journalists from media organisations into communication roles in academic and research institutions. While the writing style is journalistic, the focus is to promote the science from the institutions that employ them. This bypasses robust and independent examination of the evidence.

There may be more of this to come as science journalists become an endangered species.

An endangered species

Embedded in Australian news rooms, the investigative science journalist is a rare beast; the most recent in a long line of casualties are Marcus Strom from The Sydney Morning Herald, and Bridie Smith of Melbourne’s The Age, who left Fairfax last week after 16 years.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

It seems the ABC is the only mainstream media outlet with a science unit. Here, specialists Anna Salleh and Jake Sturmer along with experienced science journalists, communicators and broadcasters (Robyn Williams, Natasha Mitchell, Joel Werner, Bernie Hobbs, Ruben Meerman and Dr Karl amongst others) present regular science content on various platforms.

Journalists in specialities such as environment, health and technology do still hold positions at major media platforms, and Cosmos Magazine provides another platform for science content in Australia. Freelance science journalists including Bianca Nogrady, Leigh Dayton and Graham Readfearn work on specific projects across a variety of platforms.

Specialist correspondents develop a deep and complex understanding of their round over time, and carry a knowledge of what’s gone before that surpasses a quick internet search. They might, for instance, recognise that a particular “breakthrough” is simply an old study repackaged, that a study is very small, or that its promises have been made before without amounting to much. Or that the “faster than light” neutrinos were a statistical anomaly (and an error) rather than a tested matter of fact.

The disappearance of the specialist science correspondent means a loss of personnel with the time and the expertise to probe deeply and to ask uncomfortable questions. The consequences are declines in the breadth, depth and quality of science coverage. Pair this with an increased workload, the need for journalists to apply multimedia skills and the constant pressure to publish (driven by the 24-hour news cycle), and the opportunities for genuine investigation are slim.

New ways to cover science

As the number of science correspondents has fallen, the science sector has rushed in to fill the online void with blogs and social media sites (some terrifically successful).

Facilities such as the Australian Science Media Centre now work to support and facilitate evidence-based science journalism. The Centre boasts 1,600 subscribers and informs hundreds of reporters who attend regular briefings.

According to chief executive Susannah Elliot:

When the Australian Science Media Centre started in 2005, there were around 35 specialist science reporters in mainstream newsrooms around the country. Now you need less than one hand to count them.

This loss of specialist reporters means that there is no one to fight for good science in editorial meetings or look for science angles in everyday news stories.

We’re all going to have to do everything we can to help general reporters cover science and make sure they don’t miss the important stuff.

The Australian Science Media Centre is a not-for-profit resource that supports evidence-based science coverage.

The future of science journalism

It may be that science journalism has never enjoyed a consistent position in media outlets – some report that “peak science journalism” happened in 1987. In an important review of the history of popular science, writer Martin Bauer points out that science journalism is prone to a “boom and bust cycle”.

The call for more and improved science journalism is based on an assumption that lives are worse off without it. This is an easy leap for academics to make; after all, our very existence is based on the idea that more knowledge is better than less knowledge.

But how can we convince the general public this is the case? Studying the “decline of science journalism” – fewer numbers of journalists, diffuse science reporting, the rise of branded and native content – will not be enough to show that we need more science journalists. We must be able to clearly identify a public good, and convince media-saturated consumers that science deserves a place in their lives.

We must also develop a clear business case that supports science journalism. Relatively new media platforms such as Nautilus and narrative.ly provide some evidence that blending science with creative nonfiction, philanthropic funding, subscription services, paywalls, and hybrid models of journalism and public relations are worth further exploration.

Supported primarily by the university sector, The Conversation publishes science, technology, environment and energy stories that are written by academics.

However there has yet to be a convincing case of overwhelming public support for robust science journalism. In our view, this is a shame. We think academic and media groups, and those private sectors that rely on science and technology, should start articulating the public value of science journalism.

A colleague in New Zealand, Rebecca Priestly, has put some money behind finding out, though establishing a fund for science journalism. Perhaps it’s time to do the same in Australia.


The ConversationThis article was co-authored with Kylie Walker, Chief Executive Officer of Science and Technology Australia, and Visiting Fellow at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, Australian National University.

Joan Leach, Professor, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Government can support public interest journalism in Australia – here’s how



File 20170616 537 kdqnlv
The government should restore funding to public broadcasters SBS and ABC enabling them to produce more public interest journalism.
http://www.mediaday.com.au

Johan Lidberg, Monash University

Independent journalism’s importance to healthy democracies is undisputed. In a time of rising autocratic tendencies around the world, this independent check on power is more needed than ever. This is well illustrated by US President Donald Trump’s disrespect for the balance-of-power doctrine in general and for the US judiciary in particular.

So, it’s not a coincidence that the Australian Senate has set up an inquiry into the future of public interest journalism. This was prompted by the latest round of redundancies at Fairfax. To this should be added Network Ten’s precarious financial situation.

But what is “public interest journalism”? From a journalistic point of view, this covers topics that are vital for citizens to make informed decisions and choices. There is a clear distinction between what the public is interested in, which includes gossip, celebrities and lifestyle topics, compared to what is important to the health of our democracy.

The Ethical Journalism Network puts it thus:

The public interest is about what matters to everyone in society. It is about the common good, the general welfare and the security and wellbeing of everyone in the community.

As I have argued before, without this kind of journalism a lot of corruption, maladministration and abuse of power would not be known to the public. We would then risk sliding further down the slippery slope towards autocracy.

So, what can and should governments do? Many submissions to the Senate inquiry will argue that it’s time for governments to step up support for public interest journalism.

Fortunately, there is no need to re-invent the wheel. There are plenty of models around the globe where governments are supporting public interest journalism at arm’s length.

It’s important to point out that a significant amount of research clearly shows that in mature liberal democracies government funding for such journalism does not equal government influence over reporting.

The first and most obvious thing to do is finance Australia’s public broadcasters, the ABC and the SBS, to a level that enables them to consistently produce public interest journalism. The minimum is to restore, and index up, the funding to the 2013 level before the current severe cuts instigated by the Abbott government.

Public broadcasting is a tried and tested source of public interest journalism. It will be a repository for such content until market-financed journalism has transitioned to new business models. Australia has a national and global responsibility to fund the ABC and SBS, as there are only about ten properly funded public broadcasters globally.

The rest of the sustainable funding models will, most likely, be a combination of government, market and private altruistic funding. There are a number of international models:

  • The most obvious indirect funding model is to exempt public interest journalism companies from GST and payroll taxes.

  • A second option is to make donations to such journalistic organisations tax-deductible to encourage private altruism.

  • Another option is to introduce a version of the “low-profit limited liability corporations” (L3Cs) that exist in some states in the US and the UK (community interest company). L3Cs are businesses that produce a social good. Investments in such companies receive various tax breaks.

  • A fourth option is to introduce a government-funded base operational fund open to public interest journalism ventures. This could include a special grant for start-up companies.

All of the above already exist in a number of countries with a long tradition of funding public interest journalism. Here it’s important to point out that Australia, for more than 100 years, supported such journalism via printing and distribution subsidies.

Another option drawing on international experience is an Australia Council-like fund that could contribute to journalism residencies at universities. This would create a win-win situation in which experienced journalists would work with students to create public interest journalism.

Finally, and most importantly, a sustainable funding model must involve Google and Facebook in some way. As Ben Eltham has eloquently argued in The Conversation, Google and Facebook have hoovered up the advertising money that used to fund public interest journalism. They have effectively created a global media oligopoly partly based on journalism they are not paying for.

A levy on Google and Facebook advertising revenue would be a very important funding source for public interest journalism. The bonus is that this would encourage the social media giants to acknowledge that they are publishers rather than just platforms.

Engaging with the two global media companies illustrates the core challenge for domestic policymakers: media policy that used to be predominantly national is increasingly global. Domestic policy may prove to be a blunt policy tool in meeting the challenge of supporting public interest journalism.

The conclusion from this international survey is that, historically, market forces on their own never have been able to carry public interest journalism. Now more than ever governments need to help carry it across the morass that is the current transformation of the industry.

The ConversationThe Senate inquiry reports in early December 2017. It would be a tragedy for democratic accountability in Australia if government inaction is the outcome.

Johan Lidberg, Associate Professor, School of Media, Film and Journalism, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Philanthropy is funding serious journalism in the US, it could work for Australia too


Bill Birnbauer, Monash University

Non-profit investigative journalism centres have invigorated watchdog reporting in the United States over the past decade, a period commonly associated with despair over the state of serious journalism. My research attributes a sharp increase in the number of such centres in the United States directly to philanthropic funding, made more attractive by tax deductibility, and this same model could work in Australia.

This rescue mission of quality journalism has seen philanthropically funded news centres winning the most prestigious awards in journalism including several Pulitzer Prizes. Millions of Americans access stories written by non-profit investigative journalists, either on non-profit websites or published in mainstream media such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, PBS and other outlets.

Three key ways exist to fund the labour intensive and time consuming work of investigative journalism. The traditional media model, which today is characterised by market failure. Funding by government such as the ABC’s Four Corners program – a model that has worked well in Australia but that elsewhere raises questions of independence and funding security.

And there’s funding by foundations, wealthy benefactors and individuals. That’s different from crowd sourcing which may finance a specific story project but does not fund the necessary infrastructure (office, computers, rent, salaries etc.) or build the journalistic capacity required for a sustainable model.

In the United States, there are about 150 independent non-profit centres doing investigative and public interest journalism. The budgets of the biggest centres such as ProPublica, the Center for Public Integrity and Reveal at the Center for Investigative Reporting are about US$10 million a year; smaller centres less than US$100,000.

Non-profit investigative and public interest news centres see their work as a form of public service. In the United States, these centres are recognised by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as eligible for non-profit status under Section 501©(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Non-profit status enables these organisations to avoid federal and some state taxes and donations to them can be tax deductible. The IRS does not have a distinct category for media organisations. Instead, investigative and public interest news organisations attract non-profit status under a broad education category.

There has been a profound cultural transformation in the way mainstream media organisations regard non-profit centre stories. Collaborations between legacy and non-profit media are commonplace in the United States because non-profit journalists have the same ethics, news values and editorial practices as journalists in the commercial and public media.

Foundation-funded journalism does not come close to replacing what has been lost due to staff and other cuts by mainstream media since the financial crisis. But it has been embraced by key media outlets as a means of boosting the quality of their stories. Non-profit centres do not compete with mainstream media; they complement it.

How this could work in Australia

A recent study found only a handful of Australian not-for-profit news organisations have been granted deductible gift recipient status by the Australian Tax Office and that news organisations face seemingly challenging obstacles in gaining such status. This may well discourage the creation of news organisations.

Given the diminished resources of Australian media to hold power to account, other measures to bolster democratic processes should be considered. Investigative journalism cannot readily be monetised.

It is expensive to do, takes a long time, sparks legal action and upsets powerful interests. It takes a big commitment by media organisations.

But the societal benefits can be huge: lives saved, corruption exposed, environments improved, governments and corporate interests held accountable. A recent book by a media economist found that for each US$1 spent on a specified investigative story, US$287 in policy benefits resulted.

Tax deductibility for independent journalism centres would provide incentives for individuals and philanthropic organisations to donate to producers of quality journalism.

The availability of tax deductions has the potential to increase the sum of quality journalism in Australia, enhance our democratic processes and better serve the community. I believe legacy and digital media in future would enter collaborative partnerships with non-profit investigative and public interest centres, ensuring a wider distribution and impact of their stories.

The Public Interest Journalism Foundation has some recommendations for the Australian Tax Office to consider when it comes to determining who should be granted deductible gift recipient status.

First is the history and background of the journalist who is applying, particularly their adherence to professional and ethical standards and whether the organisation they work for has conventional editorial practices. The organisation should create stories that are in the public interest and educate audiences rather than covering news of popular interest.

Another is introducing a commitment that the media nonprofit lists funding sources, including publication of the identities of donations of more than A$1,000, on its website. It also says anonymous grants, or funding from political and other entities where the source of the funding is not transparent, should be banned.

The foundation emphasises that individuals and organisations that advocate particular causes, should not be granted non-profit status under any media category.

No-one knows how sustainable the non-profit model will prove over time. However since 2007, I estimate that more than US$350 million has been donated to US non-profit investigative news centres; others have said closer to US$500 million.

The ConversationWe are in the midst of financial and technological disruption of traditional media models. No-one has yet worked out how to bolster accountability journalism that is essential to healthy democracies. The United States’ experience to date offers a potential solution that we should not ignore.

Bill Birnbauer, Adjunct senior lecturer , School of Media, Film and Journalism, Monash University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.