March of the dinosaurs

Compilation and comment by Barry Tucker          January 24, 2013

Laurie Oakes, Political Editor for the Nine Network, believes the role of the Canberra Press Gallery is under attack from new media technology.

Laurie Oakes

Laurie Oakes

He says traditional journalists are having trouble coping with the demand to constantly update and replace stories online.

“It is getting to the point where correspondents in the gallery no longer have time to do the original work or produce the thoughtful analysis they used to,” Mr Oakes said. “They can’t take the time needed for proper investigation of a subject,” he added.

Worse, some tech-savvy politicians are moving online with their own Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, YouTube videos and blogs.

Well, um, boo hoo. The Fourth Estate has been doing such a lousy job of political reporting that the Fifth Estate (the citizen journos) has popped up out of nowhere and practically taken over.

Some of our politicians have had training and coal-face experience in journalism. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and government front bench Minister Craig Emerson are two that immediately come to mind.

I enjoy reading the weekly newsletter of the Nationals’ Senate Leader Barnaby Joyce. Mr Joyce sometimes gets a bit flustered and cranky when he’s speaking, but when he’s writing he’s a different creature. He writes well, more like a human bean [sic] than a politician.

On Australian Independent Media Network (one of the sites Mr Oakes is complaining of), Canberra observer Michael Taylor (who also operates the Café Whispers site, another one threatening Mr Oakes’ domain), says:

[Oakes] “… is rueful that what he calls fact-based journalism is now confronted by what he calls the march of opinion. It is interesting that he blames new media technologies and fresh opinions as the threat to traditional journalism. I would blame the decline in mainstream media standards, which I will return to later.”

There is absolutely no doubt that the Fifth Estate and social media are taking over the role of the Fourth Estate. The question is, what will The Establishment do about it? I fear the Press Barons (Rupert Murdoch in particular) will seek even more power in the form of more ownership and less regulation, while advocating restraints on the growth and influence of social media.

I hope Mr Oakes’ article is not an attempt to lay the foundations for such a move. His fears about the “march of opinion” sound like the marching song of the dinosaurs, in my opinion.

Mr Oakes made his comments in his Media Alliance Centenary lecture in Canberra. They were reported in The Australian by Nick Leys on November 29, 2012. Here’s the story that started it all:

Mr Oakes’ expanded on his remarks in the National Times on December 1, 2012.

Polly press gang spreads the word

You can read Mr Taylor’s comments on Mr Oakes’ lamentations here:


One thought on “March of the dinosaurs

  1. Good post, Barry. I particularly like the irony of Oakes bemoaning the “march of opinion.” If my timeline’s anything to go by, most people on social media are bemoaning the same thing for destroying traditional media.

    For the record, we’re all wishing desperately journalists like Oakes would do their jobs properly.

    I fully agree and sympathise with his complaint that the professionals are facing greater pressures to produce copy than ever before, leaving scant time for the well researched analysis their readers crave.

    But the fault for that does not lie with the readers, even the ones who use social media. Lay the blame instead squarely where it belongs, on an industry which has failed to understand and adapt to changing technologies.

    I hope you don’t mind me cheekily posting a link, but I wrote something about this and would love your thoughts on it sometime.


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