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  • Writer's pictureJack Ward

Australian newsman reflects on a changing industry and journalism’s future

Published on Youth Journalism International's website, an organisation that provides free education for young people in any country who are interested in journalism and current events.

MELBOURNE, Australia – Journalism is changing rapidly with the introduction of social media. It’s causing news organizations to reinvent the way they deliver the news, appealing to the new generation of digital consumers.

Digital organizations such as Facebook and Google are also jumping in on the action providing news outlets platforms to publish their work.

Google is the second most valuable business in the world, according to the business news organization Forbes. In its submission to the newly formed Australian Inquiry, Google said it is “committed to helping news publishers succeed.”

Australia’s Senate established the ‘Public Interest Journalism Committee’ in May earlier this year with the sole purpose of inquiring into the future of public interest journalism.

The Inquiry has held numerous public hearings as well as providing an online portal for submissions. To date, 71 people and/or organizations have provided input for the Inquiry online.

With the future of journalism unknown in this ever-evolving era, one man who has been in the industry since leaving school has some opinions on what the future holds.

“There’s always been a role for storytellers in communities,” said Peter Hitchener.

Hitchener works for 9News in Melbourne, presenting its weekly evening news bulletins. His following is huge, with more than 47,000 likes on Facebook, 49,200 followers on Instagram and a massive 70,600 followers on Twitter.

In an interview at his studio, Hitchener shared his thoughts on the future of the profession.

He’s been in the industry for more than 50 years but embraces modern technology as if he’s grown up with it and is a regular user of social media.

“I love the fact that we’ve got social media now because social media means you get feedback from people all the time,” he said, but stressed, “It’s not a place necessarily to verify stories.”

Social media is full of positives for journalists but Hitchener admitted that it’s not all good.

“The disadvantages are bound,” he said.

“Some areas of social media are great places for people to spread disinformation and they’re a great place for people to attack one another unkindly.”

Since Hitchener started in the industry a lot has changed. Video tape, which required processing before being aired, was used in the early days of his career but now, “you can cross anywhere in the world within a minute’s notice.”

Hitchener wouldn’t change it for the world. “I like the way it is now.”

Not everything has changed in the world of journalism, however, with the main purpose still the same.

“What we’re trying to do hasn’t changed, really, which is just to tell people what’s going on and bring them up to date on things we think they might be interested in.”

In May, Fairfax Media, the Australian company that owns newspapers includingThe Sydney Morning Herald, made headlines around the globe when it said it would cut 125 full-time journalists – about one in four editorial jobs. Newspapers are still managing to hang on, but for how long is the question.

Asked if he thought newspapers would make a permanent exit, Hitchener said, “I’m not sure, I hope they survive for the people that work in newspapers, not sure they will.”

Newspapers are also becoming online hubs for content, with most having websites and digital editions of their papers, which may offer another source of income for publishers.

Hitchener is positive that there will be changes to the way news is delivered in the future.

“The news might be delivered on your wristwatch or on your glasses in the future, but it’s still the same thing,” he said, adding that people will always be interested in each other and want to know what’s going on.

“I think the future of news is strong, how we get it, who knows.”

The Public Interest Journalism Committee will present its final report in early December. It may give insight into what can be expected in the coming years.

At present, newspapers will continue to struggle and news organizations will have to find new platforms to publish their content.

Even Hitchener isn’t sure if his own role will exist in 10 years.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I hope there is a role for newsreaders, I rather like my job.”

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