2010 Edition 5 Editorial

31 July 2010

Dear Farrago readers,

We go to print within 48 hours of a federal election having been called. As the political and media hype reach fever pitch and Julia Gillard urges us to “move forward” (where’s a speechwriter like Don Watson to foil such linguistic inanity when we need him?), some in the Farrago office have been pondering that old chestnut, “the future of journalism”.

The other night two of us found ourselves seriously disappointed by a panel discussion organised by Melbourne University’s Centre for Advanced Journalism. The topic was “From Print to Broadcast to Blog”, and the panel, chaired by former Age editor and CAJ Director Michael Gawenda, consisted of ABC TV’s Jennifer Byrne, Drum editor Jonathan Green, Australian film critic Evan Williams, and former Monthly editor Sally Warhaft. With panellists of such calibre and experience it should have been a lively discussion. But in front of an audience of 31—evidence perhaps of the Melbourne cognoscenti’s reactionary shunning of the Australia, in which the festival was advertised—these five veteran journalists descended into a doom-and-gloom appraisal of the future of journalism in general and “young people” aspiring to careers as journalists in particular.

“Undergraduate journalist training is utterly useless”, Gawenda declared, asking the panel whether “young people” are “still motivated by wanting to write well”. Williams reminisced about how “the permanence of paper gave a different character to the writing” back in the day. Green cheer us up slightly (particularly as we had recent Crikey intern and star Farrago sub-ed Elizabeth Redman in our midst), contending that many of the interns Crikey took on during his time there were “some of the most astoundingly capable people” he’d ever met, before Warhaft proclaimed, “if you’re a good writer the best thing you can do is just leave [Australia]!” As Media and Communications students we’re painfully aware of the deficiencies in journalism course, and as editors of a publication that’s not called Farrago for nothing, we too can occasionally bemoan the fact that “our generation” was never taught proper grammar. But we can also conted that between us we know hundreds of “young people” who read at least as widely and write at least as well as their parents. And in an era when news breaks on Twitter (Samantha Maiden’s “Labor Mp text: it’s Julia no ballot”, anyone?) and online presence is essential to the work of the best journalists of all generations—from Annabel Crabb, to Chris Uhlmann, to Laurie Oakes—such negativity seems simplistic at best.

It’s doubtful he’s typical of anything, least of all his generation, but perhaps we should end by noting that Warhaft’s widely acclaimed successor at The Monthly, Ben Naparstek, is 23.

Here’s to “young people” “moving forward”, in the hope that we can do it with some eloquence.

Rachel, Ellie, Sarah and Lucas.

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