Journalism – it’s a craft issue



Image of Sue Rosenthal tapestry from the Symmetry: Crafts Meet Kindred Trades and Professions exhibition.


Last week the management of Fairfax limited announced the sacking of 550 staff from its Australian newspapers. There was only one reason given for this: ‘to bolster profitability’. 5% of their total workforce will make a sizeable dent in their capacity to develop stories, particularly without the backup of an in-house legal team.

But it as much the way it was done that is of concern. There was no rallying of support for the newspapers, given the economic challenges ahead. It was done coldly and ruthlessly. The The Age editor was shown the door on the same day.

The Age of late has resorted to more ‘churn’ stories and celebrity titbits. While there is an increasing variety of online opinion available, the newspapers are still the main home for deep investigative journalism.

As a sign of times ahead, the The Age also withdrew its support from Melbourne Press Club’s Graham Perkin Award for the Australian journalist of the year, in honour of a previous editor. For the daughter, Corrie Perkin, it is a disturbing lack of support for the ‘craft’ of journalism. As reported in Crikey:

”If The Age pulls out for the right reasons we accept that. If it is pulling out for reasons of cost or through some disconnect with the past and paper’s history, then I think that’s a terrible state of affairs and a sad day for journalism.”
The Award, she said, had encouraged a ”sense of pride in our craft”.

This raises an interesting question about the politics of craft. To what political force does a craft issue appeal? To the left, as a question of common good? To the greens, as an issue of cultural sustainability? Or the right, to protect moral standards? If only we had a craft lobby group.

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