Best of 2011: Journalism
It was a big year for the journalists and pundits among us. Julie Posetti spoke on how social media is changing journalism, Guy Rundle eviscerated the new tabloid racialism and Bruce Guthrie was optimistic about newspapers' future despite his own grimly comic experiences. Jane Sullivan and Mary Delahunty spoke about the life of the creative journo, Caroline Brothers spoke about displaced children while Thomas Friedman discussed US decline. Media coverage of Lindsay Tanner’s book on the dumbing down of democracy only served to prove his point. Here’s the video of his Wheeler Centre appearance with George Megalogenis. We took a look at how the media’s obsession with opinion polls is affecting the political culture. Our ‘Taking Liberties With the Press’ and ‘Gagging for Freedom’ events saw distinguished panels of guests debating the ethics of the trade.
Perhaps the two single biggest stories of the year were, in a way, as Australian as Vegemite. The scandal that came to be known as Hackgate saw the Murdoch family-controlled News empire begin to fray at the edges - live on TV, described as a “triumph for investigative reporting”. Venerable tabloid News of the World was closed down, and staff made their feelings known in the newspaper’s last-ever crossword. The scandal spilled into some of News Corp’s other domains, including Australia. Robert Manne spoke about his Quarterly Essay critique of Rupert Murdoch’s national broadsheet, The Australian, at the Wheeler Centre. Ironically, it has since transpired that the crime that cracked the story open - the hacking of the phone messages of murdered British schoolgirl Milly Dowler - may not have been committed by News of the World journalists after all.
The other big story was, of course, the continuing fallout of the WikiLeaks affair. We asked the question, ‘Does WikiLeaks matter?’, while UK journalist Barbara Gunnell described Julian Assange as a rebel, public nuisance and dreamer. We looked at how WikiLeaks has changed the world while WikiLeaks itself, of course, was being brought to the brink of closing down by a financial blockade.