Why You Should Care About Cuts to Journalism

Why You Should Care About Cuts to Journalism

The world of journalism is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. What’s true? What’s fake? Who and what is “alternative”?

There are a million and one media news sites out there, all with clicks to gain. As the truth becomes more elusive, readers become less interested in it. With readers having little time, money and attention spans, it seems that quality hard-hitting journalism is becoming more and more difficult to finance.

That’s why it was hardly shocking when Fairfax Media announced major cuts to the editorial teams at The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) and the Australian Financial Review yesterday. Not shocking, just deeply worrying.

In a bid to save the company $30 million, up to 125 editorial jobs are to be cut across the three newspapers. This equates to approximately one quarter of all its remaining journalists losing their jobs.

This would be a massive loss to any workplace, but when it comes to cuts to journalism, the repercussions affect more than just the people getting the sack.

They affect every single one of us.

Whether we read these specific newspapers or not, the fact that there is less to read from reliable professionals means that more people will be forced to read other possibly unreliable sources, enabling these sites to grow. Can you imagine only getting your news from the Daily Mail or exclusively in the form of puns from pedestrian.tv?  *shudders*

Already as consumers of information, we are fighting to sift through feeds saturated with fact, opinion and fake news on a daily basis. Job cuts as enormous as those proposed by Fairfax would lower the quality and reliability of the work being produced at these papers. That’s not to say that the journalists who would remain are incompetent, but that the tasks at hand are simply too much for such few staff to accomplish efficiently or effectively. If you’ve ever worked a job where a quarter of the staff have called in sick, you’ll know what a stressful nightmare that is; let alone trying to work understaffed all of the time with a national deadline looming daily.

What’s more likely, though, than losing quality of reporting is that the public will simply be missing out on certain stories altogether. And I don’t mean the breaking news on Kendall Jenner’s latest lipstick colour. We will lose reporting on government policies, social issues and public affairs. We as a nation will lose an understanding of what is going on across the country and in each other’s lives.

When questioned about the job cuts, investigations editor at The Age, Michael Bachelard did not mention a fear of insecurity or income loss for himself and the staff. Rather, he voiced the deep concern shared by the editorial staff about the quality of journalism the newspapers would produce and the stories that would not be investigated and reported on due to such heavy cuts.

“We work symbiotically as a team to produce the kinds of stories that this town needs to hear and that a lot of people don’t want us to be telling. And I think that without 125 staff across The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, that just becomes an order of magnitude more difficult to do”, Michael Bachelard said to Sky News.

Although it’s sometimes difficult to grasp in a world saturated by listicles and The Daily Telegraph’s photoshop handy-work, journalism is an essential aspect of our democracy and liberty. Journalists are the people who have the backstage pass to all the government’s goings on. They are the ones who have a duty to inform the public about the situations and events that are attempted to be kept secret. They are the ones who speak out when everyone else has been told to keep their mouths closed.

Without enough educated and committed journalists to keep a watchful eye on the government, we may soon fall to the frightening-lows of Sean Spicer-like commentary from our politicians, with few people left to call bullshit and actually prove it. With every journalism job lost, this situation becomes closer and closer to being a reality.

Given the ongoing calls from political groups and their supporters for cuts to government funding to the ABC as well, it is clear that the importance of quality journalism has been somewhat lost on much of the public. Some people have even suggested ABC journalists work for free.

What a solution! Why hadn’t we thought of that yet?

In order to prove their worth to the public and Fairfax media, the editorial teams at The Age and SMH are committing to a week-long strike, effective immediately. This strike will include the announcement of the Federal Government’s budget next Tuesday, leaving only papers such as The Daily Telegraph to cover the story. At least that will make for an entertaining read on an otherwise dry news day, right?

Political reporter for SMH, Sean Nicholls, stated that “a media landscape in Sydney and Melbourne where the only commercial media outlet you can turn to is a Murdoch media outlet, a virtual monopoly, that is an appalling situation and threatens the very pillars of democracy.”

The loss of journalists from The Age, SMH and the Australian Financial Review would not only be dire to the quality of the publications, but to the education and freedom of the Australian public. In an age when anyone can publish what they think and feel about a situation, or in many cases, make stories up completely, the need for dedicated, educated and experienced journalists is greater than ever if we want to know the whole, real truth.

Not to mention the anxiety-inducing rise in grammar and spelling mistakes that will most likely ensue from a lack of editors.

Think about it.

If you care about receiving your news from a quality and reliable source, researched and written by professionals who are hard-working and committed to informing the Australian public, you should consider subscribing to receive print or online access to The Age and SMH. $3.50 a week is less than the price of that coffee you’ll contentedly sip on knowing you’re supporting real, not fake news. This being said, some Fairfax journalists have urged supporters to not buy these newspapers at all this week, and if you are a freelance contributor, to not pitch until the strike is over.

Cover via Yahoo News