Changing Role of the Editor

Went to the roundtable talk organised by Peter Fray on the changing role of the Editor. Speakers were Fray – Editor-in-chief of the Sydney Morning Herald; Rick Feneley – Editor of the Sun-Herald, Angelos Frangopoulos – CEO of Sky News; Helen McCabe  – Editor-in-chief of the Australian Women’s Weekly; Kate Torney – Director of ABC News.
Fray is a ‘‘First Decade’’ Fellow at the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney.
The editors encouraged us all to be blogging, tweeting, on various platforms, etc, and held up Annabel Crabb and Mia Freedman as the ultimate examples.

Tips for budding journalists: “Read, read, read. Write, write, write.” Which shows nothing has changed in the past 25 years, as that was exactly the advice I got when starting out.

I did have a chuckle when the Editors said they saw their role as “encouraging writers to have courage” to do their best, etc. I phoned my Mum and told her and she burst out laughing, because when does any boss do this? I’ve worked in three states of Australia and in England and it’s usually a stick approach from managers, and rarely a carrot. There were comments about “lazy” journalists, too, which I felt were generally unfair. At some places I’ve worked, writers have been expected to churn out words like machines, often getting RSI, and not having enough research or thinking time. Research rarely throws up definite answers — it just steers writers in a direction and they still need time to think and make a leap of faith and hope their judgment is correct. That can’t happen quickly.

I enjoyed Rick Feneley’s speech best, who said journalists and editors are desperately needed to  carefully select, hunt down, commission and decipher news. ‘‘We need editors more than ever. Despite some doomsaying about newspapers, total media consumption is growing at a rapid rate,’’ Feneley said. ‘‘We need not only journalists and their editors to deliver the stories, but more importantly publishers who see the value in investing in stories that matter, that will be read.
‘‘If the last newspaper and magazine were published tomorrow [Tuesday], on Thursday you’d still be reading their wares – online, on a tablet, on your phone. The information business is more vital than ever.”

The best question was asked of Mr Feneley, it was something about Twitter, which he declined to answer, since he doesn’t use it, which completely affirmed his speech, and also caused a few breathless gasps.

I was surprised that during the 40-minute question time, quite a few students left early, unlike the IQ Debates (mostly over-60s attend those and they stay til the very end). I was thinking: poor younger people, having jobs to pay off their steep uni fees, plus study to fit in. When I got outside at 7.30pm, though, students were cursing that the nearby bar had already closed. Remedied by a trek to  Hermann’s, across City Road. Yes, nothing has really changed in 25 years …

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