The Australian Governments Independent Inquiry into Media and Media Regulation was released recently, and the inquiry can be found here ( if you do want to read it it’s a 474 page pdf) Yes it looks like it only affects Australians, but I believe the ideas presented are relevant to the general writing community, and to bloggers ( especially Aussie ones)
Basically the intent of the inquiry is to hold the free press to a higher standard, with accountability In addition it seeks to broaden what is considered as information providers or news media and encompass them in this regulation.
The report also wishes to establish a News Media Council to set standards, and handle complaints.
“11.56 The principal function of the News Media Council should be to promote the highest ethical and professional standards of journalism”
I can’t object to that principle of improving standards. “accuracy, fairness, impartiality, integrity and independence“ are considered qualities in the report as being what should be common about news media, and journalistic ethics. We don’t have a bloggers code , I have my own set of right, wrong, what is fair to post, what is news, and what I say about identifiable players. ( with consideration to privacy and defamation laws)
I think when I have written I have followed those qualities closely, and generally I aspire to those qualities in my day-to-day life.
Under regulation, I can be forced legally to publish an “apology, correction or retraction, or afford a person a right to reply” or punished in court if I refuse to comply
It appears I may qualify to be regulated by this council, because a blog could fit the description as news media, I get more than 15k hits a year. ( Is that boasting?)
“11.67.. If a publisher distributes more than 3000 copies of print per issue or a news internet site has a minimum of 15 000 hits per annum it should be subject to the jurisdiction of the News Media Council”
However 11.63 talks about a news activity, but does not specially define what could be considered news, but given the low general community interest in my main subject of choice, Warcraft I may not qualify after all. If I were to write more general gaming things then I would probably meet general public potential interest.
Furthermore, 11.69 considers that further legislation may be required for foreign publishers, and WordPress is not hosted in OZ – I could be further excluded from its jurisdiction.
New Zealand Law commission defined ‘news media’ and the report recommended that something similar be adopted.
11.65 … any publisher, in any medium, who meets the following criteria:
· a significant proportion of their publishing activities must involve the generation and/or aggregation of news, information and opinion of current value;
· they disseminate this information to a public audience;
· publication must be regular;
· the publisher must be accountable to a code of ethics and a complaints process
It will bring about regulations and standards, but it will also bring about privileges.
5.13 The privileges are not dependent on the medium. The privileges are afforded to ‘journalists’, ‘information providers’, ‘media organisations’ and ‘media’…
These privileges include ( but are not all)
- Protection against disclosing sources
- Exemption from Privacy Act
- Defences to criminal offences
- Privileged access to information and events
A blog I have started reading in the last few months, and appreciate his views, especially in regards to what seems to be prevalence of some main stream media to ‘steal’ without attribution content from social media, is a blog called Fitzroyalty, written by a Melbournite, ( who may be wondering what the heck a Wow blog is doing linking him back)
His post “Just a blogger” and his blog in general addresses ( amongst local food and event reports and reviews) many of the issues that this media inquiry is supposed to consider.
“The act of engaging in journalism occurs regardless of whether individual journalists are paid to perform journalism or do it on an unpaid voluntary basis”
but this is certainly not supported by some of the mainstreams media consideration of who owns the news reported through Social media.
There is a course run by the Walkley foundation on ‘social news gathering’ It also teaches “Verification, copyright and permissions and Ethical and professional considerations” Obviously the importance of social media in current affairs and news is being taken more seriously and this change is also seen in the potential of this report to not only just provide better standards but legally legitimise people who publish news, even if outside the traditional forms.
So therefore “Just a blogger” “Just a Tweeter” doesn’t mean that the news and opinions, and the information recorded is less legitimate than main stream media.
The report is a large document to read, and it still is only a report with recommendations not law, but I want to talk about the Privileged access to information and events further, because I think it will cause some reevaluation as to what a blogger can do, and help define what a blogger is or be considered as.
“5.47 The media enjoy privileged access to people, places and information including government departments, cultural and sporting events, shareholder meetings, press conferences and other events, because of the nature of the work that they do.
We have rules in Australia about Media passes. They come with qualifiers like ” nationally recognised media outlet and hold an editorial title. “ or “Persons requesting freelance credentials must provide an article published within the past six months or a letter of assignment from a qualifying editor or publication. Those who freelance occasionally and are employed by non-news organisations are not eligible for media credentials. “ Both quotes from SIA
Would redefining what news media is considered force organisations to rethink their Media pass policy? While some bloggers in some industries are considered authorities and get invited to things like a Fashion week, if a blogger is as qualified to be media as a journalist then they might want to be invited as well.
I’d like a little more respect as a blogger and a writer ( how oft bloggers get scoffed at ) Once upon a time as an adult I took a week of work holidays to do a weeks work experience at my local paper. I summarised press releases into shorts for most of that week, but I did get to write my own article, with a by line, and even a photographer for the story. The editor had a chat at the end of the week, and told me I could write, but I would need to start at the bottom which at the time meant halving my salary, and I didn’t believe in it enough to do that.
I’m happy enough blogging and writing my fiction stories, holding onto my ambition to one day be a successful author. I don’t think I could turn this blog into any other firm of money-making exercise other than a tell all book. “While you were addicted to reality tv cooking shows, I got addicted to Wow”
At first my reaction to this media inquiry potentially including ‘little old me’ or even a blog that I may one day build in name of other
addictions passions. ( 15k annual qualifier seems a little low) Was a big NO, however they don’t seem to want to censor me, there is certainly room to learn to be a better public writer and I hope that setting better standards, and enforcing accountability could be a good thing as long as it wasn’t overly regulated, and forced people to apply or register to be allowed to publish.
*disclaimer – I don’t write epic articles like this often, but one of the reasons why I blog is to help work through ideas and concepts that interest me, so if on occasion I haven’t polished an argument well enough in here I will do better next time.