Sunday, August 12, 2007

Journalism does matter - and the scribes are defending it!

Top marks to Brent Edwards, Simon Collins and the EPMU union team for the excellent "journalism matters" conference at the weekend. Simon described it as: "There has been nothing like it in my 31 years as a journalist." A solid action plan came out of the talkfest on Sunday with a few challenges ahead - check them out. Top marks also to Mike Kilpatrick and his Te Waha Nui team from AUT (six student journos drove from Auckland to Wellington for the weekend to cover the event). As was expected, especially after Chris Trotter's gloomy preview, the mainstream media barely noticed the summit, apart from a short NZ Herald piece, Audrey Young's blog and some random radio spots.

My own reflections were jotted down on the first day, Chris Warren's speech was inspiring and Jeremy Rose had some good stuff on Sunday. So watch for some feisty coverage in TWN this Friday. Unsurprisingly, I liked Judy McGregor's swipe at the nation's newsrooms for their "pitifully low" Maori, Pacific Island and Asian numbers - "this has been a structural, systemic problem for decades". She handed bouquets to Fairfax for its new internship diversity ratio and suggested that only Waiariki and AUT University media schools would pass an audit for diversity of selection. I'll offer a plug here for AUT - it has had a Pasifika diversity scholarship in place for several years now in partnership with PIMA - and last year the first scholarship BCS graduate was snapped up by Radio NZ, a masters graduate joined Niu FM and another masters graduate started his own Tongan-language newspaper. Plus there is also AUT's Pacific Media Centre initiative promoting independent journalism research. Cook Islands scribe Jason Brown rapped the journalists' "closed door" democracy with a criticism of the use of Chatham House Rules.

"Politics threaten media progress"
In the Christchurch Press, anti-union columnist Karl du Fresne launched into an attack on the politics of the conference. He singled out for special criticism "self-proclaimed socialist" Martin Hirst (for supporting journalists as agents of social change) and keynote speaker Equal Opportunities Commissioner Judy McGregor for being a "trenchant critic of the industry that once employed her". Pictured: Conference convenor Brent Edwards, Radio NZ's political editor and EPMU media council chair. Photo: Jimmy Joe/EPMU.

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