ABC and Fairfax changes: digitally-adept graduates needed

Tuesday 17 Nov 2015

Kay NankervisDespite programming and staffing changes at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Fairfax Media in regional NSW, the new media landscape will continue to employ digitally-adept journalism graduates.

That is the view of Ms Kay Nankervis (pictured), lecturer in journalism in the CSU School of Communication and Creative Industries in Bathurst.

Ms Nankervis said, "It's not surprising that ABC management's latest decision to reorganise local programming across its regional radio network has raised fears of further job cuts. The changes come after a round of redundancies at the national broadcaster and closure of several regional stations in the wake of restructuring and federal government budget cuts*. However, ABC management says the latest programming changes for the bush are aimed at modernising, not cost cutting, and no regional airtime will be lost.

"So, while we will have to wait and see what happens to local content, Charles Sturt University will continue to produce world-class journalism graduates for the modern media workforce."

Ms Nankervis said the ABC is evermore necessary to regional Australia as local coverage by newspapers and commercial radio shrinks.

"While these changes are happening at ABC regional stations, it's also disappointing to see further shrinkage of Fairfax Media newspapers across western and central west NSW," she said.

In regional print media, 18 Fairfax newspapers have been affected by cuts, with one paper closing, weekly edition numbers reduced at seven others, and service changes at another nine. Twenty seven positions in total are to be cut, focussing on sub-editors.

"Fairfax says these changes are about investing in digital publishing and expanding online services," Ms Nankervis said. "I hope that this investment will lead to improved and expanded reporting for the bush online to replace those printed editions that are being disbanded. But again, we will need to wait to find out."

She noted that many CSU journalism graduates have gained their first jobs as rural and regional reporters with Fairfax Media newspapers and the ABC.

"If what ABC management says their changes involve is true, this strong source of jobs for our graduates will continue," she said. "Our journalism course will continue to cover both the needs of multiple platform delivery in the new interactive digital age of journalism – changes the ABC is responding to with great energy and courage – along with strong foundations in generating original, inquiring reporting of important Australian and global issues."

Ms Nankervis echoed earlier observations by her CSU colleague Dr Margaret Van Heekeren, saying that what they are finding as the geography of journalism responds to the digital age is that CSU graduates are snapped-up in the wake of redundancies at major news organisations to perform multi-platform tasks and use their multimedia skills to make content for the new modes of publishing.

"It will be interesting to see what happens to Fairfax regional newsrooms over the next couple of years following these restructures and job cuts," Ms Nankervis said.

"I worry about a form of ageism operating at some news media organisations – where experienced, mature journalists are made redundant in the name of 'modernisation'. However, when these journalists with magnificent reporting and editorial histories are edged out by digitisation and accounting decisions, our digitally-adept journalism graduates year-in year-out have stepped into new jobs created by the new structures."

Dr Van Heekeren said, "It would be wrong to expect that the downturn in jobs in regional journalism will only be temporary; it won't be, and even if other news forms start to fill the gaps the same number of staff will probably never be employed as have been in recent decades. However, there will always be local news as people's interest in their local community doesn't change. What is changing is who is delivering it and how it is being delivered. If we look at what has happened in the UK and the US as an indicator of what may happen here, what's known as 'hyper-localism' has emerged in which news websites were set up by local residents or organisations, and many have become viable concerns employing staff."


Media contact: Bruce Andrews, (02) 6338 6084

Media Note:

Contact CSU Media to arrange interviews with Ms Kay Nankervis.

* When the federal government announced a $250 million cut for ABC funding over the next five years it quickly led to the closure of ABC production studios in South Australia, the axing of eight State editions of the nightly 7.30 TV current affairs program, the closure of five regional reporting outposts and some local regional breakfast programs, and the axing of the Bush Telegraph program.

In recent days the ABC's new Regional Division has announced that morning programming on its regional network will be reorganised; breakfast programs will be extended until 10am, while morning programs will be replaced with a shorter hour-long feature-based program 'Local Life'. Full news bulletins will remain at 6.30am and 7.30am but the two afternoon bulletins will be replaced with a headline only service.