The Endangered Newsroom

Staff Writer

News, and Journalists, have been discussed significantly over the last few days with the removal of four journalists from DMG's newsrooms in Melbourne and Sydney (here). Chris Rieger gave his perspective on Sunday (here), and today Radio Today reader Rob McCasker gives a different perspective.


Journalists won’t like this post. Unless newsrooms reform the way they operate they won’t exist in 5 years.

Maybe less.

The signs are already there with fewer staff employed and redundancies almost weekly.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise because little has changed in radio news over the past 40 years. Yes 40 years, back to before Australia got colour TV. It’s still news on the hour with a lead story followed by something local then entertainment sport and weather. Like a time-warp suspended in the 70’s.

While newsrooms have been standing still the way listeners now source their intelligence is of course radically different.

From top to bottom the volume of information available, and just how quickly it’s shared, is breathtaking. So why are newsrooms stuck in the mire?

It’s not all the fault of journalists.

They report to program/content/product managers and or leadership teams who set a course and approve the air-time. The result, however, is smug confidence that listeners will set that regular appointment to hear a 3 minute monologue then wait through a 60 second ad-break plus promo to hear the weather.

Old thinking which is not sustainable.

Radio is a tough business and newsrooms are expensive. Not only in terms of costs to set up and run but there’s little return on that investment financially. Now as every dollar is scrutinised and justified like never before that too has to change.

Newsrooms of the future will need to become fully-funded just like most areas of a radio station. Innovation from bold thinking will need to offer premium ‘properties’ that clients want. Journalists need to think just as much now about adding value to the business as they do ethics and accuracy.

Are journalists up for it?

I hope so because they’re smart enough but the clocks ticking and the cage needs to be rattled. Newsrooms are plodders but need to become progressives to secure their place. Transformation is the only way through and if not then the last one out should turn off the lights.


Rob McCasker has 20 years experience in radio and now lives on The Great Ocean Rd working as a freelance writer. You can contact Rob here.

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