Karl du Fresne on the evolution of journalism in NZ

by Jake Quinn

very interesting speech by Dominion Post columist Karl du Fresne (delivered to the annual conference of Agcarm, Wellington, July 23). For anyone with an interest in the evolution of journalism in New Zealand this is a must read. There are many parts worthy of repeat and here are just two.

Journalists have changed. They are younger, better educated and more earnest. They don’t drink as much and I suspect they don’t have as much fun, though they might dispute that.

Today’s typical journalist has a university degree, which was extremely rare when I started out.

Most have also acquired a specialist journalism qualification, which is more or less mandatory now, though whether that makes them better journalists is a moot point. Some of us older hands lament the fact that journalism no longer seems to have room for the mongrel – the roughie who often sneaked into journalism through the back door, but had a natural talent for writing and could sniff out a good story 10 kilometres away.

On on the topic of television journalism, Karl says:

It’s not helped by the fact that TV editors believe viewers have the concentration span of a goldfish and you risk losing them if any item runs longer than two minutes, unless it happens to be about Michael Jackson or the new GI Joe movie.

And it’s helped even less by the fact that most TV reporters these days are attractive young women who seem to have been chosen more for their looks than their ability. I thought it said everything about the prevailing values at TVNZ that when it laid off several journalists earlier this year, one of the casualties was Owen Poland – to my mind one of their most capable reporters. Sorry, Owen – too old, wrong sex.

Do read the whole thing.