Press coun­cil looks at tech links

The Bulletin - - Cover Story - BY LACH­LAN BEN­NETT

THE Aus­tralian Press Coun­cil is look­ing to build long-term part­ner­ships with tech com­pa­nies such as Google, Twit­ter, Face­book and Ap­ple – or­gan­i­sa­tions that are trans­form­ing the me­dia in­dus­try yet tra­di­tion­ally have had no in­volve­ment with the coun­cil.

Press coun­cil chair­man Pro­fes­sor David Weis­brot in­tends to ex­plore this pos­si­bil­ity at an in­ter­na­tional press free­dom con­fer­ence to be staged by the coun­cil next year.

“We have a long es­tab­lished re­la­tion­ship with the tra­di­tional me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions. We’re try­ing also at this con­fer­ence to ex­plore both in­tel- lec­tu­ally and prag­mat­i­cally how we can work with groups like Google, Face­book, Ap­ple, Twit­ter, LinkedIn,” Prof Weis­brot said.

“So in any event we’re try­ing to ex­plore with them how they see the fu­ture of jour­nal­ism go­ing and also how they’d pro­pose to sup­port high stan­dards of jour­nal­ism and ad­vo­cacy around press free­dom and so on.”

The coun­cil has re­cently wel­comed dig­i­tal-only pub­li­ca­tions like Daily Mail and Huff­in­g­ton Post Aus­tralia as mem­bers, although it may take a cou­ple of years be­fore the likes of Google seek to join.

Still, Prof Weis­brot be­lieves that it is a dis­cus­sion that needs to be had – es­pe­cially at a time when tech com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly en­croach­ing on the ter­ri­tory of tra­di­tional me­dia com­pa­nies with plat­forms like Ap­ple News and Face­book’s No­tify app.

“The more I talk to peo­ple in the in­dus­try, like se­nior ed­i­tors, they keep say­ing things like ‘Well I’m not sure we’ll be pub­lish­ing news­pa­pers per se in the fu­ture. We will ex­ist as con­tent providers, but it may be the ag­gre­ga­tors like Google and Face­book and so on that will be more of the pub­lish­ers’,” Prof Weis­brot said.

The in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence will mark the press coun­cil’s 40th an­niver­sary in May. It is ex­pected to fea­ture ses­sions with se­nior ex­ec­u­tives from Google, Face­book and Twit­ter, although lo­cal and in­ter- na­tional chal­lenges to press free­dom will be a sig­nif­i­cant theme.

The con­fer­ence’s key­note speaker is Rus­sian in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Anna Nem­stova who was de­tained by mili­tia when re­port­ing on the down­ing of MH-17 and Rus­sia’s sup­port of rebels fight­ing in East­ern Ukraine.

Other top­ics to be ex­plored are the in­flu­ence of tech­no­log­i­cal, so­cial and com­mer­cial change on jour­nal­ism, the role of in­de­pen­dent press coun­cils and the need to re­form se­crecy, cen­sor­ship and defama­tion laws.

“We’re also go­ing to de­vote a fair bit of at­ten­tion to the fu­ture of in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing and that’s be­ing crunched in sev­eral ways,” Prof Weis­brot said

He made spe­cial men­tion of changes that have ex­posed jour­nal­ists to breaches of “overly broad” ter­ror­ism leg­is­la­tion, the prob­lems of defama­tion, and threats to whistle­blow­ers through meta­data re­ten­tion laws.

The three-day con­fer­ence will be held in Syd­ney, be­gin­ning on May 3. It will fea­ture pre­sen­ta­tions by found­ing edi­tor of New Delhi’s News-Laun­dry Madhu Tre­han and former China edi­tor of the South Chi

na Morn­ing Post Willy Lam. The three-day event will be fol­lowed by the Walk­ley Foun­da­tion’s an­nual Press Free­dom Din­ner fundraiser, which is run in con­junc­tion with the Me­dia, En­ter­tain­ment and Arts Al­liance.

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