Critical Times?

Changing journalism in a changing world

JEAA Melbourne Conference 2 to 5 December 2012

Conference Details

Conference Themes


Keynotes and Panels



Accommodation and Tourism

Call for Papers



JEAA Conference

Critical Times? Changing journalism in a changing world, was held 2 to 5 December 2012 at Monash University Law Chambers, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

The conference explored Critical Times.
The last 10 years has been a time of unprecedented change in a number of areas affecting the news media, journalists, journalism, journalism studies and journalism education. From the GFC to the Arab Spring, the News of the World hacking scandal and the social media revolution announced by the arrival of Twitter in 2006, journalists, journalism and the news industry have been beset by crisis - in trust, accountability and profits.

For journalism scholars and educators understanding and adapting to (or resisting) these challenges has become an almost daily experience. Critical Times? is an opportunity to reflect on and discuss the changes we have seen and the future we are facing.

The 2012 JEAA conference - Critical Times: Changing journalism in a changing world - explored themes around technology and changing journalism practice; ethics and accountability in the news media post-'Hackgate'; the shifting role of journalism in the world of social media and changing economic models. The conference will engage with critical issues of journalism's disputed place within and alongside academic learning, research and scholarship. Presentations, papers and panels are also welcome on all aspects of contemporary journalism practice and education.


Conference Themes

No time to think: Does the speed of news churn make us stupid or are we absorbing more?

  • The rapid and never-ending 24/7 news cycle is said to be increasingly reducing our thinking time. Are we in danger of losing 'the news' in a tower of babel?
  • The news (of) revolution. The world has been fascinated by coverage of the GFC, the Arab Spring and the growing economic meltdown in Europe. More than ever we are inundated with news of the world in crisis. What are the issues journalists and audiences face in trying to make sense of a rapidly changing world?
  • Global access means nothing is just local anymore. The tension between the global and the local has come to the fore in a digitally-connected world. Can local news survive or thrive among endless global news flows?
  • The 'publish first, correct later' mantra of competitive online news outlets can mean errors are published and mistakes make the news. What are the legal, ethical and journalistic consequences of the race to be first? Has speed trumped accuracy as the key news value today?

Accountability, trust and regulation: Journalism is on the nose; is there room for improvement?

  • Repercussions from the Leveson inquiry; the arrest of more than 45 journalists the in the UK and charges against former News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks continue to reverberate around the world. Can journalists recover the public's trust, or is the bond between journalism and democracy, once thought to be unbreakable, finally and irretrievably severed?
  • Australia's own convergence review and the controversial recommendations of the Finkelstein inquiry regarding standards and accountability in the news media appear to have driven a wedge between 'hacks' and 'hackademics'. Does self-regulation work or should the so-called 'super regulator' be given a chance? Have media academics sold their souls to government intervention?
  • Reviews and inquiries into privacy, surveillance and media intrusion that affect newsroom practices are mushrooming.How might social media be used in newsgathering and how might journalistic invasions of privacy be justified or condemned in the future? What should we make of the techno-legal time-gap between practice and regulation?

No business like the news business

  • With Gina Rinehart leading the way, are we seeing a new generation of Australian media moguls emerge from the ashes of a dying news industry? The old media families are reduced to shadows in today's corporate media world; what's next?
  • The seemingly unstoppable rise of 'alternative' journalism and user-generated news-like content brings into question the future of mainstream media. Is the mainstream just coping; is it co-opting and commandeering UGC; or is it losing out to crowd-sourced news?
  • The search for viable alternative business models occupies the minds of editors, academics and accountants alike. Will all the news media have paywalls in the future? Do paywalls work or will journalists be reliant on charity?

Journalism education on the front page

  • Does the unprecedented coverage of journalism education and journalism educators in the pages of major newspapers signals a new front in the 'media wars' of the 1990s? Should journalism education be 'on the front page'?
  • What is the role of journalism scholarship? Does the role of journalism and media academics move beyond producing job-ready graduates?
  • Journalism education and the job market. Are we producing too many graduates? Is the role of journalism academics to tailor output to demand?
  • What is the role of journalism education and journalism scholarship in relation to the news media? Are we 'loyal critics', or does journalism studies have another role?
  • Journalism research - what's current and what's next in the Australian higher education system? Do journalism scholars 'fit-in' or are we always the outsider?

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Martin Hirst

Associate Professor Martin Hirst

Martin Hirst is the Associate professor and journalism curriculum leader in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin University. He is researching social media and journalism, primarily the take up of social media tools by young journalists and has a broad range of research interests including:

News, journalism and digital media,
Journalism and human rights,
Journalism law and ethics,
Political economy of media and journalism, and
The scholarship of teaching and learning in journalism.

Martin is co-director of the Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy and currently developing the centre's web presence. You can read Martin's blog at Ethical Martini.

Keynotes and Panels

Keynote Speakers


Day 1 Keynote: No time to think: Journalism, news and speed in the US presidential race 2012

Charles Feldman is a Los Angeles-based investigative journalist and author. When he arrives in Melbourne, Charles will be fresh from covering the US presidential elections. He will update the 'no time to think' thesis in the context of the campaign coverage.

Charles Feldman has many years of experience across all media platforms. He was a New York and L.A. based CNN correspondent and has extensive experience in local New York area and Los Angeles television and radio. With Howard Rosenberg, Feldman is co-author of No time to think, the 2008 book that dissects the media 'blitz' that can scramble the public's perspective and shape our reactions to global news events.


Day 2 keynote: Is there a journalism niche in your campus's future?

Professor Leonard Witt, Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication
Department of Communication, Kennesaw State University.

In the USA, declining advertising has meant fewer journalists. Consequently important niche beats have been cut. This is not a good omen for a democracy. Under executive director Leonard Witt's direction, The Center for Sustainable Journalism at Kennesaw State University decided to buck the trend with a trial project. It would cover juvenile justice with professional journalists on a daily, persistent basis. Within a year the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange ( had 33,000 unique visitors a month and the Center was approached to take over Youth Today, an online and print newspaper for youth service professionals. Now this university based center has a national, maybe international lock on the important youth justice, child welfare niche. Maybe there's a journalism niche in your campus's future too.



Day 3 keynote: Unhappy families: The Murdoch, Fairfax and Packer media dynasties

As the 'old' media struggles to adapt to the new, with declining audiences, converging technologies and changing business models, the traditional spectre of the family media dynasty is also under threat.

Professor Bridget Griffen-Foley is the Director of the Centre for Media History at Macquarie University. She is the author of four books about the Australian media, including two on the Packer dynasty. She is now editing A Companion to the Australian Media, to be published by Australian Scholarly Publishing in 2014.


Day 1 Panel: Accountability and independence: the new dialectic in journalism?

How to hold journalists and media owners accountable is a discussion as old as journalism itself. In some respects it is the 'holy grail' of journalism theory with a direct connection to practice. At the core is the issue of balance between free speech and the need to ensure that a powerful societal player accountable to the public interest. This panel will consider the recent Finkelstein and Convergence Review reports and recommendations.

Day 2 Panel: The business of citizen journalism

What are the business inputs and outputs of citizen journalism and other alternatives to the main stream? How are they connected to or divergent from the contemporary image of "the newsroom"? The panel - John Cokley, Janet Fulton, Bill Birnbauer and Leonard Witt (Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication at Kennesaw State University, USA, and the founder of the Centre for Sustainable Journalism) - will consider new approaches to creativity, sustainability, accuracy and ethics and how the mainstream news industry might successfully harness these new energies.

Day 2 Panel: How do you gather news during an uprising? The use of social media in reportage of the Arab Spring

This panel discusses the social, political and cultural ramifications of journalists' interactions with activists and social media during the various 'Arab Spring' uprisings and their meaning in a digital media age. Panelists will present new analyses of the changes and tensions that have occurred in the relations between the different forms of reportage during the different 'Arab Spring' protests. The panel will critically examine the supposed dichotomy between what is perceived as the authenticity, authority and credibility of traditional journalism and the efficiencies and audience-driven content of alternative media practice.

Day 2 Panel Discussion: Digital-first journalism: The view from the newsroom

Chair: Dr Penny O'Donnell, University of Sydney (co-author, Journalism at the Speed of Bytes)
The conventional newspaper business model, which holds there is a "sweet spot" where investment in editorial produces both business success and a well-informed community, is under severe strain as advertising migrates online. This panel of news editors will examine how the shift to digital-first journalism is transforming the business logic, structure, staff profile, and work routines of traditional newsrooms, shaping the operations of new start-ups, and reconfiguring editorial priorities and practices across the news industry. Multiplatform delivery, editorial leadership, reader engagement, and online news standards are identified as four conundrums of the change process.
The Walkley Foundation's recent report Journalism at the Speed of Bytes, based on a national survey of newspapers, found variance in the ways journalists deal with user-pays news, technological change, loss of editorial resources, and greater contact with readers but unexpected consistency in professional outlook: despite grave concerns about the current disinvestment in journalism, newspaper journalists firmly believed more could be done to improve news content, exploit the interactive potential of digital technologies, train staff and beat the competition. These findings suggest that, contrary to gloomy predictions about the death of newspapers, there is much to be learned about the emerging shape and significance of digital-first journalism from careful attention to the change processes underway in converging newsrooms.
Panel: Ms Amanda Wilson, former Editor, Sydney Morning Herald, Ms Orietta Guerrera, Editor, National Times Online, Fairfax Media, Ms Lauren Martin, Editor, The Global Times, A/Prof David McKnight, University of News South Wales (co-author, Journalism at the Speed of Bytes).

Day 3 Panel: Journalism & Media Communications Discipline Standards Project

Chair: Rhonda Breit
This is the first information session on the Journalism, Media and Communication Network (JoMeC). JEAA has been awarded OLT (formerly ALTC) funding to establish a sustainable network of discipline scholars in the fields of journalism, media and communication. The project aims to:
1. Review and benchmark pedagogical elements of journalism, media and communication programs in Australia
2. Liaise with discipline scholars from other fields and develop an online learning and teaching hub for discipline scholars in journalism, media and communication to centralise relevant pedagogical, technological and organisational infrastructure and resources to support learning and teaching leadership and excellence in Australia;
3. Develop systematic discipline standards for undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Australia that encompass journalism, media and communication;
4. To enable JoMeC to advocate for learning and teaching and to develop leadership capacity and offer expertise in addressing national higher education priorities.
Discipline Scholar in Creative and Performing Arts, Professor Jonathan Holmes, from the University of Tasmania, will be joining us as part to explain how the discipline scholar network operates. He will be joined by members of the JEAA project management group.

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The full program can be downloaded here (pdf)

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Registration is closed.

2012 Rates below

  Early Standard Late
Member $555.00 $610.00 $660.00
Student $385.00 $430.00 $485.00
Non-member $685.00 $740.00 $785.00
Day Rate (member) $355.00 $410.00 $460.00
Day Rate (non-member) $485.00 $535.00 $585.00

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Call for Papers

The call for papers is now closed.

The conference themes for JEAA 2012:

No time to think:
the 24 hour news cycle and the erosion of journalism's democratic function. In a time of unprecedented and interlocking global crises, is journalism serving the public interest to the best of its ability?

No business like the news business:
the global news industry is seeking new ways of remaining profitable; at the same time alternative journalism(s) and alternative business models are struggling to emerge

"I didn't do it." Accountability and independence:
In the wake of 'Hackergate' and police inquiries into corruption in the British news industry and interminable reviews into journalistic standards here in Australia, what can be done to arrest the decline in public trust for journalists and journalism?

Journalism education on the front page:
journalism education has been in the news lately, some might say for the wrong reasons. What should the relationship between journalism academics, journalism education and the news industry look like?
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Associate Professor Martin Hirst
Journalism Discipline Coordinator
School of Communication and Creative Arts
Faculty of Arts and Education
Melbourne Burwood Campus
Phone: +61 3 9244 6460

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