I’ve got a feeling I may be about to bite off more than I can chew in one blog entry. It’s because I’ve got that itchy sense of expectation, that tingle, that big things are afoot. Journalists learn to develop a nose for news, or “news sense”. Marvel’s Peter Parker has “spider sense” to tell him when something unlawful is going down. When workshopping with students, I often talk about “story sense” or how to find the seeds that germinate into creative writing. My children would say I specialise in “nonsense”… At least one of these senses is buzzing.
I was a newspaper journalist for a decade. I’ve worked with websites for the same period. My first published work of fiction was printed two years ago. (Novel # 2 will hit bookstores in 2010.) I’ve been part of the media for 20 years and a consumer of it for as long as I can remember. Today it feels like the media is entering a period of unprecedented tumult and change.
For Exhibit 1, I point you to last night’s episode of Media Watch which contrasted the thoughts of ABC managing director Mark Scott, News Limited’s Rupert and James Murdoch, and media commentator Meg Symons on paying for online news. By attacking public-funded journalism conducted by the BBC and ABC, the Murdoch duo came across as unusually apprehensive. They seemed to concede that the power balance in the media playground had shifted forever. That feels like a good thing to me.
Exhibit 2 was a landmark moment in journalism when the combined might of the Twitterverse was directed at assisting a journalist to tell a story that lawyers were trying to suppress. It was a victory for people power in combination with old-school journalism. Inspiring stuff.
As a relative newbie to Twitter, I’m impressed by the many ways clever and determined journalists are using it to gather and disseminate news. I’m also watching how individual Twitterers (authors, athletes, celebrities…) are using it to bypass traditional publicity channels and speak their minds or push their wares direct to fans and followers.
Which brings me to Exhibit 3. I’ve long enjoyed the ideas, writing and free-thinking of Cory Doctorow. (His first novel for young adults, Little Brother, is a title I’ve successfully enticed reluctant teen readers into tackling which is possibly the highest praise I can offer an author.) Doctorow is a pioneer and evangelist in the field of free online e-books. His latest project is truly radical and, I believe, could change the publishing world as we know it.
Depending on what Australia’s Productivity Commission recommends in relation to parallel importation of books, Doctorow’s insights could provide a template for publishing that puts authors and consumers on the same page, so to speak.
Exciting times. Stay tuned.
Update: Here’s the unparalleled First Dog on the Moon‘s take on the issue of paying for online news content.