Tag Archives: media

Are newspapers terminal?

A couple of nights ago, at an excellent National Year of Reading forum at Whitefriars College, a student asked me if journalism was dead. I answered that journalism will never die because humans will always want to know about the things affecting other people’s lives. However, I did concede that newspapers, where I started out in the media, are definitely in the intensive care ward.

If I’d had my wits about me I might have recalled the recent robust discussion on Gruen Planet about the future of newspapers. The ever-entertaining Gruen team pointed to an advertising campaign by Britain’s Guardian newspaper that highlights why we will always need journos, even if they’re not transmitting stories to us via newsprint on dead trees.

Great stuff.

Revolution Imminent

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.

On rejection and acceptance

I was interviewed recently on the subject of rejection letters. The article, possibly with a photo of me, will be printed in the next week or so. I have mixed feelings about the prospect.

So why did I do it? Part of me is aware of the “any publicity is good publicity” school of thought. It’s tough selling books when you’re not a ‘name’. Media coverage is one way to build a profile and, hopefully, boost sales. Indeed, part of me was grateful that I should be considered credible enough to discuss the topic.

As I have blogged previously, I believe rejection letters are a fact of life. There’s certainly no shame in getting one. JK Rowling reportedly got 12 for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone before she got an acceptance.

No, my main reservation was that I wasn’t sure I had any wisdom to offer on the topic. I told the journalist this and then proceeded to babble away anyway… I’m not sure how useful or newsworthy my thoughts were. As a journalist myself, I don’t think I was all that quotable – but it’s not my article so I guess that’s not my worry.

With the benefit of hindsight, there are two main things I’d say about rejection letters:

1. You’re more likely to get constructive feedback, as opposed to a form letter, if you have an agent. You can use this information to improve your work.
2. It really doesn’t matter how many rejection letters you accumulate. You only need one acceptance letter to get your story published.

Get one letter that says ‘yes’ and the disappointment of one ‘no’ (or several) fades very quickly.

If you’re yet to get that letter, keep the faith. And don’t be afraid of criticism or hard work redrafting. Attend a writing group or take a class. Workshop your manuscript. Put it in a drawer for a while and then read it with a fresh perspective. Ask yourself, honestly, how could it be improved?

Very few of us can claim to be God’s gift to literature. Chances are, there will more blood, sweat and tears required. You need to earn that one letter you’re seeking. When you do, be sure to celebrate.