Fake news threatens journalism

JOURNALISTS  are trying to do more with less amid challenges of poor funding, job insecurity, digital disruption and – most threatening of all – public confidence loss from ‘fake news’.

Those are the conclusions of research by national communications consultancy, BBS Communications Group, which found of the 48 Australian journalists surveyed, 29.2 percent believed the reputation of mainstream news in Australia as a trustworthy institution was either ‘in the balance’ or ‘under threat’. Australian journalists generally believed the perception was getting worse. 

A worrying 70.9 percent of those polled said the Australian public generally viewed mainstream news as ‘untrustworthy’ or ‘only trustworthy at times’; and most – a 62.5 percent – believed the general public’s view of mainstream journalism had declined in the past year. 

BBS director Lisa Nixon said the survey results painted a bleak picture of the challenges facing journalists and their outlets.

“The constant need to be first was a prominent theme that came out of the research,” Ms Nixon said.

“This isn’t new of course in the media world, but it is concerning that journalists feel under increasing pressure to put first above factual. Journalists are racing against the clock — and each other — to meet their employers’ expectations to be first, frequently at the expense of accuracy.”

Another area for high concern is in the area of ‘fake news’.

Fake news articles are deliberately outrageous hoax stories packaged as legitimate news and designed to be quickly shared through social media to create advertising revenue for the website’s owner.

A sizeable minority – 27.1 percent – of journalists polled said their outlet had published an article based on fake news in the past year.

“Once again, I think it comes down to a lack of time and resources for many journalists,” Ms Nixon said.

“A lot of fake news stories can be pulled apart with time and investigation, but the business pressures of many news organisations often don’t allow for or it seems, encourage that to happen.

“Changes in technology have meant news outlets are frequently chasing something — anything — to fill the news vacuum and gain an edge over their competitors.

“The rise of citizen journalism is a good example of how technology has changed how journalists operate,” Ms Nixon said.

“The vast majority of those we polled say citizen journalism has impacted the professional news business and interestingly, journalists are both enthusiastic and critical about it.

“A lot of journalists said citizen journalism has generated leads, but also allows business to bypass traditional media gatekeepers.

“This bypassing of the traditional fact-checkers in our democracy is cause for concern in the longer term,” Ms Nixon said.

Other key findings from the BBS Communications report: 

  • Journalists believe Australian journalism is perceived as more trustworthy than their global competitors. 
  • Most journalists believe they have the resources to adequately fact check stories but are under time pressure to get stories out. 
  • ‘Trump’ and ‘Social Media’ are the words that first come to mind when journalists think of fake news. 
  • 12.5 percent of journalists say the public’s trust in their profession is significantly worse than last year. 
  • While it is still a concern, most journalists (66.7 percent) encounter deliberately false news less than once per week. 
  • Journalists believe the number one issue for Queensland and Australia in 2017 will be Queensland Senator Pauline Hanson and her One Nation party.




ABC $50m investment extends to regions

THE AUSTRALIAN Broadcasting Commission (ABC) will invest $50 million in new content and create 80 new jobs in rural and regional Australia under a new strategy and transformation program.

The program announced by ABC managing director, Michelle Guthrie – named Investing in Audiences – involves a number of interlocking initiatives “designed to strengthen the corporation and enhance its ability to deliver on its Act and Charter and serve the community”. 

Ms Guthrie said the key initiatives were creating a $50 million fund open to all employees to source new ideas for content; investing $15 million per year in regional jobs and extra digital and video output as a key part of the fund; implementing a new streamlined leadership team and structure; reducing management by 20 percent and addressing duplication in support roles; signalling a transition to a more audience-focussed content structure over the next 12 months; delivering additional production and support efficiencies across ABC TV and ABC News.

Ms Guthrie said both the Content Fund and the Regional Investment involved unprecedented financial commitments by the ABC from within its own budget.

“The fund enables us to respond with flexibility and speed to shifting audience trends and to extend our reach and engagement, especially with audiences who are infrequent ABC users,” Ms Guthrie said.

“Regional investment will be a priority. We’re committing to an injection of funds, ultimately building to $15 million a year, to provide more reporters and content makers, better tools and increased video and digital output. The ABC will recruit up to 80 new content roles in regional areas within 18 months.”

The ABC aims to reduce management by an average 20 percent across the corporation, with support areas to absorb a higher percentage of that cut. There will also be a process to address duplications across support roles. The savings will go directly towards the Content Fund. ABC TV and ABC News will also reduce production and support roles as part of internal efficiency targets.

The restructure reduces the number of main ABC divisions from 14 to eight, with the four existing content divisions balanced by new streamlined support functions. Sitting alongside the four content divisions (Television, Radio, News and Regional) will be new divisions for Finance, Technology, Engagement and Audiences. Editorial Policies and Government Relations will be specialist functions reporting direct to the managing director..

“These initiatives recognise that incremental reform isn’t the answer and that transformational change over the next year is essential if the ABC is to realise its full potential,” she said. “Change that strengthens the organisation, empowers our people and delivers long-term results for audiences.”

Ms Guthrie said 150 to 200 staff would leave the ABC by June 30, 2017.

The ABC has proposed integrating staff in ABC International into the ABC, enabling the Corporation to utilise all its knowledge, skills and platforms to better serve audiences in the Asia-Pacific region and deliver on its International Charter remit.

There are a number of new leadership team appointments. David Anderson, previously the director of corporate strategy and planning and director of Digital Network with 25 years experience at the ABC, is the new director of ABC Television.

There will be a new Audiences Team, led by Leisa Bacon, who was previously the director of audience and marketing. The new Audiences Division has an expanded remit to oversee the use of the Content Fund and to provide an across-the-ABC approach to research and audience strategy.

Louise Higgins, who has a strong background in financial media management, including working at the BBC and at Nova Entertainment, has joined the ABC as chief financial officer. Sam Liston, formerly the director of ABC People, has become chief engagement officer.

Alan Sunderland will remain as director of editorial policies and Michael Millett will be director of government relations.



The ABC Board has issued its own statement here.

For additional information on the ABC Leadership Team is available here.




Walkley Award for industrial relations reporting

THE Walkley Foundation has launched a new national award for exceptional industrial relations reporting by the Australian media.

The Helen O’Flynn and Alan Knight Award for Best Industrial Reporting was created in partnership with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Unions NSW, AiGroup,  the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the University of Technology Sydney, and with the support of an anonymous donor. 

“Times change, but the notion that we are stronger together remains,” Walkley CEO Jacqueline Park said.

“Unions have been vital throughout our nation’s history, helping to forge our egalitarian national character — including the concept of a ‘fair go’. As crucial is the role of journalists in covering this often complex topic. Through this new award, we aim to celebrate great industrial relations reporting and encourage more of it.”

This all-media award will recognise outstanding journalism that captures the importance of a robust industrial relations ecosystem for Australian workers and businesses, as well as its complexities.



Photojournalist Andrew Quilty wins Gold Walkley

THE moving photojournalism series of a bombed Médecins Sans Frontières hospital in Afghanistan, The Man on the Operating Table by freelance photographer Andrew Quilty, has won him the 2016 Gold Walkley Award.

It was a memorable choice in a Walkley Awards event which also presented cartoonist Bruce Petty the Walkley for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism, and acclaimed the professional life of news journalist the Rebecca Wilson, who passed away in October, with the Walkley Award for Journalistic Leadership

In business journalism, Adele Ferguson, Klaus Toft and Mario Christodoulou, in a combined effort by Fairfax Newspapers and ABC TV Four Corners, won the Walkley for their research and reporting on the Commonwealth Bank’s Comminsure scandal, titled ‘Money For Nothing’.

A freelance photojournalist based in Kabul, Andrew Quilty has relentlessly pursued complex and important stories in a country that — after some 14 years of war — may have receded from the world’s front pages, but is no less dangerous or critical to understand, noted the Walkley judges.

Since moving to Afghanistan in 2013, Mr Quilty has won six Walkley Awards, including this year’s Nikon-Walkley Photo of the Year and the News Photography category.

After an errant US airstrike destroyed the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital and killed 42 people in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in October 2015, Mr Quilty was the first journalist to reach the scene. He found bodies still in the rubble; with fighting still going on in the vicinity, for it had been too dangerous to remove them. 

He discovered one man lying on an operating table who was later identified as Baynazar Mohammad Nazar, a 43-year-old Afghan civilian. Mr Quilty’s image of The Man on the Operating Table is shocking and powerful, while his series of the same name introduces Baynazar the man, who rode a bicycle to work and shared a small house with his family.

Bruce Petty was awarded the Walkley for Outstanding Contribution to Journalism, recognising a 55-year career of drawing political cartoons as well as a career in animation and film directing that has also won him an Oscar.

Rebecca Wilson’s posthumous award for Journalistic Leadership, accepted by her son, Tom Sacre, acclaimed her “constant drive to challenge conventions and to pave the way for younger female reporters”.

The Nikon-Walkley Press Photographer of the Year Award went to News Corp Australia’s Alex Coppel for a body of work that showcased his technical skill and storytelling ability.

Commenting on the Walkley judging process, advisory board chair Kate McClymont said, “The judging process is what gives the Walkley Awards its credibility. The judges are senior journalists — people who know the skill, quick wit, depth of research and analysis, resourcefulness and even physical courage that it takes to create the best journalism.”

The 61st Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism were presented in 34 categories.

More than 600 journalists and media identities gathered in the Plaza Ballroom of Brisbane’s Convention and Exhibition Centre for the gala event hosted by Sky News’ David Speers. The Walkley Awards were held in Brisbane with the support of Tourism and Events Queensland.

The full list of winners is published at


2016 Walkley Award Winners


Print/Text News Report — Award partner Media Super:

Grant McArthurHerald Sun, ‘Bacchus Marsh Baby Deaths’.

Social Equity JournalismAward partner Seven Network:
Ben Schneiders, Royce Millar and Nick ToscanoThe AgeThe Sydney Morning Herald and The Canberra Times, Fairfax Media, ‘Sold Out: Australia’s biggest wages scandal’.

Multimedia StorytellingAward partner News Corp Australia:
SBS Online Team, SBS Australia, ‘My Grandmother’s Lingo’.

Nikon-Walkley Photo of the YearAward partner Nikon
Andrew QuiltyForeign Policy, ‘The Man on the Operating Table’.

Headline Journalism:

Matthew QuagliottoThe Daily Telegraph, ‘Thirst Degree Murder’, ‘Law & Snorter’, ‘Tyred & Demotional’.

Coverage of Indigenous AffairsAward partner BHP Billiton:
Dan Box, Eric George and Stephen FitzpatrickThe Australian, ‘Bowraville’.

Coverage of Community and Regional AffairsAward partner Australia Post:
Newcastle Herald Staff ReportersNewcastle Herald, ‘The Foam and the Fury’.

Sports Journalism:

Adrian ProszenkoThe Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Parramatta Eels salary cap scandal’.

Sport PhotographyAward partner Nikon:
Cameron Spencer, Getty Images, ‘The Defining Moment’.

Radio/Audio News and Current Affairs Award partner ABC:
Sophie McNeill and Fouad Abu GoshPM and AM, ABC Radio, ‘Voices from Besieged Syria’.

Radio/Audio Documentary, Feature, Podcast or SpecialAward partner QUT:
Dan Box and Eric GeorgeThe Australian, ‘Bowraville Podcast’.

Print/Text Feature Writing Long (over 4000 words):

Jess HillThe Monthly, ‘Suffer the Children: Trouble in the Family Court’.

Scoop of the Year —  Award partner Nine Network:
Nick TabakoffThe Daily Telegraph, ‘The Parramatta Eels NRL scandal’.


Mark KnightHerald Sun, ‘Subway’, ‘Census night in the Senate’, ‘Reg Grundy RIP’.


David RoweThe Australian Financial Review and The Sun Herald, ‘New clothes’, ‘Malcolm X and Ali’, ‘White ribbon’.

Coverage of a Major News Event or Issue:

Sky News Team, Sky News, ‘2016 Election Coverage’.

Print/Text Feature Writing Short (under 4000 words) — Award partner Fairfax:
Ben DohertyGuardian Australia, ‘Crushed by the unblinking regime: the life and tragic death of Fazel Chegeni’.

Nikon-Walkley News Photography Award partner Nikon:
Andrew QuiltyForeign Policy, ‘The Man on The Operating Table’.

Business JournalismAward partner ING Direct:
Adele Ferguson, Klaus Toft and Mario Christodoulou, Fairfax Newspapers and ABC TV Four Corners, ‘Money For Nothing’.

Nikon-Walkley Feature/Photographic EssayAward partner Nikon:
David Maurice SmithGuardian Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Globe and Mail and Mother Jones Magazine, ‘Refugee Crisis in the Balkans’.

International JournalismAward partner University of Queensland:
Sophie McNeill, Aaron Hollett, Mark Corcoran and Matt WalkerForeign Correspondent, ABC TV, ‘Yemen: The War on Children’.

CameraworkAward partner Australian Super:
Andy Taylor60 Minutes, Nine Network, ‘Predator’.

TV/AV News Reporting:

Chris O’KeefeNine News, Nine Network, ‘Bankstown Hospital’.

TV/AV Daily Current Affairs Award partner SBS:
Anne Connolly, Suzanne Smith and Lesley Robinson7.30, ABC TV, ‘Anglican Church Paedophile Ring’.

TV/AV Weekly Current Affairs:

Linton Besser, Louie Eroglu, Jaya Balendra and Elise WorthingtonFour Corners, ABC TV, ‘State of Fear’.

Investigative JournalismAward partner Bayer:
Adele Ferguson, Klaus Toft and Mario Christodoulou, Fairfax Newspapers and ABC TV Four Corners, ‘Money For Nothing’.


Caro Meldrum-HannaFour Corners, ABC TV, ‘Jackson and Lawler’.

Commentary, Analysis, Opinion and Critique:

Greg JerichoGuardian Australia, ‘Politics, the planet and the personal’.

Walkley Documentary Award:

Sarah Ferguson, Nial Fulton and Ivan O’Mahoney, In Films and ABC TV, Hitting Home.

Walkley Book Award:

Stan GrantTalking to My Country, HarperCollins Publishers.

Nikon-Walkley Press Photographer of the YearAward partner Nikon:
Alex CoppelHerald Sun.

Journalistic LeadershipAward partner Qantas;
Rebecca Wilson.

Outstanding Contribution to JournalismAward partner Sky News:
Bruce Petty.

Gold Walkley Award partner MEAA:
Andrew QuiltyForeign Policy, ‘The Man on the Operating Table’.


Walkley Award board judges are Kate McClymont, (chair), The Sydney Morning Herald; Angelos Frangopoulos, (deputy chair) Australian News Channel; Michael Amendolia, photographer; Dennis Atkins, The Courier-Mail; Michael Beach, The Sunday Times; Anne Davies; Marina Go; Claire Harvey, The Sunday Telegraph; Fran Kelly, ABC Radio National; Jonathan Richards, Google Creative Lab; John Stanley, 2UE; Cameron Stewart, The Australian; Sandra Sully, TEN Eyewitness News; Lisa Wilkinson, Nine Network.