Words by Alessandro Guarrera
“Moral to the point of priggishness, patriotic to the point of servility…”
These words described The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Australia’s
first newspapers, active from 1803 to 1842. During this time, newspapers as weeklies were
a common feature. The Australian launched in 1824 and The Sydney Herald in 1831. Daily
papers and the tabloid format did not arrive until the twentieth century, with The Australian
becoming Australia’s first national daily newspaper in 1964.
But broadsheets have largely been abandoned in the last decade. The SMH changed to
a tabloid-only format in 2012, leaving The Australian as one of the last bastions of the
broadsheet. Meanwhile, more and more newspapers are digitising to keep up with the modern
consumer. This shift has seen less advertising revenue and a move towards the pay wall
subscription model popular with large online newspapers.
Indeed, the very foundations of media distributor changed forever with the birth of the World
Wide Web. From Perez Hilton, to every question’s answer being “Google it,” the internet has
seen the rise of citizen journalism, social media and less patience from consumers to wait for
their news. We now live in an age of constantly updating stories, where coverage begins and
ends at the press of a button. Continually playing catch up, ‘old media’ doesn’t seem to be
helping themselves. Fairfax Media’s recent layoffs have put more of an emphasis on the use
of publicly available sources, sacrificing their credibility for extra profits.
The question must therefore be asked, who still needs the newspaper?
Technology yet may be the saving grace, if not for The Herald and The Australian, then for
journalism at a whole. Suddenly, news has the ability to take readers into a story like never
before, almost putting them into the scenes. Smartphones, laptops, tablets, and wearable
devices have also propelled us beyond last century’s science fiction, allowing news to be
consumed anywhere and at anytime.
An example was the December, 2009 issue of Esquire, which saw a raft of celebrities
embrace the first Augmented Reality magazine. Clumsy as some of it seems, and as cynical
as it was to hire ‘Iron Man’ to advertise this kinetic tech, it is but one step by “the old guard”
to bring news journalism into the modern age.