New Beats at the Melbourne Press Club

MPEC logo black on white (2)

On Wednesday June 3, the Melbourne Press Club is holding a lunchtime panel discussion featuring three journalists who’ve taken redundancy and discovered life beyond the metropolitan newsrooms. On the panel will be former Age business editor, Kirsty Simpson, former ABC journalist and Radio Australia host, Phil Kafcaloudes, and former News and Fairfax picture editor, Louise Graham, with the discussion to be hosted by the New Beats project’s co-founder Lawrie Zion.

The event will commence at 12:15 and will be held at Mr Hive Kitchen & Bar, which is at Level 1 of the Crown Metropol Hotel in Southbank, and the event will cost $40 for members, redundees and students, and $55 for everyone else. Bookings can be made via the Melbourne Press Club website or by calling 03 9614 2779.  More details can be found here, and please spread the word to anyone who you think might be interested in coming along.

See you there.

Research update: Where do journalists go?

The findings from our New Beats pilot study completed in 2013 have been published in the journal Journalism Practice. The article, “Where do journalists go after newsroom job cuts?” is the first research article to be published from this five-year project. The pilot study surveyed the experiences during and after redundancy of journalists who were laid off during 2012, and the findings were based on 95 completed responses.

The New Beats team is currently analysing data from our subsequent 2014 survey, which attracted over 200 respondents.


New Beats 2014 survey – call for participants

In 2012 more than 1,000 Australian journalists became redundant. More than 500 more have taken a redundancy package since then.

Where are they now?  What will happen to them in the future? And what are the consequences for journalism of this enormous contraction of the journalist workforce?

To explore these questions, a team of researchers from four universities embarked on the New Beats project last year, and completed a pilot study focusing on the experiences of around 100 journalists who took redundancy packages during 2012.

Since then we have been awarded an Australian Research Council grant to further develop the project over the next three years, so that we can look at the impact of these redundancies over an extended time frame.

To follow up our pilot study, we’re undertaking three more annual surveys of journalists who became redundant in Australia during or since 2012, the first of which we will conduct in the coming weeks. We also plan to conduct 60 extended interviews with journalist about the broad arc of their careers, and to produce a series of associated radio documentaries.

Through this project we aim to create a network of journalists who have taken a redundancy package to share information and gather data on jobs, demand for journalistic expertise, new career directions, re-training, and the impact of redundancy on professional identity, family life and well-being. You can find out a bit more about the project and our team by viewing our about page, and by checking out the media coverage of New Beats. We’re also on Twitter @newbeatsproject.

If you were a journalist who took a redundancy package in Australia during 2012, 2013, or 2014, and would like to be a participant in our three-year study, please let us know. All correspondence will be dealt with in confidence. We would also be happy to answer any questions you might have about the project.

New Beats receives Australian Research Council grant

We’re very pleased to report that our research project has just been awarded funding of $270,756 to be spread across the next three years through the ARC Linkage project scheme.

To quote from the La Trobe University media release: “The project is a multifaceted analysis of the role of mass redundancies, forced career changes and the digital reinvention of Australian journalism at a time of industry restructure and technological change. This research will see academics and industry stakeholders join forces to explore how to best address questions about professional journalism’s experience of structural transformation and its capacity to adapt positively to change.”

Our research partners for this project are the ABC, the National Library of Australia, and the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance. More soon.



Where do redundant journalists go?

This article was first published in The Conversation on Monday December 2, 2013. We’re republishing it in keeping with that site’s republishing guidlines.

New beats: where do redundant journalists go?

By Lawrie Zion, La Trobe University

You’ve probably heard the news: the Australian media is experiencing the most serious contraction in its history.

The rise of online and mobile media has led to the collapse of the classified advertising business model that has long sustained media companies, especially in print, and this, in turn has affected their ability to fund the journalism that has long informed us.

What’s less often discussed is the considerable human cost of those changes. Last year more than 1,000 journalists in Australia became redundant: that’s around 15% of the journalist workforce.

A year on, what has become of them? How have they made sense of their redundancy experiences? And what does the disruption of so many careers mean for the future of journalism?

These are some of the key questions in a research project called New Beats that a team of researchers from four universities have been developing. Our plan is to track what happens over the next three years to the careers of journalists who became redundant in 2012.

Will the last one to leave the newsroom please turn out the lights. David Sim

The scale of these redundancies underscores the disruptive impact of digital communication technologies, and how news media organisations are responding to that disruption.

It also offers a unique prism through which to examine the developing relationship between what is termed legacy media (that’s the “old” media of television, newspapers and radio) and new media (online).

The difference between them is not just a matter of changing technology, as Katharine Viner, Guardian Australia’s editor recently pointed out:

Digital is a huge conceptual change, a sociological change, a cluster bomb blowing apart who we are and how our world is ordered, how we see ourselves, how we live … it is deeply profound and it is happening at an almost unbelievable speed.

To launch the project, we recently completed a pilot study that drew responses from 95 of these recently redundant journalists to find out about their redundancy experiences, its impact on their professional identities, and what kind of work they’re doing now.

Rae Allen

In all, we contacted 225 journalists, most of who signed up for involvement on the project website, or through contacts provided (with permission from the journalists) by the union that represents journalists, the Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance.

The early findings will be presented today at the Journalism Education Association of Australia’s 2013 conference, Redrawing the Boundaries: Journalism Research, Education and Professional Culture in Times of Change, hosted by the University of the Sunshine Coast.

Early results

While our study includes journalists from all media platforms, it came as no surprise that 94% of our respondents had left print jobs, and most (90%) of those took a voluntary redundancy package.

What the survey dramatically showed, however, is how much journalistic experience has been walking out the door: the average age of the cohort is 49, more than half have departed from senior roles, and they have spent an average of just over 25 years working as journalists.

The exodus of such a large number of experienced journalists shows that this issue matters to non-journalists as much as it does to those in the industry. With so many experienced journalists leaving, what sort of media is left for us as readers and audiences?

AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Personal toll

The findings highlight how harrowing the redundancy experience has been.

For many, the decision to take a redundancy package was a tough one that was precipitated by stressful and more intense working conditions, as well as concerns about the future of the industry.

Many also felt angry and frustrated with the way management handled the process. “Despite the redundancy process being voluntary, I experienced powerful feelings of rejection, which spread into my other relationships, particularly with my teenage children”, said one respondent.

More than a quarter of all surveyed said that redundancy had had a negative impact on their professional identity. As one respondent explained, panic set in immediately after the leaving the newspaper along with a loss of identity and purpose.

“My routine had been shattered. I had to find a way to motivate myself.” For another, “the hardest thing has been adjusting to life outside a newsroom”.

A year on

A year (and a bit in some cases) after taking redundancy, the paths of those journalists have diverged considerably. Of the 95 who completed the survey, 17 are now working in legacy media, and 16 in digital media.

When asked about their job titles, ten of them listed multiple titles or roles (possibly reflecting the freelance or self-employed nature of their work). These included 27 who said they were working in a combination of journalism and other roles, with three even listing “freelance” as their job title.

Not surprisingly, public relations has emerged as a common destination, with 18 of the respondents working either as media officers, media managers, media advisors, or PR officers and account managers.

When those no longer in the media were asked to describe where they are working, 14 reported that they were at universities, 12 are freelance or self-employed, eight are working in public companies and six for government and union positions.

Not everyone wanted to remain a journalist: 65% of those who had left the profession said that they had chosen to do so, while 35% said they wanted to continue to work but no work was available.

While a significant proportion of the respondents have gained a toehold in new media, less than a quarter of them said they had received specialised training.

This raises the question – to be addressed in future surveys – of how well prepared journalists are to make transitions to digital media.

Pay and conditions

A common consequence of redundancy has been lower pay, with just over two-thirds reporting that their wages were not as good.

Perhaps surprisingly, more than half said that their job conditions were now better, with only a quarter reporting they were lower.

This apparent paradox is partly explained by the absence of the kind of workplace stress they experienced in their former roles, and partly by the fact that many respondents have funded their work transition with their redundancy payout.

Many also volunteered that redundancy has had a positive effect on their wellbeing and health. As one respondent put it:

I work a lot from home, I make my own rules and decisions, and I don’t have a third of the stress I had in my last job.

This survey provides just a single snapshot of the careers of journalists whose lives are – like journalism itself – in an extended period of flux.

But with 94% indicating they’re willing to be surveyed annually over the next three years, we’re hoping to develop a much richer insight into how the collective experience of so many of our senior journalists might yet play a role in the evolution of a very different mediascape, and, indeed, in other professions too.

The author would like to acknowledge the contribution of Merryn Sherwood at La Trobe University to this article and the New Beats team.

Lawrie Zion does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
Read the original article.

New Beats at the JEAA conference

The New Beats project will be discussed at two sessions of the Journalism Education Association of Australia conference at the Sunshine Coast on Monday 2 December.

The first of these, held straight after lunch, is the “Current and Future Trends in Journalism” session, where Lawrie Zion will present the findings of the project’s pilot survey conducted in September in a paper he co-authored with Merryn Sherwood, who has been working as a research assistant with the project. Responses from 95 journalists who became redundant in 2012 were received for this survey, which asked respondents about their experience of redundancy and their current work status.

Later on Monday afternoon Penny O’Donnell (one of the five chief investigators working on New Beats) will chair a session devoted to discussion about the project entitled “New Directions in Australian Journalism”. Fellow panelists include former Sydney Morning Herald editor Peter Fray, who now heads Politifact Australia, and Liz Minchin, who is Queensland editor of The Conversation, as well as New Beats team members Matthew Ricketson, Andrew Dodd, and Lawrie Zion.

Journalist Survey

During September we are inviting any journalists who became redundant in Australia during 2012 to complete our first survey. The main aims of this survey are to find out what is happening now to members of this group, and to help frame the main research questions for a three-year project that will track what happens next to them, and to journalism.  You can find out more about the project here.

The survey is completely confidential and takes about 20 minutes to complete. We’ve had a great response so far, but we’re keen to ensure that we reach as broad a sample as possible.

We’ll be discussing the findings from this survey in future posts on this blog and at the 2013 Journalism Education Association of Australia conference which will be held in the Sunshine Coast in December.

So if you became redundant from a journalism job last year, please get in touch with us using the form below.


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