Federal Politics


Wanting it all: the cred of print without having to pay

There were mixed reactions last week's to Fairfax's announcement that The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age were going tabloid.

I talked to young people who are excited about a move to tabloid format; they see it as easier to hold and read, and a change that newspapers need.

I talked to young people who say they will probably stop buying Fairfax papers if it moves to tabloid size, because they would find it harder (bizarrely) to fold and transport and who cares anyway, ''print is a dead medium''.

I also talked to young people who are furious that quality journalism is going ''tabloid'' and won't buy Fairfax papers if they'll ''just be full of gossip, horoscopes, and pictures of nude celebs'' (Don't worry, I explained it). The 1900 jobs that will go were not acknowledged.

Almost everyone I spoke to were not happy about the pay wall but felt they would find a way around it. But this ''imminent'' death of newspapers - is it Gen Y's fault?

I would say, yes, in part: you can't demand quality journalism if you don't want to pay for it. Likewise, if you don't consume a company's product, eventually that product will be unsustainable and cease to exist.


According to Roy Morgan research from February this year, 34 per cent of the average Australian population were getting their news online while 47 per cent of Gen Ys were doing the same. According to ''Newspapers Today'', a 2007 study conducted by Celsius Research and published on thenewspaperworks.com.au, ''Gen Ys are 140 per cent more likely to agree that the content in newspapers is better respected than in any other main media.''

And as the above Roy Morgan research shows, they're more likely to go online for this information.

So what happens when these respected news sources collapse, or are bought out by a powerful figure who wishes to impose their personal beliefs on the editorial content of the paper? Who do we trust to respect the public debate fairly? And where do you start in finding a credible news source that is based purely online?

New Matilda, Independent Australia and Crikey are known to media junkies but your average Gen Y would have never heard of them.

Perhaps we are more concerned about getting our news from established brands because we're aware that the internet is rife with fakes. Anyone can start a blog or a website and make it look legit enough to fool an unsuspecting visitor.

It's so easy to forge the truth, either satirically (The Onion has tricked many into believing it is real, including the Beijing Evening News) or for gain (for example, a Holocaust denier rewriting history).

Back to the original question though. I think it will be our fault if the news sources we trust disappear.

In times like these, as consumers or investors, we have to think about how petty our reasons are.

Does the size of the page really matter, when the alternative is not having that news source at all anymore?

Twitter: @stephsmartCT