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Media faces rise of DIY news: Oakes

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By Ross Peake

Veteran journalist Laurie Oakes.

Veteran journalist Laurie Oakes. Photo: Graham Tidy

Veteran journalist Laurie Oakes is predicting the rise of DIY journalism as political parties, interest groups and corporations set up newsrooms to try to sidestep scrutiny by the media.

''It's not hard - all you need is a laptop, 50 bucks for a video camera and you're away,'' he said on Thursday.

He sees a gloomy economic future for mainstream media outlets but believes Australians will still want authoritative, fact-based news.

Oakes delivered an in-depth analysis of the future of the media in Canberra in the Walkley centenary lecture.

The annual Walkley media conference is being held in Canberra on Thursday and Friday to celebrate Canberra's centenary next year, and to recognise the national capital's important role in Australian life and the critical role that journalism plays in federal politics.

The prestigious Walkley awards honouring high achieving journalists will be presented at a black-tie dinner on Friday at Parliament House.

Oakes, himself a multi-award winner, said he wanted to be optimistic about the future of political journalism and the Parliament House-based press gallery.

''But I have to say I'm not as optimistic as I'd like to be,'' he said.

The symbiotic relationship between politicians and journalists is now changing.

''In an internet era that is fragmenting the media as we've known it and making new communications technology easily and cheaply available to anyone - including politicians, parties and political interest groups - the press gallery's role seems set to decline, which obviously has implications for the health of our political system,'' he said.

Politicians have the ability to assume journalistic functions, and take advantage of that.

''They'll be our competitors, if you like, as well as our subject matter,'' he said.

Oakes said former prime minister Kevin Rudd, with 1.1 million Twitter followers, 75,000 Facebook friends and his own YouTube channel, can get information to a substantial audience without having to rely on media organisations.

''With Labor leadership talk in the air, Rudd goes for a streetwalk and is mobbed. The media wants vision and - what do you know? - one of his staff has filmed the event and vision is available on YouTube,'' Oakes said.

''That the mainstream media has access is one benefit, but also - and perhaps more importantly - Rudd gets to the constituency he wants direct.

''Rudd might be the master, the most advanced and media savvy, but any MP or senator can do the same thing, and gradually they're getting into it.

''As strapped-for-cash media organisations try desperately to do more with less, politicians and political parties will push out their own content with the invitation: 'Here is our footage, it's on YouTube and it's high definition, use it if you want to.'

''With the digitisation wrecking ball continuing to cause havoc and their resources dwindling, media organisations will find themselves less and less able to be proud or principled about this.

''They'll get to the stage where, if there's content and it's cheap - or, better still, free - they'll grab it.''

Qantas is already taking the opportunity to be a content provider, setting up its own newsroom to control how operational incidents that might damage its reputation are reported.

He said there was still a large appetite for fact-based journalism. The day before the American presidential election, one in five visitors to The New York Times' website, one of the most trafficked news sites in the United States, went to a blog providing rigorous analysis of polling, politics and public affairs.

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