The Australian Press Council is looking to build long-term partnerships with tech companies such as Google, Twitter, Facebook and Apple – organisations that are transforming the media industry yet traditionally have had no involvement with the council.
Press council chairman Professor David Weisbrot intends to explore this possibility at an international press freedom conference to be staged by the council next year.
“We have a long established relationship with the traditional media organisations. We’re trying also at this conference to explore both intellectually and pragmatically how we can work with groups like Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn,” Prof Weisbrot said.
“So in any event we’re trying to explore with them how they see the future of journalism going and also how they’d propose to support high standards of journalism and advocacy around press freedom and so on.”
The council has recently welcomed digital-only publications like Daily Mail and Huffington Post Australia as members, although it may take a couple of years before the likes of Google seek to join.
Still, Prof Weisbrot believes that it is a discussion that needs to be had – especially at a time when tech companies are increasingly encroaching on the territory of traditional media companies with platforms like Apple News and Facebook’s Notify app.
“The more I talk to people in the industry, like senior editors, they keep saying things like ‘Well I’m not sure we’ll be publishing newspapers per se in the future. We will exist as content providers, but it may be the aggregators like Google and Facebook and so on that will be more of the publishers’,” Prof Weisbrot said.
The international conference will mark the press council’s 40th anniversary in May. It is expected to feature sessions with senior executives from Google, Facebook and Twitter, although local and international challenges to press freedom will be a significant theme.
The conference’s keynote speaker is Russian investigative journalist Anna Nemstova who was detained by militia when reporting on the downing of MH-17 and Russia’s support of rebels fighting in Eastern Ukraine.
Other topics to be explored are the influence of technological, social and commercial change on journalism, the role of independent press councils and the need to reform secrecy, censorship and defamation laws.
“We’re also going to devote a fair bit of attention to the future of investigative reporting and that’s being crunched in several ways,” Prof Weisbrot said
He made special mention of changes that have exposed journalists to breaches of “overly broad” terrorism legislation, the problems of defamation, and threats to whistleblowers through metadata retention laws.
The three-day conference will be held in Sydney, beginning on May 3. It will feature presentations by founding editor of New Delhi’s NewsLaundry Madhu Trehan and former China editor of the South China Morning Post Willy Lam.
The three-day event will be followed by the Walkley Foundation’s annual Press Freedom Dinner fundraiser, which is run in conjunction with the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.