Public Knowledge Forum

Tags: Public Knowledge Forum

4 November 2013

Time: 11:00am - 10:30pm

Location: Sydney Opera House

PKFDramatic shifts in the media industry threaten traditional reporting. What is the new journalism, does it inform the public, and what does this mean for democracy?

The Public Knowledge Forum brought together distinguished opinion leaders from technology, politics, and the press to help answer pressing questions about the future of journalism and its impact on governance and public policy. How has the technological and economic disruption of the media business affected journalism’s ability to hold institutions accountable? In a world of fragmented audiences and time-shifted media consumption, can the new media still create the common pool of knowledge on which democratic self-government depends? Is our usage of the internet as a platform for news degrading or enhancing the quality of our public conversations?

Launching with Life after truth: The death of journalism and what this means for democracy, presented in conjunction with the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, the Forum presented a full day of lively and challenging panel discussions, and the opportunity to be part of the audience for the ABC's Q&A program, which was broadcast live from the Sydney Opera House.


Program 

Sunday 3 November - Festival of Dangerous Ideas

16.00  

Life after truth: The death of journalism and what this means for democracy
The mass media model that brought breaking news into our homes has crumbled under the weight of digital media. As newspapers shrink and media empires disappear, what has happened to the concepts and ideals that underpinned them? The relationship between 'news' and 'truth' and the idea of journalism as a crusading vocation with a special role in defending democracy may be two of the casualties of this upheaval. If traditional 'news' has become a toxic stew of violence, opinion, and gossip, are we looking at life after truth? Does this mean democracies without informed citizens, or can new media give democracies what they need? Can we look forward to a new era of real freedom of information, or will the technologies that fractured the old systems crush the utopian dreams of the new one?

Conrad Black, former media proprietor
Annabel Crabb, ABC chief online political reporter
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post columnist
with James Fallows, The Atlantic national correspondent

  Sydney Opera House Concert Hall

 

Monday 4 November - Public Knowledge Forum

10.15   Registration and morning tea  

Sydney Opera House
Studio Theatre Foyer 

11.00  

Official welcome and introduction

Bates Gill, CEO of the United States Studies Centre
The Honourable Marie Ficarra MLC
, Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier of NSW
James Fallows, The Atlantic national correspondent

 

Studio Theatre

11.10  

Session one: The nature of journalism
Have internet-enabled platforms for journalism amplified existing characteristics of the news media, such as partisanship and commercial pressures, rather than creating new challenges? Was journalism ever ‘objective’ and does it need to be in order to perform a useful function in society? What are the implications for citizens of a partisan or ideologically driven media? What does a ‘post truth’ environment mean for journalism and the political debate? Has public confidence in the rigour and usefulness of the news media declined in a permanently damaging way?

Jonathan Holmes, former MediaWatch presenter
Walter Russell Mead, editor-at-large of The American Interest
Jay Rosen, New York University professor
with Leigh Sales, ABC 730 host

 

Studio Theatre

12.00  

Session two: News media as watchdog
How has the technological and economic disruption of the media business affected journalism’s ability to hold institutions accountable? Do newspapers and other traditional media organisations still play a dominant role in setting the public agenda? Are new media organisations, individual journalists, or other institutions (such as universities) capable of filling gaps created by resource cuts in traditional media organisations? Are some important subjects or communities affected by this deficit more than others? What is the appropriate role of citizens in the watchdog process? What are the implications for journalism of the current national security climate?

Melissa Chan, correspondent for Al Jazeera
Mary Kissel, member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board
Eugene Robinson, columnist at the Washington Post
with Helen Dalley, Sky News host

  Studio Theatre
13.00  

Lunch: A conversation

Conrad Black, former media proprietor
The Honourable Bob Carr, former Australian foreign minister

  Northern Foyer 
14.45  

Session three: Common ground
In a world of fragmented audiences and time-shifted media consumption, has our shared understanding been undermined? Who determines what information is considered important after the traditional bundle of news has been dismantled? Does an increased reliance on niche and partisan news sources change people’s relationship to politics? What, if any, implications does this have for social cohesion, the health of our democracies and public policy making?

John Judis, editor for The New Republic
Mary Kissel, member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board
Iain Walker, executive director at the newDemocracy Foundation
with Sara James, correspondent for NBC

  Studio Theatre
15.35  

Session four: Engaged audiences
What affects have the use of social media platforms had on journalism? Does having direct and active relationships with the 'audience' change the way stories are chosen and told? Does this engagement represent a welcome corrective to the imperfect closeted journalism of the past or is it a threat to the quality of public knowledge and political participation? What are the implications of the rise of social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, as popular vehicles for sharing and distributing news?

Hal Crawford, editor in chief of ninemsn
Nicole Hemmer, American media and politics scholar
Jonathan Rauch, Brookings Institution and The Atlantic
with Julia Baird, New York Times columnist and host of The Drum on ABC TV

  Studio Theatre
16.25   Afternoon tea
 
  Studio Theatre Foyer
16.55  

Session five: News as serious business
Is the 'market' for news being set by audiences' tastes and expectations or the incentives and preferences of media organisations and journalists? Is it a cause for concern that 'worthy' news might attract small audiences or has it always been that way? Is our usage of the internet as a platform for news degrading or enhancing the quality of our public conversations? Many consumers of news are overloaded with information, but do they know less than ever about current events?

Jay Newton-Small, correspondent for Time
Robert Schlesinger, opinion editor at US News & Word Report
Kate Torney, director of news at the ABC
with John Barron, ABC host and journalist

  Studio Theatre
17.45  

Session six: Where to from here?
In this dynamic media environment are there causes for optimism about the viability of serious journalism and the standard of political debate? What are the most promising approaches being taken by news media organisations and other institutions, such as governments and universities, to meeting the information needs of communities?

Eric Beecher, journalist, editor and media proprietor
Paul Kelly, editor-at-large for The Australian
Jay Rosen, New York University professor
with James Fallows, The Atlantic national correspondent

  Studio Theatre
18.35   Cocktail dinner

  Drama Theatre Foyer
21.30   ABC Q&A
 
  Concert Hall
22.30   Conference ends    


The Public Knowledge Forum was an initiative of the United States Studies Centre with the support of the NSW Government.

NSW Government

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