Andrew Olle Media Lecture: “I’ve been one of those people avoiding the news”

ABC's Leigh Sales spoke to news avoidance and declining trust in media organisations.

ABC’s Leigh Sales last night presented the Andrew Olle Media Lecture at Doltone House, Hyde Park.

In her speech she spoke about trust and News relevance with audiences, revealing that after stepping away from 7:30 she turned away from the news cycle.

Here are select excerpts:

“Recently, I’ve been one of those people avoiding the news. I’ve spent this year doing jobs in front of and behind the camera that have given me a break from immersion in the daily news cycle and that’s been a relief. What is going on, when the news is losing not just its regular audience, but alienating a career newshound like me? This is what I’m going to explore tonight. News avoidance and declining trust are media discussions going on around the world right now, from the BBC to The New York Times, and at every major organisation in between.

“My own honest opinion as to why many people are losing interest in the news? Because that kind of journalism is not as common as it once was and as a result, people rightly don’t always trust us any more.

“Too often, too many journalists, at all media organisations, are abandoning values espoused by people like Andrew Olle, for various reasons. One is that some reporters prefer to be activists and crusaders rather than fact-finders or straight reporters. They enjoy their heroic status among the tribes of social media or their subscribers. I’m not sure they can even identify their own bias. Others haven’t had enough training to understand what independent journalism actually is, or their organisation has an ideological bias and the reporter knows the way to get ahead is to toe the line … better still, to step over it. Or perhaps it’s awkward and exhausting to constantly push back against the groupthink of your colleagues. Another reason is fear of the consequences of reporting the full picture: that inconvenient facts could set back a cause the journalist believes in. Others think objectivity is impossible and so even striving for it is pointless.

“According to Roy Morgan Research, the ABC is Australia’s most trusted media organisation. But let’s be honest, all media organisations, from the ABC to News Corp, are being affected by news avoidance and declining audience trust. The media overall is close to the bottom of the trust index. The ABC is currently the 18th most trusted brand in Australia, while News Corp is the 4th most DIStrusted. Back in 2019, the ABC was fifth most trusted.

“Let’s have the guts to look that in the face. It’s incumbent on every individual journalist in every newsroom, and I include myself in that of course, to ask ourselves, are WE doing something that’s causing audiences to avoid the news and to trust us less? If we’re too scared to scrutinise that, and to examine the issues we choose to emphasise and how we go about reporting stories and to perhaps have some awkward conversations about that, then we compromise our integrity.

“Maybe you’re thinking hmm, this all sounds pretty down on journalism coming from somebody who claims to love it. I do still love it and actually, there’s plenty of reporting that still inspires me.

“We are so lucky to have the chance to do what we do on behalf of the public. I think a lot about whether I personally do enough to honour what a responsibility and privilege that is, and I hope I’ve done my best tonight … and always … not to win the approval of people in this room … but to deserve the trust of the regular Australian watching or listening at home.”

You can read it in full here.

Andrew Olle Media Lecture screens 5pm Saturday on ABC.

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