Ulrik Haagerup, boss of Constructive Institute at Aarhus University. (Photo: Judith Nielson Institute)

Readers of news in Australia among ‘least engaged’

Media companies need to step up their game to better engage a rapidly changing audience, according to a panel of senior journalists.

Speaking at the Judith Neilson Institute’s Constructing Tomorrow’s News conference on Tuesday the panel added that consumers of news need to be re-engaged.

Ulrik Haagerup, the CEO and founder of the Constructive Institute, a movement that provides access to best practices and relevant training to news organisation, said: “Australia is one of the least engaged countries in regards to consuming news.

He added, according to the Trust Barometer: “Australia is above the global average in regards to countries that believe the system [government/news media] is not working.”

Director of News at the ABC Gavin Morris said: “So often journalism these day is coming from closed minds… we’re so predictable.”

The panel discussion at Price Waterhouse Coopers head office in Sydney’s Barangaroo, also discussed pay walls and the quality of news regarding the bushfires.

Lenore Taylor, Gaven Morris, Lisa Davies, Ulrik Haagerup and Campbell Reid. (Photo: Mansour Shukoor)

Sydney Morning Herald editor Lisa Davies said: “Newsrooms are smaller, it is getting harder to get journos willing to travel out into the field.

“Even though we did not have a paywall for any of our bushfire content, we have noticed an increase in subscribers. Showing that people want good quality journalism.”

JNI executive director Mark Ryan began the event by acknowledging the impending closure of the AAP after 85 years. Constructing Tomorrow’s News is one of JNIs initiatives to educate the industry on the current challenges faced by journalists such as engaging a greater audience.

The panel discussion was quite combative at times.

Guardian editor Lenore Taylor discussed the “democracy of media”, prompting News Corp Director of Corporate Affairs Campbell Reid to interject: “We live in a social media democracy, not a media democracy.”

Macleay reps, from left to right, student Mansour Shukoor, head of media Fiona West, students James Yousif and Juliane Lehmayer, and lecturer Lynelle Scott-Aitkin.

The discussion shifted to the most topical event in the news agenda, the coronavirus, and how news media should report on the matter responsibly.

Taylor commented: “It’s a hard story to cover because information is difficult to nail down.”

Constructing Tomorrow’s News in partnership had one common message across the industry – empower the public with the truth.