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Choosing to tune out? The role of journalism in todays changing media landscape.

For a long time now parents have been talking about the internet being a place where it’s hard to track their children’s movement. What are they watching? What violent games are they playing? How does the content they watch and interact with shape their perspective of the world?

But when is the last time you stepped back and seriously questioned your own media consumption and the effect that it has not only on you but on the adults around you? With the changes in technology have come changes in the way that we use media. We no longer need to watch a range of diverse television programmes back to back due to the lack of alternative options. We no longer need to watch advertisements either, which I don’t see a downside to personally…but it has also become clear that when we get to choose easily what we do and don’t want to see, we are consistently leaning towards shallow entertainment based media and sidestepping more in depth educational programming. 

This trend has recently come to the forefront of conversation in New Zealand with the cancellation of Campbell Live – one of the few quality investigative journalism resources that was widely accessible to mainstream NZ. No other programme lays bare the realities and hardships faced by the vulnerable and marginalised in this country or delves into the lives of ordinary (and extraordinary) New Zealanders like this one did. The uproar at the loss of the much-loved show was perhaps too little too late. Ratings had been low for some time, and although the nation turned out in massive numbers to support John Campbell once the impending axing was made public; the question that Mediaworks were asking themselves was “Is the 7pm slot still the right time for hard-hitting current affairs in the changing landscape of media consumption?”. 

It is as though it has suddenly dawned on us that the television generation is slipping away. Now screens are simply displays for whatever type of media that you as a consumer dictate. Turns out the vast majority of us prefer mind-numbing ‘reality’ (whose?) shows like Dancing with the Stars and Come Dine with Me to actual thought inducing content, and we want access to them 24/7. Where our media and television habits once meant that we could be fed a balanced diet of entertainment alongside news and current affairs, it seems now as though television producers are scrambling to bring more of the trivial drivel that we devour to the small screen in an effort to not become completely obsolete.  The over-the-air networks are no longer in charge. Now it is the programmes themselves that hold the power. Now you can download a show and watch 32 back to back episodes on a Sunday completely uninterrupted. 

Our media habits are driving this change. That is a fact we cannot ignore and while there is a large proportion of people out there who reject the fast-food style reality television industry…there would seem to be a much larger proportion of the mainstream population who lap it up, finding release in forgetting the daily grind by tuning in to someone else’s life for a while. 

The sad state of television

The sad state of television

The question is, what is the place of investigative journalism in todays media landscape? Is there one? It seems as though many people no longer care what happens ‘out there’, but does that mean we should stop sharing important information and having those important discussions? The thought of everyone around me turning into brain-dead, unthinking, stupefied versions of themselves is more than a little chilling. So how do we encourage active involvement in the world around us? What will journalisms role look like in facilitating that? Come and address these ideas and more at the next Womens Collective discussion on June 29th. The topic is The Fourth Estate, and we are super lucky to be hosting two supreme investigative journalists, Mike McRoberts (TV3) and Paula Penfold (3D) and also Dr Valentina Cardo of the University of Auckland. You can RSVP your attendance here