Reviewed by Richard Tutin
Journalism and journalists are constantly in the spotlight. Whether it is watching the nightly television news or reading the various newspapers in their paper or digital forms, we are constantly hearing or reading the results of the journalistic craft. Journalists have come under attack in recent times as societies grapple with the concept of “fake news” as against factual information that is presented via articles, documentaries or the shorter reporting mechanisms that give us our dose of media bites on a 24/7 basis.
It is no wonder that the cover essay of this edition of Meanjin takes a long hard look at the history and practice of Australian journalism. Margaret Simons is an award-winning journalist and academic who has practised her craft for forty years. Her detailed examination begins by discussing the dedication journalists have shown in producing fearless, well researched and objective articles that have informed readers and helped shape opinion on a range of issues. Simons then critically examines the ways in which the pressure of the digital age has affected a journalist’s ability to offer unbiased opinion shaping material that doesn’t denigrate but seeks to uncover the facts and test the information being offered by politicians and business leaders.
For Simons, the modern approach fostered by the current demands of various media is not the journalism she aspired to when she began her career hence the title of her essay “This is not Journalism”.
There is the realisation that perhaps things will not change very much unless our relationship with various forms of media, especially social media, changes. Simons offers a lot of food for thought on a topic that affects us all.
Meanjin has, since its foundation in 1940, been a journal dedicated to the publication of fine literature. Its mix of essays, fiction, memoir and poetry covers a wide territory that shows the depth of Australia literary talent. Some contributions are easy to read and enjoy while others such as Catherine MacKinnon’s essay “Weathering, Tethering, Transforming” and Madison Griffiths memoir “Scripture of the Heaviest Kind” caused me to think more deeply about issues affecting today’s world.
The importance of literary journals cannot be underestimated. Meanjin has given Australian writers a place where they can be published and receive feedback about their works from the reading public. As well, cover essays such as Margaret Simon’s insightful examination of Australian journalism make a valuable contribution to discussions and debate about important issues.
Meanjin was founded in Brisbane in 1940. The journal moved to Melbourne in 1945 at the invitation of the University of Melbourne. It aims to reflect the breadth of literary thinking within Australia and is published four times per year. Its current editor is Jonathan Green who has been an editor, writer, commentator and broadcaster for over 40 years. He was appointed Meanjin’s editor in 2015.
Meanjin 81, No 2 This is not Journalism
Jonathan Green (ed)
Melbourne University Press
ISBN 978 052287 848 6