Philanthropy’s Role in the Future of Journalism
26 March 2018 at 8:28 am
Anita Jacoby is an award-winning journalist and television producer, who established the Jacoby-Walkley Scholarship to help young journalists break into the media industry. She is this week’s Changemaker.
Jacoby has had a distinguished media career working for television programs like 60 Minutes, The Today Show and Enough Rope, winning a Logie Award and multiple AFI Awards along the way.
She also has experience as a non-executive director on a number of not-for-profit boards, including headspace and The Funding Network.
In 2013, Jacoby established the Jacoby-Walkley Scholarship, a 14-week paid journalism internship program for young broadcast journalists looking to get their foot in the door of the media industry.
The scholarship was set-up in partnership with The Walkley Foundation and looks to honour the legacy of Anita’s father Phillip Jacoby, a pioneer in the Australian electronics and broadcast industries.
In this week’s Changemaker, Jacoby discusses why she established the scholarship, describes why philanthropy has a role to play in the future of journalism, and explains how more women can enter positions of power in a male-dominated media industry.
What is your history working in the media industry?
I have always had a big passion for news and current affairs. I started out as a news and current affairs journalist working across a number of news programs, and then I moved into current affairs as a senior producer on 60 Minutes and worked on that for many years, along with the Sunday program and Witness and many other current affairs programs.
Then I moved across and for 10 years I worked alongside Andrew Denton, and we created a lot of original television shows for all of the networks, but always at the heart of those television shows was the word integrity. We would never do anything that we didn’t believe was important to do or tell stories that we didn’t feel were important to tell.
After that I was the managing director of ITV Studios here in Australia and I sit as authority member of the Australian Communications and Media Authority. But I’ve always had a very strong interest in social justice and social issues and the capacity for the media to be at the forefront of making change.
Why did you decide to set-up the Jacoby-Walkley Scholarship and what do you hope young journalists get out of it?
I’ve been watching the media landscape like a lot of other people, and watching the number of journalists that are leaving the industry. It terrifies me that we aren’t catering for up and coming journalists because all society is based on information and understanding information and using that information.
And a number of years ago I wanted to do something in my father’s memory and I thought it was one of the best things that I could do, because there’s something like 3,000 to 4,000 journalists who have left our industry, which means that three to four thousand people aren’t telling us the sort of stories that we really do need to know and which shapes public opinion.
So about six years ago I went to The Walkley Foundation, which is the leading journalism foundation here in Australia, and I asked them about setting up a scholarship in my father Phillip Jacoby’s memory and they were terrific about it. I then approached Channel Nine, because they were my former home for many years when I worked on 60 Minutes and the Today Show and other shows, and asked them if they would be a part of it.
They agreed to offer a young intern at least two months experience interning on Channel Nine News, on The Today Show, they get a week on A Current Affair, they get a month on 60 Minutes, and they get some time in the Nine digital space, so that they understand what it means to be a broadcast journalist and how important that is. We cast it for people 26 years and younger who are looking for a way of getting into the media industry, that’s not about networking and who you know but rather what you know and your capacity to come into an industry and make change in that industry and also influence public opinion.
So that’s how the scholarship was born. They also get a course at the Australian Film Television and Radio School. They get to work with some of the key people from The Walkley Foundation who are journalists like Kate McClymont, Angelos Frangopoulos from Sky News and Quentin Dempster formerly of the ABC, who are really high profile and leading journalists. And then they get to work on the Walkley Awards and are also paid a stipend.
That’s kind of what the scholarship is and for example, the winner of the scholarship last year Lydia Bilton, who’s a young woman from Moree and who studied at Sydney University, has just landed her first paid job as a digital producer working for 60 Minutes. So that’s a great opportunity for somebody who wouldn’t necessarily have got a look in on a job like that.
The Jacoby-Walkley Scholarship is in its sixth year! It was established in 2013 with the help of TV producer Anita Jacoby to recognise the legacy of her father, Phillip Jacoby.
— Walkley Foundation (@walkleys) March 14, 2018
Guardian Australia and the University of Melbourne recently launched the Guardian Civic Journalism Trust to support public interest journalism. Given the philanthropy involved in this and also the Jacoby-Walkley Scholarship, what role do you think philanthropy can play in supporting journalism into the future?
Well I mean all journalism is about storytelling and it’s about telling us the stories that we need to know but don’t necessarily know. And I think given the financial impact on a lot of media companies and how tough it is for media companies now to reinvent themselves in this digital climate, philanthropy is going to increasingly play a really important role in journalism and in training young journalists.
And I was talking with some people from The Walkley Foundation the other day and they’re particularly keen to go out and speak to philanthropists and those running foundations. Because if you’re wanting to target for example Indigenous issues, or if you wanted to target education or health issues or whatever your passion might be, then being able to have more journalists on the ground telling the stories that we really need to know, so that people’s awareness levels are raised, is just so critical and it’s going to be more and more critical in the years to come.
Journalist Tracey Spicer is currently leading an investigation into sexual misconduct in the media industry as part of the #metoo movement. Do you think it’s important this kind of movement takes place to ensure female journalists feel safe in the workplace?
I don’t think #metoo is just about female journalists. I think it’s about females worldwide in any workplace. It happens to have been highlighted with females in the media sector and probably the media has been the first real area that we’ve looked at because of what’s happened with Harvey Weinstein over in America, which is a lot about the aphrodisiac of fame and what people feel that they may or may not need to do.
But here in Australia, it’s across most industries. And so the fact that it’s being discussed and some cases are being exposed is a really good thing for women around the world, not just female journalists.
Who are the people in the media industry who have mentored and inspired you throughout your career?
Interestingly enough, it’s mainly blokes. The media industry has been very male dominated, and it still is today, so I’ve mainly been employed by men. And so those people that have influenced me are people like Peter Meakin, who is a sort of doyen here in Australia of news and current affairs. He was my former executive producer and boss on 60 Minutes when I worked there and he is a very dynamic newsmaker and current affairs person. Kevin Weldon, who is now in his mid 80s, would be one of our leading entrepreneurs. He’s heavily influenced and shaped who and what I am.
And I think probably the former managing director of Channel Seven, a gentleman called Ted Thomas, has shaped and impacted on my life a lot. So unfortunately I can’t single out many women. They haven’t been really accessible in my career.
Even though the media is currently very male-dominated, do you think things are changing so that more women can get into positions of power in the media industry?
I do think it’s changing and I do think more women will get in positions of power in the media. Especially in the commercial media where women are so influential in what we purchase. Women purchase 80 per cent of the household goods. So they’re very influential and they’re also very influential in what people watch and consume on television or whatever other device you’re watching.
So I think as that message gets out there, more and more women will hopefully get a foothold in the upper echelon and be decision makers. Because I think women can influence change by encouraging other women into that hemisphere. You know there’s this notion of unconscious bias, and some men will tend to employ people that reflect their own values and who and what they are. And so hopefully that will [also] be the case with more women in senior management roles.
The media industry is very fragmented at the moment and difficulties with revenue models are putting a strain on resources. Are there any journalists or media organisations who you think are doing great work and standing out despite this uncertainty?
I think the New York Times is a great example of what great journalism can do and they consistently offer quality journalism. They break stories, they’re consistently setting the bar high and they show that great journalism and great storytelling will win out every time. People have this great need to know what’s happening in the world, and they want to know that the information they’re getting is accurate.
With all this rubbish about fake news… people’s perception is “well if there is this notion of fake news, I must have accuracy and I must have quality journalism”. And I think it’s really incumbent on media proprietors and media companies to keep delivering that kind of journalism.
Is there anything you are reading or watching at the moment? Or a particular podcast you are listening to?
Well I can probably talk to all three of those, because I’m a great consumer of content. There’s a podcast that I caught on Radio National, which was a documentary on the death of a Canberra mum, and it was as a result of domestic violence and that was really compelling. It was a great way of listeners being really exposed to more of the issues surrounding domestic violence.
I think in terms of watching television or consuming content in that medium, I’ve just watched that Jane Goodall documentary called Jane, about the woman who led the world in primate research. It’s the most amazing documentary.
In terms of reading, Cynthia Banham – who’s the former Sydney Morning Herald journalist who was in that awful plane crash in Yogyakarta back 10 or 11 years ago, where I think more than 20 people died and she lost her legs – has just written a book and I’m really keen to see what her story has been in the last 10 or 11 years since that awful accident.