Former journalist and politician Maxine McKew has described the current state of journalism as a “lawless wild west”.
Speaking at the Global Integrity Summit in Brisbane on press power, press freedom and journalistic integrity, Ms McKew said the changes in journalism were bypassing traditional checks and balances.
“We are in the time of significant transition,” Ms McKew said.
“I think that means that the old rules in many cases have been junked and it’s a bit of a lawless wild west at the moment.”
The former Walkley Award winner, who also held former Prime Minister John Howard’s seat of Bennelong from 2007 to 2010, said while new media had in some cases enhanced free speech, the lack of editorial process could cause concern.
“I applaud the fact that there is a democratic flowering of citizen journalism out there,” she said.
“It means that anyone can be out there expressing an opinion or writing a news piece and that can go out on multiple platforms. In one way that’s a good thing, but you also have to say what are the checks on that? How informed is that view? What are the limits on hostility and malice?
“The world from which we are moving had clear editorial lines around what could and could not be said. Now clearly with a world that has fewer boundaries… who are the new gatekeepers?”
Ms McKew implored journalists to fight against any government restrictions which prevented them from doing their job.
“I think it’s really important, as journalists like Laurie Oakes and Sarah Ferguson have been saying recently, that journalists collectively push back against many of the trends designed to stop them doing what they are doing.
“That is exposing, investigating and reporting on what in some cases the political class does not want people to report on.”
One such trend, Australia’s metadata laws, which require ISPs to store metadata for two years from yesterday (October 13), will affect journalists ability to protect the identity of anonymous sources such as whistleblowers.