Geography of the Australian television newsroom

Publication Type:
Thesis
Issue Date:
2012
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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- This thesis presents an analysis of the nature and significance of spatial factors in constraining, enabling and shaping the journalistic practices and the professional ethos of those working in the Australian Broadcasting Commission's television newsroom since its move to Ultimo from Gore Hill in Sydney. Conceptual analyses of the geography and 'habitus' (Bourdieu) of news professionals, and the many and varied claims for the significance of spatial factors in practical production issues, are reviewed. The Ultimo newsroom, and, indeed, the whole ABC media production and broadcast functions became fully digital during the period studied. So the 'space' of journalism about which my 18 interviewees speak must be understood subjectively as both material and local, as well as 'virtual' and potentially global. Exploring archival materials relating to the television newsroom of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Sydney and in-depth interviews with those working in this space, including news managers and other relevant professionals, this thesis describes how a physical newsroom evolved, and how the news workers situate themselves in, and operate within the physical environment of the contemporary broadcast newsroom. Interviewees reflect insightfully on the issues arising from the overall design of their workplace, its floor plan, and its relationships with other sections and hence other functions carried out in the Harris Street building. They speak of their attachment (or not) to their organisation, professional and bureaucratic conflict and contestations within the news organisation, and, importantly, present strongly held views about whether television journalism can be practised in future independently of a physical newsroom that reflects the practices of news gathering, compilation and distribution that became the norm during the past half century. Interviewees gave voice to conflicting professional perspectives. They spoke of the vital role of workplaces and spaces in determining their self-image and (in Bourdieu's terms) their professional 'capital' as journalists, rather than seeing themselves as mere media workers anonymously producing a commodity. It was unclear whether space per se exacerbates, or helps participants to manage, the various professional contestations that arise within complex organizations and are reflected in the different degrees of social power of those employed within the confines of the newsroom. However, none of the journalists thought that the physical newsroom would wither away in future due to technological and other changes, because, for them, news work is a collective enterprise, and requires a physical coordination centre and spaces conducive to collegiality to function properly. Despite the interviewees consistently addressing issues familiar to students of journalistic practice and professional self-definition, the explanatory adequacy of sociological theory, even apparently empirically grounded approaches such as Bourdieu's, remains problematic. Perhaps because of the rapid and unpredictable evolution of news practice and its spatial grounding, the triumphs, problems and conflicts experienced in the physical spaces of production escape the nets of theoretical analysis.
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