Women’s Magazine Editors:  What are they doing and who’s training them?
Kayt Davies
Edith Cowan University

Media commentator Mark Day* summed up a whole field of critique when he called women’s magazines “the least credible print products”. He shares concerns voiced by Jay Rosen and Margaret Simons who have argued against the idea that entertainment is one of the primary functions of news. Another field of critique, suggests that women’s magazines are vehicles for oppressive ideologies about women. And yet, despite these apparent shortcomings, women’s magazines are thriving in the changing media landscape. This presentation will showcase the results of an ethnographic study of contemporary Australian women’s magazine editors. It finds support for the premise that they don’t perceive their role purely as journalism or in the way that feminist scholars critical of their cultural influence and morality see them. The study involved qualitative interviews with seven WA editors and a questionnaire completed by editors of 30 of the top 50 magazines in Australia, ranked by female readership figures. Most editors said that they consider themselves to be journalists but they don’t think their work is well understood by other journalists. Most editors said they were more interested in influencing culture than reporting on it and, asked which issues they were promoting cultural change on, they listed several. Six key media figures were then asked to comment on the results of the questionnaire and their responses indicate that some aspects of the role and function of women’s magazine editors in Australia are hotly contested and viewed from a range of perspectives. The core motivation behind the study is the notion that it is important to understand what women’s magazine editors do, from their own perspective, before calling for them to change. It also has ramifications for journalism educators who are, to a growing extent, responsible for training the next generation of magazine editors. It also begs questions about how well we are preparing them for a role that involves promoting cultural change. Another interesting area of concern illustrated by the study is the extent to which women’s magazine editors are assumed to have mystical abilities to “intuit” what their readers want, and the way they are punished in the workplace if and when their intuition fails.

Foreign correspondence: autonomy and news production
Colleen Murrell
Deakin University

The television foreign correspondent’s licence to roam and generate news is increasingly under threat due to the combined macro pressures of elements such as 24-hour news cycles, instant agency feeds, dwindling budgets and citizen journalism. This paper concentrates on the micro production processes of today’s correspondent as he or she goes about the job of newsgathering ‘on-the-road’. This paper considers the changing nature of the correspondent’s autonomy, drawing on the theoretical frameworks of Pierre Bourdieu concerning autonomy in the creation of artistic production. The paper inserts the missing character in foreign newsgathering – the locally-hired fixer, and analyses how this person affects the correspondent’s autonomy. This research references Michael Schudson, Simon Cottle and Stephen Reese in emphasising the importance of the examination of news production.  The paper employs ethnographic interview data to argue that the foreign correspondent is rarely the sole editorial figure on-the-road but is instead the main actor representing the creative interplay of a succession of fixers or ‘local producers’

Australia seen through foreign eyes
Dr. Beate Josephi
Edith Cowan University

Foreign correspondents are important mediators of a country’s image. But it isn’t their perception alone which determines the picture. News values such as conflict, elite country and proximity also play decisive roles. This paper, based on seven in-depth interviews with foreign correspondents for the print and electronic media and news agencies from four continental European countries, gives an insight where Australia ranges in the international news importance. These interviews are evidence that interest in Australian political news is very limited, but business – especially the resources sector – and sport are commanding much better attention. So does Australia’s tourism and leisure value. Crocodile and shark attacks can be assured a place in the news anywhere in the world, but few could be expected to know the name of the Australian prime minister.


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