Superscope recorders, phones as heavy as bricks, and those bloody reel to reels - how much lighter life is today !
Sitting here, amongst the shuffling shoes and dreary eyed customers at my local café, I am reminded at just how different workplaces are today. I don’t mean the barista and her sanctuary behind the machine (whose job is of ever-increasing importance to us Melbournians). I’m thinking about the man next to me with his almond croissant, who also happens to be partaking in what looks like a video call with close to 12 people. Or the lady opposite me with her own portable drawing add-on to her laptop, doodling away on some graphic assignment. And here I am, right in the middle, participating in this new mobile communal workstation, hammering out my own assignments for the day.
The work place has changed quickly in such a short time, adding flexibility and a sense of ownership that would have been unthinkable even in 2007.
Bear with me now, for a little introspection. Thirty years ago, I cut my teeth in radio journalism. It was the late 80’s, and communication relied on giant walkie talkies, large mobile phones that wouldn’t be out of place in an antiquity museum today, and Superscope tape recorders (don’t even ask). Being first was life or death, whether it be local news, parliament goss, court rulings, or the rumblings of the ACTU – you had to be first out the blocks.
Today, flexible working arrangements and instant connectivity with anyone in the world has altered this landscape and many offices around the world. Our new way of seeing the office, coupled with increasingly sophisticated tech how totally changed the workplace environment. Emails now seem archaic, working from home is seen as a perquisite in most job applications, and communication between regions and continents is now done live and via video. However, amidst all of this change and progress, fundamentals in the media industry have shown a stubbornness to change with them.
This year my son celebrated his twenty-first birthday on the shores of Rio di Janeiro, partaking in the annual Carnival festival and of course yielding nothing but a tranquil endorsement from his mother. Not too far off my own 21st birthday really. A scorching hot Saturday morning in the opening months of the year. Surrounded by passionate people in the streets, all with a unified position that transcended political lines. However, the glitz and booze was replaced in my case by a roaring crowd of gun-owners demanding an end to John Howards recently announced gun reforms. As a wide-eyed and freshly minted journalist for 3KZ, this was it! Straddled with copious amounts of weighty equipment, the objective was clear, get the story, highlight its impact, and get the timing right. Looking back and reflecting, not much has changed. These fundamentals, the story, its relevance to the people, and the timing of it all, remain just as relevant today as they were back then. They will always be at the heart of what we do in media. Yet what we constantly hear is about technological disruption, falling subscribers, the rise of click bait. These are issues we must discuss and find positive solutions for, yet the fundamentals are what will continue to drive the industry and should be recognised as such. Stories lie at the heart of what we do in the media. We only have to look at the recent surge in popularity of podcasts, to appreciate this.
I was recently introduced to podcasting and the first thing I asked was, “do people seriously sit there and listen for over two hours to these shows [in some cases]?”. As I got up to speed with it all, it dawned on me. People have found their voice again! Stories, long form discussion, conversations that just don’t fit the soundbite format of commercial TV, all these traits have brought a renaissance to the recorded voice. Take stock of that for a second. In an era of content saturation, where we can watch, read, or listen to anything at the click of a button, people are reverting back to the oldest medium of them all, recorded voice. As I reflect on the media industry’s change over the last thirty years, it is quite heartening to appreciate that the fundamentals remain as important as ever.