I recently had the pleasure of attending the Fund Executives Association (FEAL) conference, where the keynote speaker was foreign correspondent and passionate advocate for free press, Peter Greste.
I was excited to be there for a few reasons. Firstly, way back when in 1998, I helped form FEAL - the brainchild of Greg Bright. I helped form the very first board, including first Chair Michael Dwyer, and I convinced the funds management firm, Equitilink, where I worked before starting evolution media group, to sponsor the first meeting of minds.
Needless to say the organisation has grown well beyond its humble beginnings, and now is dedicated to giving senior executives in superannuation - Australia’s biggest growth industry - thought leadership, education and insight.
I was also curious to hear Peter speak. As someone who trained as a journalist, and at one point wanted to be a foreign correspondent, I thought he would have some interesting insight into what a life reporting across the world was like. What I did not expect was his thought provoking and fascinating discussion into how important true and continuing freedom of the press is.
His very survival when detained in Egypt on terrorism charges was based on a case where freedom of the press was attacked. The attack was limiting the ability of the press to tell the world a story, regardless of political and economic powers at play.
In our world today, this is not something I had thought too deeply about. Yet, when he talked about the ‘fake news’ phenomenon that Trump has thrown into the mix to discredit journalism, and the ability of journalists to actually tell the truth in a world where economic considerations are wiping out traditional media, it really got me thinking.
I have seen the value of a free press first hand in our Royal Commission. As uncomfortable as it has made us to see the scandals and truths revealed in the findings to date, it has also been great to have open dialogue and analysis from the press about the proceedings. For without it, how would the public even know what is happening and how to shape their opinion?
While everyone can become a blogger nowadays, and people can criticise and troll anonymously online, I still believe that high quality journalism has a critical role to play in shaping our industry, our country and the world around us. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword and we must all encourage a free press, even when we don’t like what they are writing.
Revenue models around content need to change significantly for this to be funded, and it will be fascinating to see what the Royal Commission makes of the industry funds creating their own news service. Funded or branded content definitely has a place to help communicate, but independent journalism must be safeguarded at all costs.
I know this piece is a departure from my usual education writing, but I honestly believe we have to view this as one of the most important issues affecting us. Thanks to FEAL for having me there and highlighting its importance.
Until next time,
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