Because the world needs editing

Thanks for stopping by.

I started this site after leaving the Sydney Morning Herald in second half of 2012. It is not the full extent of my public profile or my interests, many of which will need to remain confidential.

You may wish join me on Twitter , LinkedIn and Facebook.  A copy of my CV can be found under the ‘About Peter’ tag.  But it gives a quick overview of my background, interests and ambitions — and a nod to my various partners.

The future of journalism is collaborative, we will need many partners: by necessity and desire, journalists will increasingly work with each other and with people from disciplines. Some of those disciplines are obvious and ubiquitous, some not so.

At any one time my content partners may just as well include an economist or a financial planner as an UX expert, a coder and web designer.  And that’s before we get the various streams of investors and supporters.

Most importantly, these partners are not only important for their own skills; they, too, have a vital say on the content, on what it is, how it is best expressed and what impact it may have. They are especially important if you want to make it pay.

If I have learnt anything in three decades as a journalist and editor, it is that reporters don’t and can’t sit alone atop Mt Journalism, thinking they — and only they — know best.  It has taken the best part of 30 years to understand that. I am trying to make up for lost time.

The most important collaborator is the audience, and, again, it is taken me too long to realise it.  I am not alone in this and yes, Web 2.0, is the game changer, but even so it would have been useful to realise just how important and how powerful the audience is before smart folk like Clay Shirky, Jay Rosen and others started pointing out  the audience were bolting. But there no point crying over spilt eyeballs.

Instead, I have spent the past few years —  in the spare time from my day job —  trying to work out how to harness the digital tools on hand (and those coming) for the mutual benefit of journalists, editors and audience.  In late 2011, during my time as publisher and editor-in-chief of the Herald, I took time out as a fellow of Sydney University.  The resulting  keynote speech was my first attempt to delve into this issue.  It was a scratch on the surface, a flea bite on the elephant.

Back in the day, as journalism student, I first came across New Journalism and fell under its narrative spell. The writings of Wolfe,  Capote, Hunter S., and later Janet Malcolm remain a source of great joy and inspiration.

But what’s needed now is a newer and broader journalism that yes, is about the content (in many forms, in many platforms) but is also deeply and urgently concerned about the business model. I have been very fortunate to have worked inside of big media during a time when, by dint of controlling scarcity, big media had plenty of money and influence. It still has plenty of influence across markets. And it still makes money.

But the game has changed, forever. Web 2.0 saw to that. We now live in an age of abundance, decadence even: the biggest publisher in the world, Facebook, doesn’t employ journalists and yet for millions of younger readers is the most important source of news — and increasingly, for old and new publishers, the place where the audience gathers.

The end of scarcity has profound implications. Take the notion of failure. Our children are taught in school to avoid it and yet in the digital environment we are told to embrace it. Failure is a sister of risk, a brother of innovation: entrepreneurial journalists will need to be familiar with all three.

I remain lucky, scared even. For the past 18 months or so, I have been back in big media where the dynamic of failure, risk and innovation can still be ignored. I choose not to.  This site is about that choice.

Again, thanks for stopping by.

Peter Fray