Veteran ABC journalist Chris MastersVeteran ABC journalist Chris Masters last week delivered the annual Manning Clark lecture at the National Library on the subject of his profession, sounding a bugle of lament and a song of nostalgia.
Entitled “Journalism: A Career Postmortem” Master’s lecture randomly sampled amusing anecdotes, poignant observations of the fourth estate, philosophical meandering on the past, present and future of the media – but most importantly the power and significance of research in journalism.
“It’s not about a talent for the truth, it’s about process,” he said.
“It’s important to do the mundane stuff, it’s value is it teaches you a lot.”
As he recalled the famous 1980s “spy thriller” of the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior by the French secret service in New Zealand and his coverage of it, Masters said sending a TV crew overseas on a hunch was a risk unlikely to be taken today.
Masters hit out at modern journalism arguing that “looking beyond the computer” was of the utmost importance.
“It should be easier now with the internet, but instead of using it to research we use it to spread the little we know.”
“News is much more a business than a public service.”
Masters, known best as a reporter for the investigative program Four Corners, began by emphasising the “whys” behind the “whats”, describing his mother Olga Masters as the most influential woman in his life, Masters detailed her life as a small town reporter arguing that there are interesting stories everywhere if you look.
“I can’t say there were too many experiences like that,” he said.
Arguing that patience is not summoned by Google, Masters emphasised the importance of solid research and selecting contacts and whole heartedly embraced the philosophy of journalism as the fourth estate and news as a tool for checking power.
But he stopped short at presenting a solution for the failing business model of the print media and said he didn’t mean to attack young journalists, his daughter is one after-all.