Mark Kenny: Reflections Of A Political Correspondent

As part of Woroni’s recent Woroni Weekend event, Fairfax’s Chief Political Correspondent and member of the Press Gallery Mark Kenny gave a one hour talk and Q & A session offering his reflections on journalism practice, the state of the industry, and the current political climate as only he can see it from his intimate proximity to power.

Kenny had started out on ABC Radio, which he described to the crowd as ‘bloody relentless’ work. Kenny was responsible for court reporting. It was interesting to hear that the daily grind of a court reporter was so intense, and consisted of attending a case on the hour, running back to the office at half past to file a report, and then repeating this all day. 

Kenny’s talk covered a broad range of topics. Perhaps most interesting was the way he has seen the journalism profession shift and the way he thinks it will shift in the future. Kenny argues that the days of journalism as we’ve known it for the past century are over. Whereas previously it was common for a journalist to write one or two stories per day and enjoy a long lunch and an afternoon drink, it is now the case that journalists must always be ready to cover a story and write four or five articles per day. This has made journalism an occupation which is fast paced and relentless.

A large part of this is the role that the internet is increasingly playing in the consumption of journalism. Kenny subscribes to the idea that print is being superseded by online media and that this change is inevitable, although not immediate. Increasingly, journalism is becoming more about speed rather than perfect accuracy as an apology can be published anywhere only without it taking page space. This has further fuelled the competitive nature of life in the Press Gallery, although the camaraderie that has always been present does still remain, he says. I personally asked whether journalists actually read the comments section in their online article, which Kenny says they regularly do. I like the idea of Kenny or Michelle Grattan reading “I’m not racist but…” comments on their articles. Apparently it’s all taken in stride.

Kenny informed us that politicians and their staff know how to ‘media manage’ in the modern era. Generally this involves releasing stories at a particular point in the media cycle and to journalists who are more inclined to cover an issue positively and excluding journalists who tend to be more critical. An example I would use is Scott Morrison leaking boat figures to the Daily Telegraph rather than The Age because they’re more likely to portray him as Horatio Nelson (which they did).

Kenny’s talk was both informative and entertaining, and Woroni would gladly welcome him back to The ANU in the future.