Journalists working harder, readership up, but job security concerns soar
Many hope to work from home longer using ‘virtual’ press briefing support
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA : Australia’s financial journalists are feeling the pressure of reporting under the COVID-19 lockdown as the pace of financial news escalates and media companies face the economic impact of declining advertising revenue, according to a new survey by Australian financial communications agency Honner.
Conducted in May, Honner surveyed a national database of active reporters from across the trade and mainstream financial press.
More than 80% of respondents said they were busier and working harder since the impacts of COVID-19 took hold in Australia (March 2020), with nearly 50% saying their audience numbers were up by greater than 20%. Twenty per cent of respondents said audiences were up more than 50%.
Despite the jump in audiences, journalists also reported growing concerns around job security, with 60% saying they were much more concerned, or more concerned, about the security of their role.
Over the past three months, COVID-19 has threatened the viability of Australian media organisations. Several newsrooms have closed permanently and dozens of other mastheads have suspended operations resulting in hundreds of staff being laid off or stood down. Other journalists have felt the brunt of cutbacks including significant pay cuts, forced leave or reduced hours as the pandemic caused a sharp fall in advertising revenue in an already fractured media landscape.
Speed of news cycle
According to the survey, a key pressure has been filing stories quickly as financial markets reel from daily COVID-19 news – made more difficult by the fact journalists are working in isolation. When asked about the most important assistance market commentators could provide right now, journalists ranked news insights as number one, followed by research data to support story angles and ‘getting back to me quickly’.
Nearly 80% of respondents said they were not under pressure to deliver a COVID-19 angle for every story, but rather were looking for a more diverse range of stories.
The top areas of interest for financial reporters included investment strategies to navigate markets, the impact of COVID-19 on sectors such as superannuation, property and financial advice, and Australia’s economic environment.
Virtual story-gathering – from home
While working in isolation presented some difficulties, such as not being in a newsroom environment and not being able to interview people face to face, many respondents said working from home had proved less stressful. Thirty per cent of respondents said they didn’t miss the commute to work and 25% liked being able to work at their own pace and time of day.
A substantial 70% of respondents said they would prefer to continue working more days from home as social distancing measures eased.
In terms of changed work practices, the majority of journalists have embraced virtual news gathering as a new reality under lockdown. More than three quarters of respondents (77%) said they would like to attend more virtual briefings and nearly half (48%) said they would like to connect virtually with more offshore spokespeople to discuss events across global markets.
Virtual briefings should be short and snappy however, with nearly 4 in 5 respondents (79%) suggesting 30 minutes as the right timeframe for a briefing, and 21% suggesting 60 minutes. Twenty per cent of respondents said they would look to use video interview footage from briefings for broadcast purposes.
When asked about various ways they’d like to virtually connect for media interviews the humble telephone call remained the preferred method for an interview (68%), while 55% of journalists also chose written email comments as an option and 41% were happy to interview via Zoom.
Honner Managing Director Paul Cheal said COVID-19 had seen the Honner team working more closely than ever with journalists, as well as educating clients on changing media requirements.
“Financial markets have experienced whipsaw volatility for months now, adding financial worries to investors and savers across the country. With ongoing economic uncertainty, the pressure remains on financial journalists to deliver news and explain the impacts to everyday Australians, as well as those working across Australia’s substantial financial sector.
“In this context, we wanted to take a pulse check to see how journalists are coping, where they need help and what their priorities are during this exceptional time,” Mr Cheal said.
Established in Sydney in 1997, Honner is an Australian communications consultancy that specialises in the corporate, investment, professional and financial services sector. We help our clients communicate their messages across multiple channels and formats to build engagement with stakeholders. Honner is part of the prestigious PROI Worldwide, Global Communication Partners (GCP) as well as specialist fintech network the Global Fintech PR Network. Honner was named ‘PR Agency of the Year’ at the Rainmaker MAX Awards in 2016, 2018 and 2019; PRIA’s 2019 National Medium Consultancy of the Year; and the 2019 Holmes Report #4 Best Agency to Work For in Asia-Pacific.
More information can be found at www.honner.com.au.