Public Questions Society

When the journalism industry is dying, how do you revive it?

Margaret Simons: Discerning and determined

That was the main issue on the mind of university lecturer, author and journalist Margaret Simons when she delivered a deeply thoughtful Public Questions Society address to Year 11 and 12 students at the St Kilda Road Campus last month.

Simons is the author of 14 books which include biographies of two of the most powerful women in politics, Tanya Plibersek and Penny Wong, as well as countless pieces of journalism. She described her career as being ‘an adventure into the lives of sometimes unwilling politicians on behalf of young voters’. Although acknowledging the ‘difficult ethical boundary’ between the invasion of privacy and genuine investigation, Simons believes that politicians have a responsibility to the public and so do journalists.

This presentation ultimately took the form of questions for the newest generations, Generation Z and GenAlpha: How will we get our information? What will we believe? Will Artificial Intelligence take over from our journalists?

Journalism, according to Simons, is becoming an unpaid industry that is not only no longer profitable, but because it functions in real time - with consumers receiving their news within minutes of world-affairs taking place - humans are becoming obsolete in fields where this kind of split-second response is called for.

But human journalists possess the discerning and determined nature that AI lacks. Margaret Simons, who thankfully is not an AI, is passionate about bringing down the boundaries between the public and the politicians as ‘we all live here, so we should all have our say.’ It is journalists like her who are keeping the industry alive.

Olivia Camillin, Year 12

Return to magazine