The media industry by nature is an ever-evolving landscape. It is no longer viable for media professionals to be proficient in producing content for a single media system. One example of a journalism, media and communication professional who has adapted her career with industry changes is Australian writer and commentator Mia Freedman. Whilst many of her career choices occurred through natural progression, her career evolution may be understood through four key concepts: media convergence, media globalisation, the fourth estate, and the public sphere. Each of these concepts and their subsequent effects lend context to the current state of the media industry and will be discussed through this essay.
Born in Sydney, Australia on October 1, 1971, Mia Freedman attended Ascham School, an independent school for girls in Sydney. Upon graduating, Freedman gained entry level employment at Cleo Magazine where she worked her way up to Features Editor before becoming Editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine Australia in 1996. At 24, she was the youngest editor at any of Cosmopolitan’s international editions. Following her time as Editor, Freedman transitioned to television where she briefly worked as a Creative Services Director for Nine Entertainment Company, before cofounding Mamamia Women’s Network (MWN) in 2007. She continues to work at MWN as Creative Director. Since her entry into the media industry, Freedman has worked as a journalist, columnist, editor, TV commentator, and public speaker.
Mia Freedman. Picture: Nic Gibson
As previously indicated in my professional biography, following the completion of my university studies I wish to pursue a career in media and communication, specifically as a public relations professional. Extending from this, I hope that women’s magazines and the creation of online content may form the basis of my future work. As such, I find Mia Freedman’s career progression both intriguing and inspiring. She has sustained an unwavering voice in support of improving body image for women through the duration of her career, and delivers opinions unapologetically despite often causing debate or disagreement. I hope to achieve a similar career trajectory whilst maintaining my personal values as Freedman has through her career.
Two primary factors that have shaped the media landscape immensely are media convergence and globalisation. Though each exists in its own right, one does not operate independently of the other. Sternberg (2017) best defined media convergence as the ‘blurring of boundaries between different elements of the media system and the interaction between different elements of media systems’. Though each media industry came about using independent approaches to production, distribution and exhibition, the development of technology and integration of the internet has seen industries that previously only interacted become convergent (Turrow 2011, 157). When regarding the impact of media convergence on Freedman’s career, she has experienced the immediate connection and rapid distribution that occurs as a result of technological convergence. The accessibility of her site across computers and smartphones is an example of how contemporary publishing has a dominant online presence. Publishing everything from social commentary to political analysis, Mamamia reaches close to four million Australian’s per month (2017, para. 1). The site itself is a demonstration of the ways in which content convergence has produced an entirely new platform of media. No element exists of its own accord; each article, podcast, interview or image is published to the site and open to comment from readers. This loop of instantaneous distribution and feedback is a huge departure from Freedman’s beginnings in publishing, though shows a necessary evolution to maintain connection with her desired audience. Media globalisation is a second trend that operates alongside media convergence. Simply considered to be the ‘increased transmission of content across global boundaries’ (Sternberg, 2017), media globalisation is a continual process as opposed to a definitive outcome. With the internet allowing instant communication, increased connectivity has given global resonance to individual events, ideas and ideologies (Flew 2007, 66-67). Lule asserts that the media is not only a part of, but partially accountable for, globalisation. It is the progression of communication from speech to print, then further from electronic transmission to digital media itself, that has seen the sharing of information become uninhibited (Lule 2015, 48). This is a notion that I largely agree with, and it is this globalisation that allows sites such as Mamamia to continue operating successfully. At its inception, Mamamia existed as a passion project for Freedman. A site where she could explore and freely express her opinions on events and issues of importance to her, particularly the equal representation and treatment of women globally. The site quickly gained traction and now hosts content both reporting on news and commentating global events. The fact that Mamamia exists solely online, renders it both participant to and a product of media globalisation. This is of benefit to Freedman in that it allows her content to be accessed from virtually any location, making Mamamia a contributing voice to global conversations.
Complementary to media convergence and globalisation, the ideals of the fourth estate and public sphere contribute to both the maintenance and development of media industries. Recognised as ‘the belief that the central role of the media is to act as a watchdog on behalf of society’ (Sternberg, 2017), the fourth estate operates as a kind of champion of morality in the industry. Previously, this meant that though powerful entities and the public conducted separate conversations, the press ensured that each were informed of the other (Stuart 2009, 4). Though admirable, this sentiment has deteriorated over time and the degree of trust between the media and the public has diminished considerably. Freedman’s journalistic style does not reflect the traditional representation of the fourth estate, but has arguably challenged the idea. Cadzow (2015) even suggested that Freedman publishes content that curates the image she desires. With some critics unimpressed at Mamamia’s trivialisation of news, Freedman and her site contribute a constant voice to public conversation. This is in many ways how the ideal of the public sphere exists in the modern media landscape. Referring to ‘the media’s significance in stimulating conversation about important issues’ (Sternberg, 2017), the public sphere addresses the concept of having a place where people are able debate and discuss topical issues. Previously a physical place where educated members of society could meet to discuss important ideas (Sternberg, 2017), the concept of the public sphere is now facilitated primarily by the media as the audience have shifted from being passive consumers to content creators themselves (Calcutt and Hammond 2011, 149). It is in this way that Freedman comes into her own. As a writer, public speaker and TV commentator Freedman is an active member of the professional media environment. Additionally, her presence across Twitter, Instagram and Facebook connect her personally with the public. She recognises the influence she yields and uses this to the fullest extent. Whilst Mamamia does not necessarily publish poignant or investigative pieces of journalism, the site starts many conversations. Freedman has found her niche in remaining steadfast in her opinions and backing herself, often if only to inspire debate. She is an unapologetic face of feminism, and though not universally liked Freedman remains. It is the contribution of voices including Freedman’s, that sustains public debate and evolves the ideal of the public sphere.
In considering how media convergence and globalisation, the fourth estate, and the public sphere effect the media environment, I have gained an insight into the contribution that journalism, media and communication professionals have the opportunity to make. Through her career, Mia Freedman has remained consistent in her professional values and has continued adapting to industry changes. Mamamia has become a part of the public sphere unto itself, delivering content that addresses contemporary issues and encourages debate. Though working as a part of the media industry requires constant evolution with the changes in the media landscape, I hope that my future work reflects the value of these four key concepts. Most of all, I hope to find a niche as Freedman has, so that I may deliver a consistent contribution to both the public and the industry.
Cadzow, Jane. 2015. “There’s something about Mia Freedman.” Good Weekend, June 27. http://www.smh.com.au/good-weekend/theres-something-about-mia-20150624-ghwbcv.html
Calcutt, Andrew and Hammond, Philip. 2011. “The fragmenting public”. In Jounalism Studies: A Critical Introduction, edited by Andre Calcutt and Philip Hammond, 149-169. Accessed April 28, 2017. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/lib/qut/reader.action?docID=668395
Flew, Terry. 2007. “Gloablization and Global Media Corporations.” In Understanding Global Media, edited by Terry Flew, 66-97. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Accessed April 28, 2017. https://blackboard.qut.edu.au/bbcswebdav/pid-6722576-dt-content-rid-7959194_1/courses/KJB102_17se1/KJB102_BK_341341.pdf
Mamamia. 2017. “What is Mamamia?”. Accessed April 27, 2017. http://www.mamamia.com.au/about-mamamia/
Sternberg, Jason. 2017. “KJB102 Introduction to Journalism, Media and Communication: Week 5 podcast.” Accessed April 27, 2017. https://mix.office.com/watch/1g4zos4trz31x
Sternberg, Jason. 2017. “KJB102 Introduction to Journalism, Media and Communication: Week 6 podcast.” Accessed April 28, 2017. https://mix.office.com/watch/13uzqm4vs62ai
Stuart, Allan. 2009. The Routledge Companion to News and Journalism. New York: Taylor and Francis. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/lib/qut/reader.action?docID=460287&ppg=5
Turow, Joseph. 2011. Media Today: An Introduction to Mass Media. New York: Taylor and Francis. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/lib/qut/detail.action?docID=668383
Yule, Jack. 2015. Globalization and Media: Global Village of Babel. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/lib/qut/reader.action?docID=886809