The media is more fragmented than ever before, yet journalists and editors remain a powerful group in society. Journalists because they break news and help set the political, social and business agenda — exposing wrongdoing, holding governments to account or provoking discussion through the commentary and analysis. Editors because they determine which stories get pursued, which stories are given prominence, which stories get spiked.
Over the next month The Power Index will be running our next power list on the most powerful journalists and editors. Here is our shortlist ...
Mark Colvin (host, ABC PM)
Those who think Twitter is only for twits who want to tell the world what they had for breakfast obviously haven't discovered @colvinius. Colvin, who spends 15 hours a week on dialysis because of faltering kidneys, has become an indispensible news aggregator for his 28,000+ followers. If Colvin tweets it, you know it's worth a read.
Sarah Ferguson (reporter, ABC Four Corners)
From rugby league s-x scandals to cruelty in Australia's live export trade, Ferguson has delivered a dazzling array of scoops since joining Four Corners as an investigative reporter in 2008. Famed for her willingness to tackle topics other hacks are too timid to touch, Ferguson's reports are eagerly awaited by media junkies.
Fran Kelly (host, ABC Radio National Breakfast)
Every self-respecting political junkie wakes up listening to Fran. Kelly's show, ABC RN Breakfast, doesn't top the ratings and rarely breaks news, but her political interviews set the daily agenda — not just in Canberra but in the cities and the bush too. The former punk-rocker's ability to range across politics, sport, business and culture is unmatched.
Alan Kohler (editor-in-chief, Eureka Report and Business Spectator)
The former Age and Australian Financial Review editor is the Mr Everywhere of the Australian media. Kohler presents finance each night on ABC News, hosts Inside Business on Sunday mornings and is editor-in-chief of Business Spectator and Eureka Report. Drinks were on him in June, after he pocketed $8 million selling his Spectator empire to News Limited.
Helen McCabe (editor-in-chief, The Australian Women's Weekly)
With a readership of 2.4 million, the Weekly remains a national institution despite the tough financial climate for magazine publishers. McCabe, former senior editor at News Limited, has given a magazine a more modern, newsier tone — and readers have responded.
Kate McClymont (investigative reporter, The Sydney Morning Herald)
It's no wonder the SMH veteran was on a "protected species" list of journos forbidden from taking redundancy from Fairfax: she's so damned good. Over the past year, her forensic reporting helped force Michael Williamson out of the Health Service Union (he was arrested today) and sparked an ICAC inquiry into allegedly dodgy dealings by Eddie Obeid.
Peter McEvoy (executive producer, Q&A)
Critics say Q&A, led by low-profile ABC veteran Peter McEvoy, provides more heat than insight — but it's been a pioneer for audience and social media engagement. Germaine Greer's fashion critique of Julia Gillard, a protester hurling a shoe at John Howard's head and George Pell's clash with Richard Dawkins are among the recent highlights.
Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker (investigative reporters, The Age)
Fairfax's financial strife hasn't stopped these young guns from dishing up cracker yarn after cracker yarn over recent years. McKenzie's and Baker's stories on alleged bribery in RBA subsidiaries, s-x slavery and clergy s-xual abuse have led to parliamentary inquiries and criminal charges. McKenzie is notable for using his ABC connections to give his stories more exposure.
Chris Mitchell (editor-in-chief, The Australian)
Mitchell's aggressive, self-aggrandising paper is far more influential than its daily circulation of 130,000 would suggest. With some of the best journalism in the country and an obsession with attacking ideological enemies, The Oz is impossible to ignore for serious followers of national affairs.
Sally Neighbour (executive producer, 7.30)
After a period in the wilderness following Kerry O'Brien's departure, 7.30 is firing again in 2012. The stories are punchier, the interviews are tougher and the ratings are up. That's thanks to Neighbour, the three-time Walkley Award winner who became EP in February.
Laurie Oakes (political editor, Nine Network)
No journalist in Canberra carries as much gravitas as Laurie Oakes. The Sphere's 2010 election leak stories electrified the nation, but he's had a quiet few years since then by his lofty standards. Oakes gave up his regular Sunday morning interview last year, but the 46-year press gallery veteran still pens a weekly column for The Daily Telegraph as well as fronting up for Channel Nine.
Michael Stutchbury (editor-in-chief, The Australian Financial Review)
Since jumping ship from The Australian last October, "Stutch" has been on a mission to transform the AFR from a dull-but-worthy paper of record into an agenda-setting, news-breaking machine. While his crusading against the Fair Work Act and the NBN has turned off progressive readers, there's no doubt this debonair deregulationist has made the Fin a livelier, feistier paper.
Hedley Thomas (national chief correspondent, The Australian)
Hailed by many as the best journalist in the country, the Queenslander's coverage of Victorian policing, the Brisbane floods and Julia Gillard's past links with the AWU have been lauded and slammed as beat-ups. But no one doubts their impact.
Grant Williams (executive producer, A Current Affair)
After a decade being beaten by arch nemesis Today Tonight, A Current Affair is back on top of the ratings. Although the show avoids politics, no one could say its ethically questionable stories on Hey Dad, Craig Thomson's after dark activities or Clive James' mistress haven't got people talking. Williams, a burly ex -cop, knows you've got to push boundaries to attract eyeballs.
Paul Whittaker (editor, Daily Telegraph)
Whittaker is the terrier-like editor of Sydney's Daily Telegraph, the paper politicians fear most — mainly because it feeds the harbour city's strident shock jocks. The Tele is a more raucous, some say feral, beast under Whittaker's watch thanks to its crusade against the carbon tax and other Gillard government policies.
*Be sure to check back to see who makes it into the top ten.