Would they march in the streets?

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It was the 6th of July, 2001. South Sydney Rabbitohs president, George Piggins, returned to the rugby league club’s headquarters as a hero after a court victory paved the way for Souths to return to the premiership.

That day, Piggins said to the faithful: “Together, people can move mountains and that’s what we did today – we moved a mountain”.

It took a long time, and many tears, to get to that moment. And part of the process was some of the most ferocious, emotional and well-attended protests Sydney has ever seen.

People power won the fight. If you’re not a rugby league fan and can’t relate to the above, just imagine how hard you’d fight if something you’d been passionate about your entire life was suddenly taken away from you.

I often think about the whole Souths situation when something in our country occurs that deserves significant people power behind it. I tend to ask myself, if they marched for a football team, would they march for this?

Unfortunately, in 2012 we seem to live in a somewhat apathetic, social media-driven, time-poor society in which we very rarely stand up for what we really think and believe in.

In just a few weeks’ time, a carbon tax will be introduced that threatens to have significant impacts on families in this area and right around the country. It is a risky political move, and one that will no doubt end Labor’s time in power come late 2013.

By then, however, the impact on you and me will be somewhat irreversible. Even if Tony Abbott does live up to his promise to repeal the tax, the damage may well have already been done by the costs passed on to consumers at the point of purchase by affected companies.

The problem in all of this is that it’s mainly the politicians doing the fighting.

There were a few protests in Canberra that, while large in number, didn’t quite shake the foundations of Parliament House. True, impossible to ignore ‘people power’ seems to be missing here.

But it’s missing in many places.

Electricity prices, petrol prices, same sex marriage, bank fees, interest rates. The list goes on. Yes, we ring talkback radio and complain about it all, and a few of us write letters to newspapers and voice our concerns directly to politicians.

But it seems that as a society, we let ourselves down when it comes to the power that we as a united public hold. We can move mountains if we get up and push, but not if we simply talk about it and accept that it’s most likely unmovable.

And so we come to one of the biggest stories of the week, that being the major changes ahead at Fairfax Media.

A move to a ‘digital first’ editorial policy, scrapping broadsheets in favour of tabloid sized publications, the closure of print presses and the axing of some 1,900 jobs was what we woke up to on Monday.

The move of The Sydney Morning Herald to a compact size may be a sad time for readers, but it is hardly the biggest issue here.

The biggest issue seems to be that Fairfax continues to put its own future at risk by chopping journalists.

One wonders sometimes if big media companies truly realise what their journalists do, or how long it takes them to do it. It may sometimes take six hours to get 40 words of copy. But those 40 words could potentially bring down a government. One less journalist, one less opportunity for a groundbreaking story, or game changing investigation.

One would think that in a digital environment, where deadlines are more frequent and the thirst for news is so strong that more journalists, not less, would be required. We should also remember that while digital media is a major part of the future of news (and will be for us, here, too), digital journalists and newspaper journalists are very different beasts.

And ultimately, what will win out?

Quality, meaningful journalism or the desire to get more stories online as quickly as possible? One of many questions that will be answered in the immediate years ahead.

Readers will bemoan the loss of journalists, the loss of their morning broadsheet and will feel deeply for those left unemployed. But, will they march in the streets?

I think you know the answer.

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