Citizen Journalism

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Mark Latham’s Webdiary interview

In Journalism, Media, Media Reform, MSM on March 29, 2013 at 8:42 PM
Mark Latham

Mark Latham

September 29, 2005

Source: Webdiary

Margo: Mark, I thought I’d start with a few questions from Webdiarists.

Mark: Yep.

Margo:The first is from Craig Warton and he’s asked, if you could turn back time would you have pursued the path of politics to try and achieve your goals for Australia, or would you, perhaps, chosen another path?

 Mark: Well difficult question in that I never find contemplating the turning back of time to be all that healthy a process; it’s just so futile.

I know it’s futile. I guess the point is –

Well I suppose the best way for me to answer to it is that tonight in Melbourne I’m giving a lecture on the ten reasons why a young idealistic person these days should avoid organised politics. If they want to make a contribution to society, do it at a community level, helping out with charities and local community and welfare organisations to try and help people and generate a more cohesive caring society. So, yeah, if I was born tomorrow or was a young person leaving University tomorrow, I’d think that was a better path.

So you’re really going, okay, the only way to achieve social democracy in Australia is bottom-up. You cannot actually do it by entering a mainstream political party and doing it from the top-down. That’s, is that –

Well I think our major problems in Australia are social, not economic, I mean we’re a prosperous nation with a long, long period of economic growth and you compare that to the horrific increase in family and community breakdown, the rise of mental illnesses, social isolation, whole range of problem our young people face these days. The paradox has been as the economy has grown rapidly, the quality of society has deteriorated just as rapidly and I think it’s more important for people to think about ways in which you can address those social problems than play the political game which inevitably at election time is about economics.

Well, this is a question from me, you say in your Introduction that this book is my exit from all forms of politics, yet reading the Introduction, it seems to me that the only way to achieve social democracy is to engage in politics at some level. So I was just wondering if you really meant ‘organised politics’?

Well organised politics, politics as the Australian people understand it, which is belonging to a political party and running for Parliament.

So you’re trying to, through this book, say to the Australian people there is another form of politics and it’s really important that you get involved at its community level – and then what? I mean how do you bring that together?

Well people already know that, they live in communities and neighbourhoods, but the rise of materialism and I think the voyeuristic culture people are increasingly turning inwards and I argue in the Introduction for people who read the book, that as much as possible people should contribute to their local community and try to rebuild social capital and trust and cohesion.

One of the things that I found most interesting in the Introduction, and Mark that’s all I’ve read because I’ve been running around on my own thing but I’m definitely intending to read the whole thing –

Well the Introduction’s sort of a summary of the themes in the book.  The Diary entries, of course, are contemporary and lively and raw, but the Introduction is a summary of the overall.

You talk in the Intro about the two options for Labor reform, the first being independence from the unions, not possible, you’d split the party; the second being forming a mass political organisation – too difficult. Would you think there’s any chance for a mass political organisation that actually wasn’t part of the major parties, that was, I don’t know, a movement which could take in a lot of Australians who are disillusioned with mainstream politics however they vote? I suppose I’m getting to this thing that you did, that Internet Democracy experiment, and I’m just looking for what – can you imagine possibilities utilising the net as a means for Australians to rescue the system so that they have got a real alternative again, to get the debate moving? Read the rest of this entry »

Tony Abbott on why he left the priesthood

In Federal Election on March 28, 2013 at 11:40 PM

rebel

Thanks to Laurie Cousins (@sydneysiderblue)  for giving @NoFibs the hard copy of this piece.

By Tony Abbott
August 18. 1987
Source: The Bulletin

I  WAS AGHAST to realise that something within me, long sickening, had quietly died and felt as a husband might feel who, in the fourth year of his  marriage, suddenly  knew that he no longer had any de sire, or tenderness, or esteem for a once  beloved  wife; no pleasure in her company; no wish  to please; no curiosity about anything she might ever do or say or think; no hope of setting things right, no self­ reproach for the disaster… I had played  every scene in the domestic  tragedy, had found the early tiffs become more fre­quent, the tears less affecting, the reconciliations less sweet, till they engendered a mood of aloofness and cool criticism and the  growing conviction it was the loved one who was at fault.  Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

As the newly ordained priests left the chapel of St Patrick’s seminary, the congregation burst into spontaneous applause. The previous evening, at rugby training at Sydney University oval, my announcement that I was quitting priestly training drew an equally enthusiastic (if more ribald) response. Three years’ grinding struggle to meet the Church’s standard was over. But a dream had died, as well – the dream that I could join that splendored company founded by Christ which has angered, amazed and enthralled the world ever since.

Since school days I had wrestled with the idea of becoming a priest. Casually suggested by a Jesuit mentor the appalling thought was not to be de­nied, despite degrees in Economics and Law from Sydney University, tumultuous involvement in student politics and a Rhodes  scholarship  which  encompassed studies in politics and philosophy, playing for Oxford against the 1981 Wallabies and two blues as  a heavyweight boxer. I shared fully in the ordinary  foibles of  youth.  But why should personal ambivalence, parental misgivings and peer incomprehension hinder God ‘s plan?

“St Patrick ‘s is not the place for you,” a senior priest told me. “What are we going to do with you?” asked another after consulting my educational background. “You are about to experience the worst years of your life,” said a recently ordained acquaintance. What on Earth was I letting myself in for?

St Patrick's seminary: has produced good priests but inspires little affection.

St Patrick’s seminary: has produced good priests but inspires little affection.

St Patrick’s is Australia’s oldest and largest seminary. It has trained most of NSW’s and many of Australia’s parochial clergy since 1889. These priests have generally lacked heroic asceticism, great scholarship or reforming zeal. But their human warmth, quirky administration and dogged devotion to an  exhausting and often lonely ministry has justly earned the love of their people. For their many qualities, St Patrick’s must take credit. Yet the seminary, un­like its graduates, has never excited much warm feeling. Read the rest of this entry »

Morrison’s brick wall on how he’ll stop the boats

In Federal Election, Peter Clarke, Refugees on March 28, 2013 at 8:57 PM
Scott Morrison

Scott Morrison

By Peter Clarke
March 26, 2013

Yesterday, we published a detailed de-construction of an interview between the ABC 730’s Leigh Sales and Prime Minister Julia Gillard. It was a critique of Sales for what we opined were her inadequate interview techniques in that specific context and of Julia Gillard for her blatant refusal to answer questions and her use of media training 101 avoidance techniques to manipulate media interviews. Neither came out of that encounter with much credit, least of all the PM.

Here in the comments section and on Twitter the responses have been vigorous and varied. A very worthwhile discussion is still flowing online.

As always, partisan passions appear to animate many people’s perceptions, judgments and opinions. A very few observers were able to bring a sense of disinterested appraisal to bear that rose above merely backing sides.

This is not about being a cheer squad for one of the political parties over another. That’s way too easy really. This is about effective, ethical journalism. And (look away now if you must) THE TRUTH. I know, I know, THE TRUTH is a highly contested idea and many would argue it barely exists, certainly within journalism as widely practised, but it is still a guiding ideal to aim for in some reasonable form.

Any other suggestions? Post-modernists, come on down!

We celebrate and critique journalistic practitioners using a range of measures and factors, depending on each case we examine. We critique politicians who, out of one side of their mouths, extol the notion of a ‘free press’ in the abstract, especially within a parliamentary political debate such as around media reform, and then, in their daily political encounters with legitimate questioning, seem to do their best to hobble and intimidate journalists and avoid the tough enquiries of that free press as they fulfill their democratic, fourth estate roles and functions.

Mind you, they and their media minders keep the avalanche of media releases, leaks and duchessing of favoured scribes flowing and rejoice if slabs of their propaganda appear in print, come out of broadcaster’s mouths or get picked up as talking points or assumptions during interviews by journalists too time pressed and/or lazy to do their own original research.

A free press? Sure thing.

Or even worse, as Tony Abbott has done and continues to do, avoid forensic interviews almost entirely. What does an outlet such as the ABC do then?  Media entities are institutions within the media-saturated democratic ecology too. The ABC, historically and today, holds a special and vital place in our system despite its flaws and the many and growing pressures upon it. Both sides of politics despise it more than love or even respect it.

The commercial sector is just as vital. The strong advocacy (often overtly, corporately self-serving) character of much of News Limited’s contemporary journalism, recently most stridently around media reform, is a major blot on the journalistic landscape. Read the rest of this entry »

Can the cross bench deliver citizens accountability from newspapers?

In Margo Kingston, Media Reform on March 27, 2013 at 6:57 PM
Daily Telegraph Front Page 19 March 2013

Daily Telegraph Front Page 19 March 2013

By Margo Kingston,
March 27,  2013

What a predicament. All seven cross benchers and the Government are dissatisfied with the standards of newspapers and want citizens to be protected against their abuse of their power. Julian Disney, who heads the Press Council which administers self-regulation, believes there are ‘substantial problems with media standards in Australia’.

Yet nothing will be done.

Let’s quickly address the blame game. The area is highly dangerous for any government, which is why newspapers have escaped any regulation for so long (see the Finkelstein report on the tortured history of journalists‘ fight to get even limited self regulation).

The government has dithered due to splits in cabinet, leaks to Murdoch papers (presumably from Rudd supporters) and fears of retribution by newspapers clearly barracking for the opposition.

So Gillard and Conroy rammed through Cabinet a set of reforms they believed were weak enough to pass muster with the proprietors and sought to blackmail the cross bench into saying yes or getting nothing.

The plan blew up in their faces. Murdoch media led an overblown and vicious campaign against the reforms. The cross bench was unhappy with the detail and the minimalist nature of the blueprint and refused to meet the deadline. Gillard and Conroy said it’s over, let’s move on.

So the government does lose-lose, angering proprietors with no result. The Opposition makes it clear it will not countenance any strengthening of self-regulation, keeping it onside with the Murdoch media. The chance is lost.

The real losers are the people and good journos who need to be empowered by some accountability for bad journos. As Julian Disney said so eloquently at the Senate inquiry, ‘Absolute freedoms attack freedom’.

Newspapers get protection for journalist’s sources and exemption from the Privacy Act with no obligations in return. And evidence to the Senate inquiry showed that News Limited and Seven owner Kerry Stokes believe there is no public interest in what newspapers separate from self-interest.

Disney articulated the public interest – freedom of expression – and gave evidence that the media standards problem was so significant that newspapers actually impeded the free expression of citizens.

This occurred through distortion, suppression of key facts and opinions, factual errors and invasion of privacy. (The worst example of factual error during the media reform debate was when two senior news limited journalists doctored a quote to falsely accuse Senator Conroy of doctoring a quote.) Read the rest of this entry »

Anatomy of Sales -v- Gillard interview

In Federal Election, Peter Clarke on March 26, 2013 at 11:56 PM

By Peter Clarke
March 26, 2013

A little context …

Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness.
The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde

What would Wilde have had to say about losing a conga-line of ministers, parliamentary secretaries and assorted whips?

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge


Another day, another interview. Or two, or three.

For an anchor of a nightly national current affairs program such as Leigh Sales @ABC730, this is her bedrock job: conducting set-piece accountability interviews and performing to the highest broadcast journalistic standards she and the team around her can aspire to and produce.

Last Monday night (25 March) was typical and unusual both. Her interviewee was the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. That’s standard. Sales has interviewed Gillard many times both as PM and earlier. And, at times, very effectively both in terms of the information that she elicited and the tone and dynamic of the interview itself.

Monday night’s interview did not fall into that category. It was clearly an unusual context with Gillard, after yet another Ruddesque encounter with losing her Prime Ministership, out in media land selling her message of ‘done and dusted’ and essentially telling Australian electors, ‘Nothing to see here’.

The repeated lines tended to work better on shows such as The Project.

The Project

The Project

Of course, there was much to be seen here and imagined and speculated about and grimaced over and long sighs expended upon, heads shaking all the while. We knew that. Leigh Sales had that as an inescapable reality as she sat at her desk, writing her leads and plotting her approach to what turned out to be a short interview considering the steaming pile of political slag the PM was standing in front of vainly attempting some verbal legerdemain and misdirection to divert our collective bemused and weary gaze. Read the rest of this entry »

The National Apology for Forced Adoptions

In Forced Adoptions on March 25, 2013 at 4:33 PM

AFHP: The National Apology for Forced Adoption was a powerful, moving and important speech. The forced adoptions affected tens of thousands of people directly and many more beyond them. From the 1950’s to the 1970’s, an estimated 150,000 unwed mothers had their babies forcibly adopted by governments, churches, hospitals and charities. As the PM said “No collection of words alone can undo all this damage,’ but words have meaning. Below are some of the best ones written and spoken to undo at least  some of the hurt.

21 March 2013

Prime Minister

Canberra

Source: PM Press Office

[ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS OMITTED]

In just over an hour’s time, the following words of apology will be moved in the Senate and the House of Representatives:

Today, this Parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies, which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering.

2. We acknowledge the profound effects of these policies and practices on fathers.

3. And we recognise the hurt these actions caused to brothers and sisters, grandparents, partners and extended family members.

4. We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children. You were not legally or socially acknowledged as their mothers. And you were yourselves deprived of care and support.

5. To you, the mothers who were betrayed by a system that gave you no choice and subjected you to manipulation, mistreatment and malpractice, we apologise.

6. We say sorry to you, the mothers who were denied knowledge of your rights, which meant you could not provide informed consent. You were given false assurances. You were forced to endure the coercion and brutality of practices that were unethical, dishonest and in many cases illegal.

7. We know you have suffered enduring effects from these practices forced upon you by others. For the loss, the grief, the disempowerment, the stigmatisation and the guilt, we say sorry.

8. To each of you who were adopted or removed, who were led to believe your mother had rejected you and who were denied the opportunity to grow up with your family and community of origin and to connect with your culture, we say sorry. Read the rest of this entry »

I want to vote Labor – give me a reason!

In Federal Election, Noely Neate on March 25, 2013 at 3:39 PM
My grandfather "Chum", bit of a dapper bloke in his day :)

My grandfather “Chum”, bit of a dapper bloke in his day 🙂

By Noely Neate
March 25, 2013

Every  man and his dog has given up Labor as a dead loss for the election in September.  I am not so sure.

John Howard was pretty much in that position at one stage. and it was only the intervention of  Tampa and Twin Towers Towers that saved his butt.  The fact is that when people are scared they stay with the ‘devil they know’.  Now, I don’t wish the likes of a Twin Towers to save the Labor Party, though a bit more focus on Tony Abbott’s policies may help level the playing field so that people could get past personalities to actually look at what each side will do for this country.

Having said that, I don’t hold out much hope for the ALP unless they can get back to grass roots.  Basically we have a two horse race. There’s the Liberal/National coalition, which equals Money.  Now everyone can relate to money, everyone has aspirations, so that is a no brainer for them to attract people. Labor has traditionally been Labor, equals unions.

For people like me – I am 45 in a few weeks – I understand that we owe the unions a lot.  Without unions there would be no minimum wage and no safety requirements in the workplace and kids would be working working for two bucks an hour.  Unfortunately, with so much small business now and the fact that the unions did such a bloody good job that the Government has taken over in some respects when it comes to fair pay and conditions, younger generations don’t ‘get’ or appreciate unions.

But they do see the news and unions scare them, Unions stopped them getting on that flight with Qantas to go to the mates 21st, Union ‘stuff’ meant they could not get that part-time job on the work site (that they were not qualified for but we won’t worry about that…). Unions have a bad rap.

Unfortunately for the unions they are not a large percentage of our population anymore. Also, like our politicians, too many union leaders are career managers, not actually from the site or factory floor, so it is even hard for old time blue collar workers to support them.

Worse, the Labor Party being so closely aligned with unions and the massive voting block they have that is not proportionate with the population actually makes the Liberals case for them.  If you are not in an area that has a big union presence, like mine, unions mean nothing to you.

The funny thing is that Labor was not always like that. They had more members and more support, and it was not just because we had more blue collar jobs in this country.  It was also because often the Labor party, just like the Lions or Rotary, were part of the community. Read the rest of this entry »

Mr Abbott, where the bloody hell are you?

In Federal Election, Luke Mansillo on March 23, 2013 at 4:47 PM
Abbott on QandA

Tony Abbott on the run from media, scrutiny and accountability.

 

 

By Luke Mansillo
March 23, 2013
Source: @mansillo

I have decided to submit a video question to Q&A. It’s quite rare for me to take such drastic steps such as engaging with actual pollies but this is something I felt I needed to get to the bottom of.

Today, 23 March 2013, marks 950 days since Tony Abbott was on Q&A. the country’s favourite TV show for raking pollies over the hot coals. In no other setting can the public sit a MP down and apply rigorous questioning for an hour. The man is in prime position to be our next Prime Minister in six months time and his plans are a bit thin on the ground, so it is entirely appropriate that we ask him some questions.

I love Q&A – in no other place can people produce evidence for someone to confront and address. Q&A is the people’s way of holding those who claim to represent them to account between those infrequent events called elections. It allows us to probe and assess our leaders. Tony has not made an appearance since the 16th August 2010, a week after Julia Gillard did and a week before the election on 21 August 2010.

Si it is a fair question to ask: Where’s Tony? And, why isn’t he turning up? What reasoning does he have for not turning up? What is more important than answering the questions we, the people, want answered?

This why I decided to submit a Freedom of Information request to the ABC in February. The request was denied, however it did produce some juicy evidence. The ABC has 26 documents between Abbott’s Office and the ABC regarding his attendance on Q&A. At a rate of one every ten weeks, it is unfair to make the claim the ABC has been badgering Abbott with requests. Rather, it  is making an infrequent, “Hi would you mind dropping in for a chat?” to a flat decline.

On the 4th June 2012, 658 days since we had a chat with Tony, there was this interaction on Q&A:

Read the rest of this entry »

Shanahan and Bolt doctor a quote to accuse Conroy of doctoring a quote: Welcome to Murdoch news:

In Margo Kingston, Media Reform on March 21, 2013 at 12:51 PM
Senator Conroy on Insiders

Senator Conroy on Insiders

By Margo Kingston
March 21, 2013

Stephen Conroy said on Insiders

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Denis Shanahan 19 March

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In his evidence to the Finkelstein Inquiry into media standards, Professor McKinnon… said:

“One editor jovially once remarked that he would rather double his annual contribution than have a complaint upheld.”

Andrew Bolt yesterday


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Headline: Labor uses doctored evidence to grab state control of the media

How despicable – and hypocritical. The deceitful Gillard Government itself doctors a quote to justify its attack on the free press…

That word “jovially” was omitted by the Government when it tried to argue it had reasons for demanding state control over the press…

A joke by an editor is presented by Conroy was a serious proposal. And it is done by Conroy omitting a crucial word.

Official Finkelstein inquiry transcript, 16 November 2011, page 48 

McKINNON: However, I have had an editor say to me, “If you promise not to uphold any complaints from my paper, we will double our subscription. Is that a deal?”  It was said over lunch, but the irritation, the consideration about personal reputation drives people more than money in that circumstance.

Thank you to Jacob Stam (@stamja) and Matthew from Canberra for alerting me to this matter.

Absolute freedoms destroy freedom: Disney

In Journalism, Margo Kingston, Media Reform, MSM on March 20, 2013 at 5:09 PM
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Julian Disney – Australian Press Council

Extract of evidence from Professor Julian Disney on freedom of expression and Australian newspapers  to the Senate hearing on media reform, March 19

There are substantial problems with media standards in Australia. A number of them we have in common with other countries…

We also gather (information) from journalists as well.

Journalists tend to speak more freely, of course, one to one than they do in broader discussions about what they see as problems within the media. The problems include distortion and suppression of key facts and opinions; confusion of fact and opinion; errors of fact, especially online due to excessive haste in posting material and inadequate corrections of those errors; invasion of privacy, particularly through the use of photographs taken from a distance. Some problems, of course, in any profession or industry, are inevitable. I do not think it should be a surprise that there are some. The level is higher than it should be and I think it is a significant problem that needs to be addressed.

On the other hand, we need to bear in mind that it is true that the media, and journalists in particular, many of them, if they are to be effective and if they are to serve the broader public interest in access to information and free expression of opinion, do need to be from time to time somewhat aggressive, somewhat unruly. One should not seek perfection in this area. Indeed, if one did seek perfection, it would be at a very high price.

Having said that, there is a substantial problem that needs to be addressed.

I might say that it has an adverse impact, amongst other things, on freedom of expression. If people are to have freedom of expression, they need access to reliable information. If they are fed false information, then the views that they form and they might want to express will not be the views that they would form and express if they were well informed. Access to unreliable, distorted information is an attack on freedom of expression.
Similarly, if they are unable to get their voice heard reasonably, because particular outlets have perhaps a general tendency to be more willing to publish views from one part of a perspective on a particular issue rather than another, that infringes on the freedom of expression of those people who do not come from the part that is going to be more generously covered.

If they are given an occasional example to express their views but that is overwhelmed by a very extensive coverage of the other view, then again their freedom of expression suffers.

Freedom of expression needs to be for all people, not just for those who are wealthy or for those who have special access to the most widely read media. Of course, it is a huge infringement on freedom of expression if people are intimidated by vitriol or by other forms of excessive abuse. That, again, even if it comes from active proponents of freedom of speech, it is in fact an attack on freedom of expression.

So media standards, good media standards, are an essential element, for a number of reasons. One of them is, in fact, genuine, wide-ranging freedom of expression. The Press Council has a very important role in this, a very demanding role. We can never do it to my satisfaction, and there are many issues which one should not look to the Press Council to solve anyway. There are other aspects of society in a democracy which must address them. We must always have realistic expectations of a press council. Read the rest of this entry »