Citizen Journalism

Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

The art of journalism: satisfying beginners and expert readers

In Journalism, Media, MSM, Sally Baxter on May 20, 2013 at 1:25 PM

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By Sally Baxter
May 19, 2013

What makes a journalist? A lot of people – inside and outside the profession – are asking that question. If you think it takes a genius, think again. Good journalists have a representative of their audience in mind who informs every step of their work. My background’s print, so it’s natural for me to refer to a reader. Who’s your reader, a genius or an idiot?

My first Editor was also my dad which means I spent a good deal of my career wondering if I was a journalist at all. I certainly didn’t feel I really was until I was a newspaper reporter, but that was later.

In 1980 I finished high school in Brisbane and went back to Hong Kong to plot my next move.

When I’d left, Bax had a talkback show on Commercial Radio (that’s how small the market was – that was the name of the station) and was filling in the rest of his time with a little computer magazine he’d started.

By the time I returned Computer-Asia had grown enough to warrant all his attention. It was still a tiny operation, running out of a backroom behind the Hong Kong Press Club in Wanchai. There was Bax, John the ad sales guy and Teresa the paste-up artist.

I had pitched up in the middle of the mad rush which happened once a month to get the magazine to bed and Bax dragged me, still jetlagged, the very next day to help out.

I didn’t contribute much I’m sure but it was a great introduction to the swirling excitement of deadlines and the dead calm at the centre, where evey line must be carefully checked first for spelling and punctuation and then again for meaning.

The operation was so small and so tight for cash our final job was to stick the subscriber copies into envelopes as soon as they arrived back from the printer and make sure it was at the front of every newsstand we passed on the way home.

Bax, recognising the value of cheap labour, asked me to stay. But, I told him, I don’t know anything about computers.

“Neither do I,” he said.

“And nor do most of our readers. Our job is to explain it to them.”

Bax told me we were writing for the business people who knew this stuff was important but didn’t have the first idea what it meant.

“Our reader’s probably a middle-aged guy in the middle of a middle-sized company whose boss is either about to invest in computing or has just done so.

“He’s got these weird new people with weird new titles talking a language he can’t understand telling him he’s got to do things differently.

“He doesn’t want to look like an idiot to his boss but he’s not convinced any of this stuff is going to help him do his job better.

“That’s your reader. You get to talk to the experts. Go and ask them the things that guy needs to know.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Ethics overboard: How to promote integrity in the moment of choice

In Democracy, Fifth Estate, Journalism, Margo Kingston, Media on May 19, 2013 at 3:53 PM

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By Margo Kingston
January 14, 2003

MARGO: With all the talk about stronger shield laws for journos, I think we are edging ever closer to needing an answer to the question: What is a journalist? We cannot argue for special protections and exemptions from privacy laws unless we can distinguish ourselves from non-journalists. To me the essential requirement is commitment to a genuinely accountable code of ethics, yet this is still just a dream. I gave this speech to a 2002 corruption prevention conference in Sydney, and reckon my idea is still relevant to the debate. I will run several pieces covering different aspects of the ‘What is a journalist’ question in the hope of genuine discussion on this vexed and increasingly urgent issue given the rise and rise of new media.

Ethics overboard

by Margo Kingston, September 2002

When you think about ethics, by which I mean ‘professional standards of conduct’, your starting point has to be your own.

Just after I started work in the big smoke of Sydney many years ago, the Herald chief of staff told me in confidence that the paper was sending a reporter posing as a prospective student into a Sydney high school to report on the youth of today in today’s public education system. The editor was to pretend to be his father when enrolling him, but was too busy to do so. Could I pose as my colleagues aunt?

Weeks later, while the reporter was still at the school, another reporter stumbled upon the project and leaked it, resulting in political condemnation in the parliament and outrage from our readers and my colleagues. Thus I discovered that journalists in the journalists union were bound by a code of ethics.

This was the first time I’d heard of it. I had a duty, personal to me, to tell anyone I was speaking to for a story what my job was, unless the matter was of such compelling public interest that I was duty bound not to. Everyone in my industry believed that this was not a case where the exception applied.

The shock of the incident marked the beginning of my deep interest in journalistic ethics. I thought about my role in relationship to my readers, and my duties to assert my professional ethics to avoid abuse of power by my industry.

I was trained as a lawyer, not a journalist. I knew my ethical duties as a lawyer: My duty was not only to the client but to the court, and I should never knowingly use as evidence material I knew to be false. So I don’t agree with the idea that ethics are instinctive in all cases. Written principles are required, and they need to be vigorously communicated as a matter fundamental to your career.

I believe the principles should be general, not particular, as particularity breeds legalism and the dangerous belief that technical avoidance equals compliance with ethical duty. Every ethical code should include not only the principles to which adherence is required, but the reasons why. For ethics, in the end, is about ourself in relation to other individuals and to our society.

The elites are in relationship with the people, and professional ethics – by accountants, lawyers, engineers, clergymen, architects – are constraints on abuse of power by the elites. A sellout of ethics for money, power, or survival, weakens the stability of the polity itself.

Example

In the early 1990s, a construction company sued an establishment Brisbane law firm for its costs in a prolonged Federal Court civil action. The firm had acted for a developer, since jailed, who instructed it to resist and delay an action for payment of a debt due for building a shopping centre by alleging fraud. There was no evidence for this accusation. The ethical duties of solicitors and barristers forbid them from pleading fraud without supporting evidence.

When the developer went into liquidation, the plaintiff bought its legal files for a pittance and sued the legal firm. The barrister involved was Ian Callinan QC, since appointed a High Court judge.

So, a former leader of the Queensland bar and a partner in Queensland’s best connected law firm were caught red-handed with their pants down.

The Queensland Law Society, a body backed by legislation to police the ethical standards required by solicitors, would not say whether or not it was examining the solicitor’s behaviour. It was confidential. And the society implied that it only acted on a complaint, not of its own motion. End of story. Read the rest of this entry »

Bolt no free speech champion, just another rhetor*

In Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Ideology, IPA, Journalism, Media on May 11, 2013 at 5:42 PM
Statue of ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, blindfolded by protesting students in Athens. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

Statue of ancient Greek philosopher Socrates, blindfolded by protesting students in Athens. Photograph: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

By Thomas Connelly

May 11,  2013

Margo: I read with incredulity Andrew Bolt’s begging letter to citizens to donate to the IPA’s fund to defend free speech http://support.ipa.org.au/. IPA donors Murdoch and Gina could finance a free speech fund with their spare change. This appeal is about something else, changing the very meaning of free speech to suit the very big, very rich, very powerful end of town.

Shocks come in threes, and this surreal threesome kicked off with Abbott’s ode to Murdoch and his IPA as freedom’s discerning friends and his yes, Sir nod to the IPA’s policy wish list.

The Brandis free speech fantasy kicked off this week with a speech called The Freedom Wars and an @albericie interview.  Brandis, describing Bolt as one of only two Australian journalists prepared to fight for free speech, set the scene for Bolt, Murdoch poster boy, to launch the IPA appeal. It is so cynical, and so arrogant, that it gives donors the chance to win a copy of the Daily Telegraph’s obscene propaganda page one splash during the media reform debate signed by its puppet master.

Free speech is not what Murdoch/Bolt/IPA are about, as the head of the Press Council Julian Disney explained in evidence to the Senate media reform inquiry (to my knowledge no newspaper reported his highly critical comments about their free speech failures).

Or maybe free speech is now what Murdoch, Bolt, the IPA, Brandis and Abbott say it is. Who is strong enough to seriously take them on in the public sphere?

I published my response to Brandis, then I tweeted a plea for writers to respond, and late last night got this tweet from @metaboleus 2.01 am.

Onya, mate. Anyone else care to join him?


Free Speech is obviously a very important (if only implied) right, and no one can seriously argue it. There are limits on free speech; obviously you don’t have the right to shout fire in a crowded theatre when there’s no fire.

A recent limit to free speech, a sensible and timely one in my opinion, is restrictions on using ethnophaulisms in the public arena. I may out of touch, for never in my 50 years have I felt the need to publicly besmirch and mock our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. I have never felt the need to use the N-word in discourse, or to deny the existence of the holocaust.

Alleged political correctness allegedly gone mad barely registers as a threat to free speech compared to the almost complete full spectrum dominance of the major mainstream media companies, a dominance of interlocking companies and subsidiaries that seeps into the pores of society, and once established is as difficult to remove as the acres of lantana covering the Queensland country side.

In these free speech debates I am always amused to hear the bootless cries to heaven raised when people who hold powerful, privileged positions in society feel they are being restrained in their campaign of peddling misinformation. One these crying groups which make me chuckle is the IPA. I am equally amused to hear old white men such as Andrew Bolt, or Alan Jones, who work for influential media outlets, crying like aggrieved anarchists at the Stalinist regulations the government attempts to use to counteract the more egregious examples of rhetorical abuse.

Bolt is seen as a common sense hero in this one sided windmill tilting. He is romanticised to such an extent that he is seen by some as a martyr to free speech (a martyr who has not spent years in prison, who has not been blacklisted in his profession or denied work, who is free to travel around the country speaking at any time he wants). Thus the IPA’s Chris Berg compares Bolt with Socrates, the ugly, shoeless, poverty stricken, despiser of money and fame stone mason of Ancient Athens.

Socrates was famous for his humility and for his firm belief that he did not have wisdom. He can not be in any honest way be compared to Andrew Bolt. Andrew Bolt mixes with the richest, dresses in the height of fashion, seeks out new ways to make even more money, writes a regular column for the Murdoch press empire and has a weekly television show to broadcast his views. Read the rest of this entry »

The Post-Mortem on Journalism Reform: What Happens Now? Live Blog

In Fifth Estate, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Journalism, Media, Media Reform, Uncategorized on April 10, 2013 at 6:27 PM

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Live blogging by Kevin Rennie
The Post-Mortem on Journalism Reform: What Happens Now?

The Chair of the Australian Press Council, Julian Disney, will outline future directions, followed by a panel discussion with ABC Media Watch presenter Jonathan Holmes, Senator Scott Ludlam (Greens) and Moderated by Director of the Centre for Advancing Journalism, Margaret Simons.

Centre for Advanced Journalism

@journalism_melb

University of Melbourne

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 – 18:30

Australians For Honest Politics Media Reform @NoFibs

MS: #goodjourno hash tag

Who wants to talk about media reform after collapse of govt legislation? Convergence review and Finkelstein inquiry left in cold.

JD: Tragedy that process went astray and opportunity lost. Bill not as fierce as presented. There are major concerns about standards eg opinion v fact. Freedom of expression should provide opportunity for all to express their views for as many as possible not just a few. Chilling effect of intimidation of those wanting to present alternative ideas. Press Council has been distracted and may get back to its reform agenda but less pressure on publishers to embrace reform. How do we deal with increasingly convergent media.

Press Council: Need clear code of conduct and monitoring of standards. Adjudication of complaints not only task. Broader responses to complaints needed. Continue third party complaints and improve. Need power to initiate own inquiries. Improve reporting/accountability of Council.

Diversity in mainstream still major issue. Only hope is online. Develop stronger consumer voice separate from regulator. Encourage convergent media regulator with all platforms together, not just print.

SL: The Greens don’t support govt controlled media regulator. How to deal with enormously powerful corporate media owners? Public interest advocate was the real issue for them not freedom of press. Further legislative reforms dead. Nothing from coalition and progressive govt bullied.

JH: Media concentration problem. Online and ABC no answer to this. Cannot wind back clock. Media regulation won’t help. Anyway who could/would buy newspapers? Single daily couldn’t survive on their own. Issue of bad treatment of individuals not that big, not justification for Finkelstein proposals. JD’s reforms way to go, with some kind of external check on Press Council.

JD: West Australian breakaway for Press Council is unique. Over time privileges that journalists get should be subject to being within some kind of framework. Need to cover online journalism as well.

JH: Is there much disagreement about standards?

JD: there is amongst some editors eg photoshopping images, invasion of privacy, trespassing. Need for realistic, practical standards.

SL: Difference betw journalists and online ameteurs – scale as applied to tweets and blogs versus MSM.

JH: Bias by media conglomerates obsesses online comment but extremely difficult to regulate fairness. Hard for Mediawatch then would be harder for a regulator.

SL: bias only problematic with one one or two players. Need more points of view.

JD: bias should not stop practices such as checking with people before publication. Factual accuracy is a different Q – should be tenable basis for what is written.

JH: Shouldn’t be writing rubbish. Should get more diversity in news online in future.

MS: Consumer activism?

JD: PC holding community roundtables. Community advisory group at national level good idea. People to research and present complaints in considered, effective way.

JH: Social media holding old media to account eg Destroy the Joint with Alan Jones. Facebook campaigns have some effect on how press go about their business. Tap into people’s fury and they join in.

Audience Questions:

Q to MS: Should university become involved with complaints?

MS: No but have educational role.

JD: One-off social media campaigns do little to change standards permanently.

Q: How can laws protect journalist and sources. Read the rest of this entry »

Paddy Manning pays the whistleblower’s price

In Journalism, Margo Kingston, Media on April 9, 2013 at 4:32 PM

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By Margo Kingston,

April 9,  2013

I know from experience that sometimes when the death of something you believe in stares you in the face you lose your judgement. It seems that this happened to business journalist Paddy Manning  yesterday morning. By 6pm last night he’d been sacked. by editorial chief Garry Linnell.

Like many journos, I thought @gpaddymanning must have another job to go to when I saw his piece in Crikey. Apparently he hasn’t, and that hurts him and his wife and children.

Today, the consensus of a meeting of Fairfax business journos was that management’s decision was correct and that they could take no action to support their colleague. What Paddy did was to write a critical piece about his employer in a rival publication, and that’s a cardinal sin.

Apparently he thought he’d be reprimanded and sent to Siberia for a long time when he wrote his piece for Crikey. He must have thought the principles he was fighting for were worth that sacrifice. I agree with him, and I hope for his sake his stunning protest about what is becoming deeply compromised business reporting at Fairfax will trigger reflection and action.

Some background. Fairfax has been repositioning itself to be more pro-business, a move given added impetus by its decision last week to end the separation between the Australian Financial Review and the metro dailies’ business coverage. Now, after merging the SMH and The Age business bureaus, all three are now in one division, meaning it is likely they will not compete for stories. The Australian Financial Review’s new editor Michael Stutchbury has been noticeably anti-union, pro-business and anti-government since he moved from The Australian.

Ian Verrender, the business editor of the SMH for eight years, took redundancy last year and used his final column, ‘A business reporter’s greatest value lies in asking hard questions’ to warn of what was to come at Fairfax:

A menacing danger quietly lurks behind the technological changes within the media, one that has the potential to debase one of the foundations necessary for a healthy democracy. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the way in which business news is presented, where the interests of a free press and commercial imperatives collide, often with devastating effects.

The more vulnerable media companies become, the less capable they are of withstanding the pressure of vested interests and the more susceptible they will be to attack. Many will adopt the easy way out, that it is best to simply not cause trouble…

Unlike politics or sport, those running big business have a great deal of power. Veer too far from the press release, question a little too aggressively and the mighty weight of a corporation suddenly is hovering above, threatening litigation, demanding your dismissal. The chief executive probably knows a few people on the newspaper company’s board.

Little wonder then that most business reporters default to the easy option. And many begin to believe they are part of the business world, that the reason they are being squired to upmarket restaurants, to corporate boxes and offered trips to exotic places is that they are part of the team.

…This is the final column I’ll pen for BusinessDay. It is an emotional parting but after 25 years, it is time to move on. There have been good times. There have been great times. And the ethos that was drilled into us all those years ago – that we work for the readers, for you – is something that remains true today and hopefully in the future, in whatever form The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald take.

So this is it. Time to clean up the desk. Then again, there is so much clutter and rubbish here, maybe I’ll leave it for whoever comes next. You need a legacy, after all.

Verrender’s column details the terrible toll on ordinary people of big business scams and bad practice due to soft pro-business reporting and spruiking by finance journalists and editors. Thanks to Paddy’s dummy spit, we know that the lessons of cosying up to big business have not been learned, and that compromised ethics are on the rise and getting worse.

The back story from what I’ve gathered today – and I would appreciate input from people in the know – is that there is a process of creeping advertorials in Fairfax business coverage. There have been protests by journos, but apparently management has reassured staff that there is no influence by advertisers (sponsors) on content. The idea is that journalists are commissioned to write for these special sections in the normal way, and write their stories untouched by the advertising sponsorship. However tensions are apparent, as sponsors have begun complaining about what is being written. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »