My week on twitter 13 May to 19 May 2013. Some pics from me, some pics retweeted by me and some pics sent to me.
By Margo Kingston
January 14, 2003
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.
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 »
Margo: I’ve begun asking tweeps who’ve had a go at activism in the political sphere to write about their experience for @NoFibs. Here is the first post of what I hope will be a series, by the tweep who compiled a list of Abbott gaffes which has already attracted more than 15,000 views. The tweep has given me a good reason to be anonymous.
May 15, 2013
The genesis of the Tony Abbott gaffe list
During an interview with Leigh Sales on 25 March 2013, Prime Minister Gillard listed some of the ALP government’s achievements. To which Sales responded “Well, Prime Minister, you’ve given me a laundry list there, so let me give you one back.” Sales then gave seven examples of what she described as failures by the Gillard government. Needless to say, the PM disagreed with the premise of the list. 
But it got me thinking. If the PM has made x mistakes between becoming PM and now, how many has Tony Abbott made? What would a laundry list for him look like?
Some laundry list items sprang to mind immediately, such as when Abbott ran out of parliament to avoid Craig Thomson’s vote; his disastrous interview with Leigh Sales about BHP; the bat phone jokes; and his strange behaviour during the ‘shit happens’ Mark Riley interview. 
Over a couple of days I recalled other incidents but in the end I resorted to googling his name month by month from June 2010. That’s how the Tony Abbot list of forty eight gaffes between August 2010 and May 2013 was compiled; an average of 1.4 per month. I update it as appropriate. 
As to what constitutes a gaffe, my test was whether his words and/or behaviour attracted criticism and/or ridicule from across the political divide, over and above standard policy debate.
I envisaged the laundry list as a resource for journalists who might have forgotten just how often and in what way Abbott has screwed up; and more generally as a resource for people to quote from or show to friends, relatives and colleagues so they can see for themselves that Abbott is not fit to be PM. Last month Peter Costello claimed that Abbott has changed over the last three years. Based on the list, I doubt it.
I love Twitter
I’d joined Twitter about two weeks before compiling the list. No particular reason, just decided that it was about time. But the value of Twitter quickly became obvious. By the time I was ready to publish the list at the end of March 2013, I had maybe twenty followers but a couple of those had far more. As is the way with social media, once someone with a big following retweets, or links to, an article, video or whatever, it’s off and running.
The list had about 5,000 reads within days, plateaued at that number for a few days, then off it went again, reaching about 8,500 reads by mid-April. In fits and starts, it’s now had close to 17,000 reads on Scribd.com, and been published on other sites. While the positive feedback and read-count might be gratifying, I would really get a kick out of hearing that someone changed their vote because of the gaffe list. So if that happens, please let me know via twitter at choosing@ch150ch
 Transcript of interview 25 March 2013 accessed at http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2013/s3723490.htm
 See gaffe list
 Gaffe list can be accessed at http://www.scribd.com/doc/133134121/Tony-Abbott-Gaffes
May 8, 2013
This piece is written in response to these three articles which have appeared within the past couple of weeks
1) Hooked on outrage in the Twitter wars by Jacqueline Maley, 20 April Fairfax
2) The left takes a turn for the ugly as power slips through Labor’s grasp by Chris Johnson, 28 April Fairfax
3) Feminist backs Abbott on ‘calibre’ comment by Heath Aston and Jonathan Swan, 7 May Fairfax
What these three articles share in common is a criticism of how people, particularly those on the Left, use Twitter to express outrage at comments made by Tony Abbott, Alan Jones, and the politician Dennis Jensen. These three articles use outrage-shaming to mock the reaction of the Left to insensitive and offensive comments from the Right.
Outrage-shaming occurs when people in mainstream media (MSM) use it as a pulpit to shame people on Twitter over their outrage or reactions to a event. Recent articles based on outrage-shaming have targeted the Left, women and the working class, groups that have traditionally been shamed into silence for breaching the polite rules of society.
Too loud, too much, too emotional, too public.
If you don’t like something Tony Abbott said, and take to Twitter to express your opinion, people who disagree with you will dismiss this as inappropriate outrage. This can be also called faux-outrage or confected-outrage by those who think the reaction has gone too far.
Say too much and MSM journalists will write a newspaper column about you. Keep your emotions under control, don’t react, stay quiet, don’t get angry, say nothing – most importantly, do not get outraged. The MSM will decide the narrative and context and the circumstances in which you will be outraged.
This outrage as a means of control is not new. For centuries moral panics have come from the elites – the wealthy, the law, the churches, the men – from the top down, and have covered everything from witches who could wither crops with just a glance and Muslim terrorists to satanic heavy metal or the evils of jazz or rap music, unemployed single mothers on welfare to people in boats. Moral panics have been used to control behaviour, kids and their music, widowed women who owned property, people who prayed to a different God or had no God. Groups are held up as an example of how not to live, to shame those who have transgressed the boundaries, into repenting. Shaming also serves as a warning of what might happen if you, too, think about breaking the rules. The latest moral panic in MSM is ‘The Left are using Twitter to express outrage.
Feminist Eva Cox described the Twitter reaction to Tony Abbott’s “women of calibre” comment, from ordinary users as well as Penny Wong and Tanya Plibersek, as “an overreaction“. Sorry Twitter, you may react, just don’t over-react.
Of course you are entitled to free speech, be careful how you use it.
As Maley wrote in Hooked on outrage in the Twitter wars:
Freedom of speech is one thing, but at a certain point in political debate you have to turn down the volume of the extreme voices at the edge of the debate, so you can have a reasoned one in the middle. You have to filter out the outrage and, even harder, not allow yourself to get outraged by the outrageous. –
So what if people take to their own Twitter accounts to express outrage?
People don’t always tweet expecting their conversations will be evaluated by mainstream journalists for levels of appropriate outrage.
And tweets that on the surface may appear to be an over-reaction aren’t always actually about outrage. Tweets can be used for humour, venting, sharing personal and painful experience and connecting with others. How different is this from the salons and cafes where people meet and talk, the turn of the century French Bohemian cafes or Dorothy Parker of the Algonquin Round Table and her acid-tongue put downs repeated to this day. Or the Pubs, the clubs and backyard barbecues and Sydney University Liberal Club president’s dinners.
Of course you are entitled to free speech, just not so outrageously public. Read the rest of this entry »
May 2nd, 2013
The Canberra Press Gallery is in a reforming state of mind, and to my surprise I’m making a contribution, thanks to Twitter. And thanks to the Press Gallery Committee President @David_Speers, Tweeps can have an input too.
The PGC decides who joins the club. In the old days we knew who belonged, journos chosen by their media employers. So there are no criteria for entry, no standard form, no process apart from emailing the president and obtaining a signature for Parliament officials to issue a press gallery pass. We all knew who belonged and who didn’t.
Times are changing. New media is moving in, old media is contracting, and the very definition of ‘journalism’ is contested. The increasing direct involvement of citizens in public political discourse is intensifying demands for transparency in the media, which has somehow kept its internal workings secret at the same time as it successfully demanded ever increasing transparency in the political institutions it interrogated.
The casual, oral tradition of volunteer working members of the Press Gallery exercising what amounts to secretly exercised, discretionary power is under serious pressure, exemplified its recent refusal of membership to @callumdav. His account in @independentaus, story triggered Tweep questions on how the PGC worked and where they could access a list of PG members. Although I was a member for many years I didn’t have all the answers, and @walter_bagehot kindly briefed us.
I was surprised that the press gallery membership list, readily in Parliament House, was not a public document, and tweeted David for a a copy for publication. Having received no reply, I lodged an FOI with the Department of Parliamentary Liaison, which has the list because of its duty to maintain the security pass database.
As a result, PGC secretary @Jamesmassola had a go at me by tweet: ‘FOI seems like a sledgehammer to crack a nut.’ David then asked for my email address. Here is our correspondence.
Margo Kingston note: I was a member of the press gallery for many years. When I left Fairfax to take Webdiary independent my Parliament House ID lapsed. I applied to the then Press Gallery Committee president Karen Middleton for a new PG ID and she signed off without a hassle.
Yet I couldn’t answer some questions from tweeps this week about the status and powers of the PGC, and was surprised by the reasons given by the current president David Speers for refusing an application by Callum Davidson to join the PG as a journo for Independent Australia. The reasons for rejection were that IA was an opinion-based publication, not news-based, and that applicants had to be established working journalists. I find the first reason odd, given IA’s intrepid investigations of the Ashby and Thomson stories, both of which have produced many news stories and news scoops, including one by me.
In addition, I confirmed with my former SMH colleague Mike Seccombe that he had been granted admission to the Press Gallery for the Global Mail, which is a feature-based publication not focussed on news. Gabrielle Chan, a member of the PG when she worked for the Oz many years ago, was also granted membership when she joined The Hoopla as an opinion and colour writer.
@walter_bagehot has kindly agreed to give us the facts on the privileges of the Press Gallery and the power and composition of the Press Gallery Committee. It seems that Callum can appeal to the PGC as a whole. Unfortunately, there appear to be no written protocols or guidelines for PGC decision making. As new media expands and the mainstream media contracts, I feel that the PGC needs to publish written guidelines and a process for appeal.
By Kevin Rennie
April 13, 2013
The near capacity crowd at the Centre for Advanced Journalism’s session The Post-Mortem on Journalism Reform: What Happens Now? belied the conventional wisdom that media reform in Australia is dead (Details and the live blog are here). The venue was the aptly named Elisabeth Murdoch theatre at Melbourne University. But let’s not dwell on her infamous son despite the presence of his large press prints all over the issues discussed.
Convergence and concentration: Whither/wither media reform?
Panel members left little doubt that there is no chance for major reforms to legislation or self-regulation in the near future.
Julian Disney, Chair of the Australian Press Council, was the most optimistic. He would like to get his ambitious agenda revitalized: broadening Council membership to all the so-called converging media: print, broadcast and online; establishing community input; enhancing complaints procedures; defining journalistic ethics, standards and codes of practice; gaining the ability to initiate complaints.
On the issue of media concentration there was no consensus. Media Watch presenter, Jonathan Holmes, spelled out the financial reality – no one is going to buy a stand-alone daily newspaper. He hopes that here may be greater diversity in the medium term through the emergence of independent online news sites with real penetration.
There is little or no precedent for this in Australia at this stage. Players such as Crikey, Global Mail and New Matilda resemble feature magazines with no meaningful news gathering capacity. Perhaps he has the soon-to-be-launched Guardian Australia in mind. It will be a different voice but is hardly a truly new player.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the discussion concerned political bias in the mainstream media. The panel consensus, led by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam, was that bias is okay so long as we get a broader range of opinions by having more media outlets and owners.
This publisher pluralism depends on the problematic proliferation of real online alternatives mentioned above. However, the old joke still fits: Freedom of the press is owning one. If new online organisations are controlled by the big end of town, the traditional media hegemony will continue, based on the shared worldview of the usual suspects. It may just mean more opportunities for the IPA turks and other think tankers to strut their neo-liberal stuff.
Projecting public interest
Controlling the excesses of partiality, the audience was told, would only come through monitoring instances where bias leads to distortion of facts (lies for instance) or unbalanced coverage (more of jolly old Lord Whatshisname the climate scientist). The Press Council and media monitors like Media Watch are virtually powerless to rein in political bias per se.
Standards that might be applied in this regard include: distinguishing between news and views; checking sources; contacting the key people before publication; fact checking. The kind of vilification that some News Limited papers poured on Senator Stephen Conroy recently seems beyond the reach of any code or regulations. Even the court of public opinion is unlikely to find in favour of politicians or political parties who seem to be regarded as unfair game.
Just as worrying was the lack of redress for individuals who have been treated unfairly by the media. Julian Disney saw it as a real problem but Jonathan Holmes was not as concerned as he believes it rarely happens. Great to hear that people’s privacy is being respected at last. The shameless commercial current affairs shows must have abandoned the foot in the door and the camera at the bathroom window.
Social media campaigns were suggested as one of the few ways to call out the worst cases. It is the hands of the public. Julian offered the prospect of community roundtables and a Press Council community advisory group. Fine in themselves but hardly a knockout blow to gutter journalism.
He believes that netizens will have to provide the teeth and the quality research if the self-regulator is to do its job. Perhaps we should follow his suggestion that concerned citizens coordinate complaints to the Council. Perhaps the Public Interest Advocate will be a citizen appointment. Hands up anyone? Some philanthropist is bound to foot the bill to defend all the libel suits and legal maneuvers to reveal confidential sources. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
University of Melbourne
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 – 18:30
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.
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 »
By Margo Kingston
March 16, 2013
Here’s a history lesson on the long road to media dominance by Rupert Murdoch, aided by both big parties, via two chapters in my book. The Liberals said yes to Murdoch under Howard, and will keep saying yes. They are partners, or rather, Abbott is Murdoch’s puppet.
I also tell the story of how I lobbied minor parties to stop Murdoch’s law in the Senate in 2003, and describe Fairfax journalists’ long struggle to preserve our values of fearless independent journalism.
Murdoch papers’ incendiary reaction to Conroy’s reforms – led by Murdoch’s top executive in Australia Kim Williams – means Murdoch’s empire has something to lose. Two things, actually – less chance of even further dominating Australia’s MSM, and more chance of its journalism being just a little bit accountable to the ethics of journalism.
There is no chance the media reforms, weak as they are, will pass without strong action by citizens. Wilkie, Oakshott, Katter, Windsor and Thomson need to be convinced to negotiate with Labor to agree to a reform package they can sign up to and vote for quickly. They must understand that Labor has been crazy-brave to put up even this minimalist reform package, and that Labor must get this done quickly or bleed to death from Murdoch media’s relentless attacks.
Over to you. Apart from anything else, your NBN needs you.
UPDATE MARCH 17: Here are the key extracts from Conroy’s Insiders interview today:
Fixing Howard’s gift to Murdoch to become even more dominant
In 2007 the Howard government weakened our cross media laws that were introduced by Paul Keating. And we said from that day we would be campaigning to introduce a public interest test because we didn’t believe leaving the door open for further concentrations of media in this country were healthy.
I mean around the world: in the US, the top two newspaper groups cover about 14 per cent. Even in Canada, a country more akin to ourselves in terms of geography, 54 per cent coverage from the top two. In Australia it is 86 per cent coverage. We’ve already got one of the most concentrated media sectors in the world and we don’t believe it should be allowed to be shrunk any further.
Why self-regulation needs to be strengthened
I’ve been entertained by the claim that this is a solution looking for a problem. Well let me read you some quotes from evidence given publicly to the Finkelstein Inquiry. It may come as a surprise to you, Barrie, they didn’t get a lot of coverage in the mainstream media.
Let me read to you Professor Ken McKinnon who was a former chair of the Australian Press Council. He said: “I 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?”
We have the current head, Julian Disney, he said: “The possibility of reduced funding remains a significant concern fuelled on occasion by the comments of publishers who dislike adverse adjudications or other council decisions. And the Council’s almost total reliance on funding from publishers, and especially from a few major publishers, is widely criticised as a crucial detraction from its real and apparent independence.”
And just finally, if I could, one more, another head chair of the Australian Press Council, Professor Dennis Pearce: “Indeed we had one period where The Australian newspaper did not like an adjudication we made and they withdrew from the council for a period of months”. And Mr Finkelstein asked: “Was that a direct consequence of the particular adjudication?” And he said: “It was indeed. They said our adjudication was wrong and they were not going to publish it, and they didn’t”.
So, people who want to argue … Read the rest of this entry »
By Kim Berry
March 5, 2013
EDITOR’S NOTE: Monday night dummy spit:
Next morning I see this:
I check out the dinner guests and find that I follow @allconsuming and she follows me so I DM and here’s a piece by her for us.
On Monday night I dined with the Prime Minister. This followed last year’s morning tea and then Christmas drinks with her at Kirribilli House, as part of a select group of ‘influential women in digital media’. I totally acknowledge this is a very big deal, a privilege, and pretty darn cool. But let’s back up for a moment.
I started blogging 10 years ago when I was at home with two small children, one with a disability, and in the grip of the clichéd ‘What have I done with my life’ period of angst every 30-year-old is prone to roll around in.
The early stuff is atrocious, akin to teenage diaries of misery, woe, and inexplicable vitriol. I persisted because I’m stubborn and a writer by trade. I learned pretty quickly that writing about yourself in an engaging way is actually quite difficult. See also: white, middle-class whinger.
There were a few stops and starts in those early days of dial-up, a fun year blogging with a friend, and then the last six or so at allconsuming.com.au, my own corner on the interwebs. Anne Summers called my blog ‘idiosyncratic’. Someone on Twitter said it was “peculiarly fascinating” which pandered nicely to my ego.
I am a personal blogger. I write about my life and all aspects of it which can include a LOT of baking, a fair smattering of swearing, the occasional indignation or insight, and a bit of froth and bubble.
Because I am a woman and a mother and occasionally blog about my children I am often labelled a ‘mummy blogger’. It doesn’t rile me as much as it used because the bigger blogging becomes, the more using that term to patronise or dismiss reflects on the labeller rather than the labelled.
I adore the online space. Blogging gave me a voice when I felt isolated and alone. It built a community, an international force of friendship that buoys me through the dark days and rejoices at the good. The arrival of Facebook, then Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest has only served to grow that community and I think that is pretty awesome.
Did I ever imagine blogging would see me having dinner with the Prime Minister? Absolutely not. Sure, I’m a current affairs addict and passionate about people educating themselves on the issues which form the fabric of our society – but to be in this position? To talk directly to the PM? Never in a million years.
There’s been a steady amount of sniping in mainstream and digital media forums about how we were chosen, that we weren’t from Western Sydney, and that the PM was snubbing women from the very area she was trying to win over, scoring a “Let them eat cake” kicker. Honestly, I don’t know why we were chosen. Read the rest of this entry »