Citizen Journalism

Posts Tagged ‘Concentration of media ownership’

Why can’t Kim Williams describe the public interest?

In Journalism, Margo Kingston, Media Reform, MSM on March 18, 2013 at 9:33 PM
Created by Martin Davies

Created by Martin Davies

By Margo Kingston
March 18, 2013

Kim Williams is Murdoch’s chief executive in Australia. Williams cannot define, or even explore, what ‘the public interest’ might be in relation to newspapers, because it is completely relative: ‘The public interest is as long as a piece of string… it is in the eye of the beholder.’

And his beholder is Murdoch, whose view of public interest is his commercial and political interests.

Here’s my attempt:

‘Freedom of the press is not a property right of owners. It is a right of the people. It is part of their right to free expression, inseparable from their right to inform themselves.’ (Kent Royal Commission into media ownership in Canada).

And here is my opinion of the role a journalist plays in upholding that public interest:

‘The duty of the journalist is the same as that of the historian –to seek out the truth, above all things, and to present to his readers not such things as statecraft would wish them to know but the truth as near as he can attain it.’ (London Times editor John Thadeus Delane,1852)

Big media owners are motivated by profit and power. Greens Senator Scott Ludlum asked Kerry Stokes, owner the the West Australian newspaper: ‘Are you saying you have no public interest obligations apart from just to make money for your shareholders?’

Stokes: ‘They are one and the same.’

This explains in full why Stokes censored and punished journalists in the Jill Singer scandal.

Journalists, as professionals, must comply with a professional ethics code. It is up to us to uphold the public interest. But we have no power without the support of our colleagues acting collectively and an effective accountability mechanism. These days, employed journos have no power due to ongoing staff cuts.

At Fairfax, we managed for a long time to uphold the public interest by having a code of editorial independence and strong collegiate support with the support of the Fairfax family. Now there is Gina.

The media reforms, as weak as they are, give ethical journalism a chance, both by making self-regulation meaningful and potentially preventing yet further domination by Murdoch’s media. They also give citizens the chance for protection against abuse of power by newspapers.

Our job is to restore trust in journalists. As @murphyroo wrote today in her last piece for Fairfax before joining The Guardian, The media must embrace reform to survive:

‘…the principles guiding the proposed changes? Let’s look through the static and consider them.

‘There are two: that concentration of media ownership in Australia will not get any worse than it is now. Not any better, mind you – just no worse. And that self-regulation – a principle that newspapers have rightly fought for and defended – should be made to actually work; that people who are the victims of intended or unintended abuses by media companies have their complaints properly heard.

‘The principles in this package are, in fact, the challenges the mainstream media must meet in order to survive the transition currently upon us. We in the media must renew our mandate with audiences by innovating and moving beyond the strictures of the old masthead and network models, and by being accurate and reliable.

‘We can pretend the only player here with an existential trust problem is the Gillard government, and wilfully ignore our own parallel universe: the evidence that audiences don’t trust us either.

‘We can comfort ourselves in self-delusion, and strut and fret. Or we can spend less time swaggering and railing against our enemies and more time renewing the mission of contemporary journalism. We are tellers of truths, news breakers, curators and contextualisers; and at our best and bravest, we are people who write things that someone, somewhere, does not want written.

‘The only people who can save or destroy journalism are journalists. And we will save it only if we exhibit courage and humility, not manufactured conflict.’ Read the rest of this entry »

The MSM won’t report this, so here’s Gillard and Conroy on media reform

In Freedom of Speech, Journalism, Media Reform, MSM, News Limited, Press Gallery on March 13, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Photo Alex Ellinghausen @ellinghausen  #thepulselive

Photo Alex Ellinghausen @ellinghausen #thepulselive

Question Time House of Representatives March 13, 2013

Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth) (14:29): My question is to the Prime Minister. Can she provide the House examples of published content in breach of the standards her government wishes to enforce through the Public Interest Media Advocate? Is the front page of today’s Telegraph such an example? If she cannot provide any examples, what exactly is the mischief, the problem, that her new media controls are intended to address?

Ms GILLARD (Lalor—Prime Minister) (14:30): I thank the member for Wentworth for his question and I understand its motivations. I understand that the opposition have decided to seek some political advantage by bandwagoning with media interests and media organisations, transparent—and bordering on the laughable—as that is. Yes, it is.

Opposition members interjecting—

Ms GILLARD: I am glad the opposition have the good grace to laugh when their motivations on this matter are transparently exposed. To the member for Wentworth I would say this: before we get into any sanctimonious nonsense about freedom of speech, it was under the Howard government that two journalists—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Order! There seems to be sanctimonious disrespect for the standing orders. I am not going to preside over, yet again, another day when not a word can be heard in this chamber. The Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD: Yes—this is the kind of hypocrisy that we see from the opposition. It was under the Howard government that two News Limited journalists faced jail for contempt of court. The reaction of the Howard government: do nothing. The reaction of this government: provide journalist shield laws. It was under the Howard government that churches would have their grants taken away—their services smashed—if they spoke out against government policy.

Mr Turnbull: Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This is not relevant. I am more than happy to debate freedom of the press. I have asked the Prime Minister—

The SPEAKER: The member for Wentworth will resume his seat. The Prime Minister has the call. Read the rest of this entry »