Citizen Journalism

Posts Tagged ‘Fairfax’

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 »

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Sane analysis and comment on media reform

In Fairfax, Journalism, Margo Kingston, Media Reform, MSM, News Limited on March 15, 2013 at 1:54 PM

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By Margo Kingston
March 15, 2013

In this post we’ve linked to sane analysis and commentary on media reform. We’ve also asked you to nominate a fair, accurate and balanced MSM news story  – the criteria print media groups tell their self-regulation body the Press Council they strive for. If you can bear it, here is Crikey’s wrap of the print media reaction.

I have been told by an informed source that Murdoch’s media have gone troppo on strengthening self-regulation as a bait and switch tactic. On this view, freedom of the press is a smokescreen for their real objection, that the proposed new laws would seek to limit even more concentration of media ownership by rolling Foxtel into News Ltd. Murdoch also wants all cross media laws abolished. ‘They are playing different game to the one everyone is watching’.

So questions for Abbott, if anyone in the MSM can be bothered – do you support the governments proposals on cross media ownership and strengthening provisions to protect Australians from more concentration of media ownership?

Abbott is a puppet of Murdoch. Be afraid.

Anyone seen anything on what the media reforms would mean for the size and reach of Murdoch’s Australian empire? Is there anything out there?

Here are the sane pieces we’ve found so far. More nominations welcome.

ABC The Drum

Tim Dunlop: Consumers won’t pay for news they don’t trust

The Conversation

Terry Flew: Low-key Conroy proposals are media reform lite

Martin Hirst: From ‘hate media’ to another fine mess: How media reform got derailed

Susan Forde: Media reform: hysterical attacks on weak Conroy suggestions tell the real story

Crikey

Bernard Keane: The Stalinist nightmare of the media regulating itself

Bernard Keane: If you want to see government control of journalism, try this:

Matthew Knott: Freedom of speech at risk? How Conroy’s advocate could hurt

Magaret Simons: Minimalist media reform that only starts the job (Paywall)

NewMatilda

Wendy Bacon: Conroy’s All Or Nothing Media Reforms

Ben Eltham: The Media And The Arts Both Need Diversity

The Global Mail

Mike Seccombe: The New Growth Industry: Fact Creation 

The Failed Estate

Jim Parker: The Real Despots

Macro Business

Of comrade Cconroy and the loon pond

Fairfax

Elizabeth Knight  Shrill response to media reforms

The Australian Independent Media Network

Alan Austin: News Limited’s tawdry campaign proves Conroy’s point

ABC

Barry Cassidy: ‘Breathtaking’ reaction from News Limited

Richard Aedy: Reporting on yourself – Media coverage of its own reform and regulations

aCWYu

Manifesto for @NoFibs

In AFHP, Fairfax, Journalism, Margo Kingston on March 1, 2013 at 11:12 PM
Margo Kingston

Margo Kingston – Photo credit Sarah Gross Fife

By Margo Kingston
March 1, 2013

It’s a funny feeling to be writing an introduction to the ebook of Still Not Happy, John!’, because after so many years in retirement I’m now back doing what I love – writing for and editing a citizen journalism website.

Back then it was with the Sydney Morning Herald’s Webdiary, created in 2000 and the inspiration for my 2004 book, Not Happy, John!. The book saw Fairfax turn its back on my work, and after a gruelling struggle to save Webdiary, I retired hurt in December 2005. A community-supported Webdiary finally closed last July.

Its successor, thanks to Twitter, is Australians for Honest Politics, created in December 2012 by former Webdiarist Tony Yegles, my AFHP co-publisher.

After seven years as an internet refugee, I’m now a Twitter obsessive, and surprised I’m still up for it. For me it’s ground hog day, but with the bells and whistles of technology making the process easier and more fun. And I’ve been given an armchair ride on Twitter due to the support of many former Webdiarists who’ve since become internet writers and activists.

What brought me back was a compulsion borne of amazement that the media had let Tony Abbott get away with claiming the AWU slush fund saga was a question of character for the PM (‘Australians for Honest Politics’ is the name Tony Abbott gave his own slush fund, detailed at length in the book).

My first piece back in action – which only Independent Australia would publish – was about Tony Abbott and his slushy character question.

Only Michelle Grattan, now a fellow escapee to online new media heaven, had the class to acknowledge a collective lapse in memory in the Press Gallery. No one took up my challenge to push Abbott on his unanswered slush questions, despite their ferocious pursuit of Julia Gillard on hers.

Having put history as completely back on the record as I could thanks to The King’s Tribune and New Matilda, I was set to resume my new life until I noted with alarm the extraordinary lack of mainstream media interest in the implications of the Ashby judgement. I wrote of the resonance between the old Abbott slush story and the Ashby scandal, then howled with dismay at the lack of Ashby follow-up.

Now, damn it, I’m hooked on journalism again.

Several tweeps asked for an ebook of Still Not Happy, John!, and Penguin has kindly obliged. I feel it’s worth a read, or a re-read. Here’s why. Read the rest of this entry »

Independent media must take Fairfax’s place

In Fairfax, Margo Kingston, MSM on February 11, 2013 at 2:27 PM

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By Margo Kingston
Source: ABC The Drum
June 25th 2012

So, it’s finally over. Although it has been coming for a long time, really. What happened last week was just the full stop.

Decades of mismanagement and executive asset stripping now sees Fairfax on its knees, bending to Gina. And there is the real prospect that hard copies of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age will cease.

What next?

It is not on to have one big newspaper group in Australia. Fairfax hasn’t done the job of serious, gutsy competition for years, but at least it was there. Now that Murdoch has just bought the excellent online ‘Business Spectator’, that refuge for top Fairfax business reporters and analysts, that vehicle for getting the truth out about Murdoch is no more.

And where’s the protest at the prospect that he will control Foxtel by buying out Packer’s stake? He nearly got a similar prize in the UK until The Guardian finally broke through on phone hacking.

The challenge is much broader than Murdoch, of course. We’re going to be losing many, many journalists, and that means fewer competitors at the micro level. For example, there will be one film critic across Fairfax. And presumably one environment reporter, etc, etc. That gives enormous power to the few now covering special topics, in one way. In another way, though, it weakens their power, because if the boss puts the kybosh on a story, there’s no risk it will be broken elsewhere.

And with Fairfax, a creature of Gina or at best an online-only tabloid site, the ABC comes under enormous threat. What would an Abbott government do to funding? Think John Howard in 1996. Remember Murdoch lobbied hard in Britain to cut funding to the BBC. Without a well-resourced, strong ABC, there is no scrutiny. Just one agenda setter.

All in all, an awful state of affairs for Australia and our democracy. So what is the solution?

The way I see it, the various independent online media groups need to get together, pool their resources, and step up to become a genuine media alternative to Murdoch and the dregs of Fairfax. Media academics could also be around the table.

It will take real money, and as I’ve long argued, the best model is a trust with sufficient capital to finance a long-term project of creating the new Fairfax. I’d like to see Crikey, the Global Mail, New Matilda, and Online Opinion come together. And the best specialist bloggers need to be under the umbrella. Read the rest of this entry »

Michelle Grattan’s best work is yet to come

In Fairfax, Margo Kingston, MSM on February 9, 2013 at 5:39 PM
Michelle Grattan

Michelle Grattan – Photo: Jay Cronan Canberra Times

By Margo Kingston
February 9, 2013

Michelle Grattan. I’ve loved her and hated her over the years. One invariably has a
complicated relationship with a great person.

Soon after the 1993 election, under pressure from then editor of The Age Alan Kohler to step back from day-to-day journalism, she left her spiritual home to become the first female editor of a metropolitan newspaper, The Canberra Times. Its owner Kerry Stokes made her promises he failed to keep, and two years later she resigned rather than accept a huge payout to leave quietly.

I was one of her journos at The Age Canberra Bureau when she took that job, and was pissed off with her for reasons that are too old to remember. I accepted Kohler’s offer to be chief-of-staff of The Age on the promise there’d be more money for editorial and that I could pick some good journos to join us. It was a lie – not Kohler’s, his bosses – so I backed out and asked Michelle for work. She said yes.

Here’s what I wrote of the experience in 2002, on Webdiary:

Today the Herald looks like it’s lost its Canberra bureau chief, Michelle Grattan, to The Age. It is a devastating blow. I haven’t felt so upset over the loss of a colleague since Michelle left The Age in the early 1990s to become editor of the Canberra Times. I left The Age to work for her soon after, and that stint was the highlight of my career. She proved a courageous, dynamic and scrupulously ethical editor who trusted her reporters and stood by them when the heat was on. I wrote my best work under her editorship. Michelle has always been a difficult bureau chief to work for, and we have often disagreed, often intensely. She is also the most thorough, ethical, intelligent and balanced journalist I have ever met. In short, Michelle Grattan is irreplaceable. Web Diary: The quest for trust.

To me her latest move, brought on I would guess by depression as her beloved The Age became a branch office of Sydney, is her second chance at editing a paper. This one is online, and this time she is associate editor, politics. Her move, in my opinion, will come to be seen as marking the death of MSM broadsheet style print media. It’s that big. Here’s what she said:

I think The Conversation gives a new emerging voice, a new opportunity, to broaden the voices in political coverage. Diversity matters because we need many voices, as many as possible, commenting on politics, interpreting politics and I think at the moment what we’re seeing is too much concentration of voices. It’s a bit of an irony that we’re getting this concentration, especially in the mainstream media, while we’re getting the fragmentation of the media in other senses with the internet. Canberra Times: Press gallery stalwart Grattan joins university 

 

Read the rest of this entry »