Citizen Journalism

Posts Tagged ‘Peter Clarke’

Brandis free speech fudge: @MediaActive reviews the @albericie interview

In ABC, Brandis Remember This Freedom, Freedom of the Press, Journalism, Media Reform, MSM, Peter Clarke on May 11, 2013 at 5:11 PM

ABC Lateline Interview May 7, 2013

By Peter Clarke

May 11, 2013

Media regulation reform was never going to be easy in Australia. As it turned out, the legislation proposed by the Labor government foundered midst roiling misinformation and hyperbolic claims of draconian state intrusion into media freedoms.

It was also not helped by the ham-fisted presentation, timing and advocacy by the minister responsible for its passage through the parliament, Senator Stephen Conroy.

The irony of a news media reporting with dubious accuracy and fairness on the details of both the Finklestein Independent Media Inquiry and The Convergence Review processes and outcomes was lost on most but not all citizens and informed observers.

Professor Matthew Ricketson of Canberra University, who assisted Finklestein during the Inquiry, vented some of his frustration at the overall quality, orientation and accuracy of the media coverage and analysis around the process and ideas for reform explored by the Finklestein inquiry in an address to the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne.

Ricketson suggested in that speech that the best case study for the need for media reform in Australia was the news media reporting of the Inquiry itself: “What they have done in my view is to under-report a lot of what was presented to the Independent Media Inquiry late last year and to either mis-report the Inquiry’s findings or to ignore large parts of the report altogether”.

Those of us who have followed the Finklestein Inquiry, read the diverse submissions, the final report and the surrounding, often borderline hysterical, media coverage cannot help but have some sympathy for Ricketson’s view even allowing for his immersion in the inquiry process and his detailed contributions to its findings.

Perhaps the overall news media antipathy to the Inquiry itself and its recommendations were encapsulated best by the somewhat arch comments from the CEO of Fairfax, Greg Hywood, appearing in person before the Finklestein Inquiry. He asked in effect, “What’s the problem? Why are we here?”

He was not alone in that view. The coverage and advocacy journalism of the News Limited media was strident and tipping into polemical over-kill especially via its CEO Kim Williams. Sober analysis and balanced coverage were but a pipe dream.

In the UK, the equivalent struggle around the Leveson Inquiry’s findings and recommendations continue. There, the hacking scandals at the News of the World and elsewhere drove the sentiment, rhetoric and forensic character of that inquiry. Here in Australia, Finklestein was oriented more towards the transformations of the digital revolution albeit clearly within the ripple effect of the hacking scandals in the UK and Leveson.

Before Finklestein started his hearings, The Convergence Review was already doing its work and had issued an interim report. Finklestein’s eventual findings and recommendations were effectively folded into their processes as the government (at a snail’s pace) forged its legislation aimed at effecting some media regulation reform across a range of pressing issues including the growing anomaly of regulating the printed news media in one (to many deeply unsatisfactory) way compared to the regulation of analogue and digital broadcasting and online digital media.

Now, in the “phony war” phase of the lead up to a federal election in September 2013, the failure of that legislation and the apparent junking of much of the extensive research and analytical work by Finklestein and The Convergence Review are, of course, inevitably part of a campaign of intense political point scoring. Read the rest of this entry »

How Sales dropped the ball on Abbott

In ABC, Federal Election, Journalism, Peter Clarke on April 25, 2013 at 3:53 PM

By Peter Clarke,

April 25, 2013

Late last year, Leigh Sales interviewed Tony Abbott live on the 730 Report. Sales was sharp and persistent, Abbott poorly prepared and struggling. Sales beat claims of bias and won a coveted Walkley Award for TV interviewing.

Naturally viewers were relishing the prospect of a return bout, and Sales and the program promoted the interview on social media. It now seems that if Abbott agrees to be interviewed on an ABC current affairs program it is a ‘get’. Because of the history and the ongoing tensions between the office of the opposition leader and the ABC, there is an additional expectation from the audience.

Unlike Sales’ interviews with Prime Minister Gillard, there is no history between Sales and Abbott around key policy areas or even how they engage in these set-piece, contested, political interviews. Rather, each interview appears to be built from the ground up, as if it was the first one. Their rarity causes a fundamental problem in the continuity of enquiry.

I first reviewed Sales’ performance in a piece about her interview with Gillard after she stared down Rudd to retain her leadership, in which I was quite critical of both participants. I have long been an admirer of Sales, and cite her as one of the best we have.

Or I used to.

Something happened in that Gillard interview which diminished the natural and hard-won interviewing skills Sales had clearly demonstrated. She gleaned very little useful insight or information for citizens. Last night’s interview with Abbott was calmer and smoother than the Gillard one or Sales’ last interview with Abbott, but, again, very little content of real value emerged. 

In fact, the most troubling aspect of the interview last night was that Sales did not appear to be listening acutely enough to Abbott’s answers. Alongside all the integrated skills and techniques in a top interviewer’s toolkit, LISTENING remains the key attribute. Without it, the ‘hollow dance’ becomes even more superficial.

This Abbott interview was roughly the same duration as the Gillard one – just over thirteen minutes. It was (as was the Gillard interview) pre-recorded. And Abbott was not in the studio with Sales. Here is a brief analysis of the interview transcript. 

In her set-up, Sales frames the interview as an enquiry into the Coalition’s economic plan, stating that “your vote will boil down” to your judgement on how well the Labor government handled the Global Financial Crisis and associated spending. Her opening remarks to Abbott followed that line until she ask the gift (for Abbott) question: Are you asking the public to elect you on blind faith?

In my article on Sales’ Gillard interview, I suggested that the interview never recovered from asking a broad diffuse and opinionated first question. Sales’ opening gambit with Gillard:

After recent events, aren’t Australians well within their rights to conclude that the Gillard Government is a dysfunctional mess that deserves to be consigned to opposition as soon as possible?

Notice the similarity in form and approach? Gillard walked through the giant gap. So did Abbott.

Sales could have chosen, as her set-up promised, a specific, targeted first question around economic policy to stop Abbott being able to rely on the generalised, abstract discourse politicians favour to avoid the question and stay on message. But Sales went for the flourish again, and it let her down, again. Read the rest of this entry »

Stonewalling on steroids: ABC fails transparency test

In ABC, John Faine Affair, Peter Clarke on February 15, 2013 at 8:41 PM
ABC Director of Communications

MIchael Millett, Director ABC Corporate Affairs

EDITORS NOTE: When there is more information on an ABC apology and reprimand to Jon Faine from right wing blogger Michael Smith’s website than from the ABC itself  you smell a story. Thanks to Tweep donations AFHP commissioned journalist Peter Clarke to pursue it. Both he and I thought the story would have been told by now, more than two weeks after @CUhlmann demanded on Twitter that the ABC back Faine.
It hasn’t. The ABC is playing word games to avoid answering Peter’s questions and has not reported this story at any time on any of its platforms except Media Watch. Why? And why the difference in approach from the last time there was an adverse finding against an ABC interviewer, when there was an ABC statement and solid coverage?
Here is today’s email from Peter to the ABC Director of Corporate Affairs, Michael Millett, in reply to a stonewall response to Peter’s questions. You can read all the email and SMS communications between Peter and Mick HERE. To my surprise, and Peter’s, the ABC appears to be using political and bureaucratic techniques to avoid accountability on the premise that questioners will give up and move on. We won’t. The AFHP Jon Faine archive is HERE.

From: Peter Clarke
Date: 15 February 2013
To:Mike Millett


Dear Mick,

Thank you so much for your recent reply in relation to the Jon Faine matter.

Unfortunately, your reply does not even begin to address our detailed questions and raises more questions than it answers.

For example, you point to section 5 of the guidelines to clarify how a person such as Faine might “appeal” or seek review of a negative finding. I have carefully read and parsed that section and all relevant sections. It is simply not clear how a person such as Faine has or can exercise a “right of appeal”.

By contrast, if the original complaint is to ACMA, the ABC as an entity seems to allocate to itself a defensive role on behalf of the complained against broadcaster.

For an internally based process, this seems much less clear.

Would you confirm that Jon Faine has a right under the complaints process to seek a review of the findings? How?

Has he sought such a review?

Has HE received the detailed reasons for the finding to authentically inform such an appeal against the findings?

Did the committee thoroughly document its investigative and decision-making process?

Is there in fact a detailed set of reasons on record?

What is actually stopping the ABC from publishing it if it exists?

Does Faine need the support of his managers to exercise any right of appeal (if he indeed has one) or is the process more independent and at arm’s length from the management chain of command. A close reading of the guidelines seems to indicate that the process is intimately bound up with management decision making processes and not more akin to an openly fair “legal” process.

Here is the nub of your problem. Read the rest of this entry »

Who is wearing the Kafka mask at the ABC?

In ABC, John Faine Affair, Peter Clarke on February 5, 2013 at 6:04 AM
Publishers’ Note: The citizens journalism project Australians for Honest Politics is proud to announce that thanks to member donations we have commissioned Peter Clarke (@MediaActive), an elder of Australian journalism, to oversee reporting of the Jon Faine story. As a pioneer ABC radio interviewer, he is well placed to take us behind the story and explore its implications. Peter was initially loathe to take the commission as he is a friend of Mr Faine. Journalists often know people they report on, and I know Peter will bend over backwards to be impartial and get the facts right. – Margo & The Geek

By Peter Clarke
February 5, 2013

A remarkable story around the reliability and transparency of our public broadcaster is unfolding as this fraught federal election year begins.

Remarkable, because it seems the ABC is applying one set of journalistic “rules” to others that, so far, it is very reluctant to apply to itself when it comes to legitimate examination of its own internal processes that respond to external complaints of bias and unfairness.

The back story: on November 23 2012,  ABC leading local radio broadcaster at 774 Melbourne,  Jon Faine, interviewed journalists Mark Baker from The Age and Michael Smith, formerly a 2UE broadcast journalist, regarding the AWU “slush fund” affair and Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s alleged role in it.

They were certainly robust interviews.  Faine is a lawyer by training and background as well as having thousands of hours of flying time conducting live, tough, forensic interviews with politicians and many others facing public accountability.

His style and approach is well known to his listening audience. And his dogged, often very insistent, search for more than spin and propaganda is much appreciated and valued by many.

You can listen to the interview here.

There were a number complaints of bias against Faine made to the ABC’s Audience and Consumer Affairs Agency. Their role and task was to consider the relevant circumstances of the complained about interview and apply the publically available ABC Editorial Guidelines.

The committee delivered this brief finding against Faine:

Audience and Consumer Affairs found that the interviews were in breach of the ABC’s editorial requirement to gather and present news and information with due impartiality.  The argumentative style of the interviews, combined with a pattern of strongly stated personal opinions by the presenter that at times oversimplified the issues at hand, was not in keeping with the ABC’s rigorous impartiality standards for news and information. Seventeen complaints were upheld.

The finding, as delivered, contains serious and fundamental ‘allegations’ against Faine.  One of them is his ‘argumentative style’. Another Faine’s ‘strongly stated personal opinions’.

Any experienced interviewer knows that live, forensic interviews involve a highly skilled process of using a range of techniques to elicit the best quality and most authentic information possible for the audience – citizens all.

These techniques differ from interview to interview according to context and the status and perceived intentions of the interviewee. They have for a long time included challenging  well-practiced interviewees using ‘arguments’ to the contrary.

With politicians, fully media-trained and in the hands of relentless spin-meisters, the interview becomes a feisty contest of challenge and often concealment or ‘staying on message’. Read the rest of this entry »