Just a very quick note about something I missed last month: the Pantograph Punch’s interview with my hero Nicky Hager, the greatest, wisest and most selfless investigative journalist I know. Hager wasn’t speaking explicitly about the Leveson inquiry – his comments follow a Bruce Jesson memorial lecture he gave in October – but he is, as interviewer Matt Harnett says, “a prophet of radical transparency”.
So what would Hager make of Leveson’s “independent self-regulation”, a model whose oxymoronic name alone should ring warning bells? Well, the most significant omission is that Leveson never even questions the capitalist production model, where information – any information, however it’s obtained – is merely the means to acquire profit rather than a public service in itself. Hager on the other hand is happy to challenge this.
It’s easy to look at the quality of some mainstream media and think, ‘well, good riddance.’ But I think that would be a terrible mistake. First of all, there is nothing on the internet that has shown a sign of replacing the basic, daily provision of news, as opposed to the provision of comment, which blogs and things do. The other thing is the internet is an extremely siloed place. We’d be a completely different society if the left-leaning people went to one site, and the right-leaning people went to another, and people who were interested in sport went to a place that didn’t have any politics at all, and so on, and people weren’t seeing the same stuff. That, to me, is quite separate from what we might say about the quality of mass media. There’s a huge value in people seeing the same stuff – people knowing what is happening with that building down the road? And how did the Prime Minister defend themselves when someone said such-and-such, and all that daily business that binds us together in being a society. The internet shows no signs of replacing that – in fact, the opposite. That’s why I’m a strong advocate for publicly-funded but independent news media, of a mass-media type. It’s the most hopeful economic model for the future of media.
Do you think the kind of system we’ve got in New Zealand, where we’ve got state-owned enterprises —
I think that’s an abomination. In a way it’s almost the worst model you could have. What we need is a really strong statutory independence. People who think that a public media will inevitably bend to the government are not remembering that we also have, for example, the courts, and we have institutions of government, like the ombudsmen and auditor general, who can be a huge pain to the government, but still have their independence. Something like that is needed.
I get the impression you’re saying that the fourth estate should be similar to the judiciary in a modern democracy — sacrosanct, on some other level.
We know that, but we leave it in the hands of private organizations. The way that this has become acute is with the increasing public use of the internet; the competition for the news media is not between the New Zealand Herald and TV3, it’s between the New Zealand Herald and Facebook, and TradeMe, and YouTube, which can take advertising which once was monopolised by the media. Two things happen: one is that the advertising isn’t there, and the other is that you get people who measure the clicks on stories in their news organizations and get into a competitive entertainment mode, rather than a news media mode.
So an anonymous leader writer at the New Zealand Herald has scolded freshwater ecologist Mike Joy for daring to challenge Tourism NZ’s “100% Pure” marketing campaign. Essentially, Joy told reporters there were two New Zealands: “There is the picture-postcard world, and then there is the reality.”
It’s hard to say whether the author’s even read Joy’s comments in context, since they seem like an understatement alongside the unflinching data in that same story: more than half of our recreational swimming spots are now hazardous to human health, our greenhouse gas emissions have increased per capita by nearly a quarter since the 1990 Kyoto protocols (which our government has now reneged on as a serious commitment), our score on the Yale University Environmental Performance Index has plummeted from first to fourteenth in just four years.
But none of this makes it into the Herald‘s tutting. Extraordinarily, it instead takes Joy – not, you know, the marketing board – to task for using the manipulative language of advertising. But wait, there’s more: Read the rest of this entry »
So it seems I’ve been quoted in an Atlantic piece about Jerusalem Post reporter Sharon Udasin’s ghoulish search for stressed pets in Tel Aviv as children literally die by the dozen in Gaza. (Apparently pet owners in Gaza are also welcome to contact her but they seem to be a little busy at the moment).
I can’t say I agree with the Atlantic’s take – “Animal stories are part of her beat and this particular story also ties into the biggest story in her country right now” – and in fact I’ve said as much to its author Dashiell Bennett. Here’s my response below. Read the rest of this entry »
Introducing Sharon Udasin, “Environment, Infrastructure and Agriculture Reporter at The Jerusalem Post. Columbia Journalism grad. UPenn grad.”
Does anyone have pets who are freaking out because of the rocket sirens? If so, please contact me today for a story. Thanks! #jpost
— Sharon Udasin (@sharonudasin) November 19, 2012
@sharonudasin As a fellow reporter, the fact you’d even consider an assignment like this disgusts me. Dozens dead & “How are people’s pets?”
The wheels of Justice Leveson grind slow but fine — and last week was no different as News Of The World ex-editor Colin Myler took the stand.
With nearly a decade’s worth of skullduggery to draw on, the senior judge’s inquiry into media ethics has always risked falling prone to the same sensationalism it set out to investigate: from high-profile victims’ statements to the Watergate-like machinations of Murdoch’s most trusted executives, media coverage has favoured individual scandals over the systemic intimidation of journalists that spurs them.
But with Myler in the spotlight, barrister Robert Jay plodded on with an even more vital investigation: the workaday world of today’s tabloid reporter. How, in the most literal sense, do these people live with themselves? Read the rest of this entry »
No big bloated essays for now – just a notice that I’ve been talking to Ryan of the Occupied Wall Street Journal about putting together an unofficial network of correspondents at occupations worldwide. In the same way that the papers are reflecting the issues in each individual community, a bit of international coverage would offer an unfiltered view of daily life in the camps.
I’m not camping full-time, nor would I expect anyone else to, but you would need to be visiting/camping at least 1-2 days a week and get along to the main events since the point is to source these stories from protesters on the ground. If you are living there full-time, even better.
And best of all would be if you’re covering an occupation in a non-English speaking country (or where English is not the language of choice). This is an international movement and it would be a shame if our readers didn’t hear about all the important things going on in Europe and Asia and the Middle East and Central America. Read the rest of this entry »