Communist journalists in Australia: meet Rex Chiplin

November 15, 2011

After my claim to having been the only Trotskyist to have worked as a journalist in the Canberra Press Gallery was recently  doubted by Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute, I thought I might see if it is possible to compile a list of potential competitors.

I know of only one Trotskyist (who could, by now, be an ex-Trot) who worked as a sub-editor on The Herald Sun in the 1980s. I don’t know if he’s still there or working elsewhere in the industry. I am not going to name him just in case.

This post is a work in progress and I would appreciate any help you can give me in that regard.

One contemporary who I know was, at some point, a member of the Communist Party of Australia and who has worked as a journalist for the Sydney Morning Herald and on the ABC’s Four Corners (howls of outrage from the dribblejaws) is David McKnight. However, what I am reasonably certain that David was NOT still in the CPA when he was working for Fairfax. He wrote several pieces for the Herald in 2005 and 2006, so perhaps he was no longer a communist by then.

Read the rest of this entry »


Eye candy: where’s the real target, Janet?

July 18, 2010

The opinions of bloggers make news. Welcome to News 2.0.

Former TV reporter, now media trainer, Janet Wilson, caused a small fuss when her blog post Eye Candy was reported in Saturday’s New Zealand Herald by James Ihaka. Of course one could observe (a tad cynically) that the story made it onto page 2 only because it could legitimately get the phrase ‘tits and teeth’ into the headline.

While the Herald story is not entirely sympathetic, no doubt Janet Wilson will be pleased, working on the principle that being talked about is better than not being talked about.

I for one made some effort to track down Janet’s blog; which incidentally doesn’t appear in the results of the Google search I conducted using ‘Janet Wilson Adjust your set’. I found it thanks to  Ele Ludemann  at homepaddock who had thoughtfully linked from her blog because the ‘adjust your set’ search term takes you to this post.

Anyway, in a round-about way that brings me to the point: Janet gives a spray and takes exception to the young, female faces on television because – in her opinion – they are all ‘tits and teeth’ and know nothing  much about journalism.

The implication is that they’re hired by middle-aged men who merely want ‘eye candy’ to a) decorate the newsroom and b) attract viewers to the evening news broadcast who share their taste in nubile wenchy-things who are ‘loved’ by the camera.

I’m not sure who the target of this diatribe is, but there’s plenty who can take offence. Read the rest of this entry »


Two Fairfax journalists held in Israel after flotilla attack. RSF calls for an end to censorship

June 1, 2010

Two Fairfax journalists from The Sydney Morning Herald are among the detainees taken into Israeli custody after the bloody attack on the Freedom Flotilla yesterday. According to the SMH, the pair are unharmed, but shaken by their experience.

It is understood Geraghty and McGeough are in an Israeli detention facility at Ashdod and were expected to be taken to another detention facility, about 70 kilometres away, in Beersheva. Herald editor Peter Fray said the Israeli government had not confirmed this. “We have had no direct communication with Paul or Kate since 11.53am Sydney time yesterday,” Fray said, adding he was grateful for the consular help provided by Australian and Irish authorities in Israel. “We are obviously very eager to make contact with Paul and Kate, who entered Israel as working journalists to do a legitimate job. “We hope that the authorities respect their right to do that job. And of course the welfare of Paul and Kate is of paramount concern to us at this stage.”

Earlier McGeough, who has more than 25 years experience as a foreign correspondent and was due to Skype with AUT journalism students yesterday, reported live to the Herald website as the Israeli military closed in on the aid convoy.

Reporters Without Borders has condemned the Israeli’s media blackout and the detaining of journalists who were put in harms way by the attacks yesterday.

Reporters Without Borders strongly condemns the censorship attempts that accompanied today’s deadly assault by Israel on a flotilla that was carrying humanitarian aid, 750 pro-Palestinian activists and several journalists to the Gaza Strip.

“We deplore this assault, which left a heavy toll of dead and wounded,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The journalists who were on the flotilla to cover the humanitarian operation were put in harm’s way by this disproportionate reaction. We urge the Israeli authorities to release the detained journalists and allow them unrestricted access to the Gaza Strip. The international community needs accurate information about this Palestinian Territory.”

However as RSF points out the Israeli military and government has form on this issue and constantly harrasses journalists trying to cover the Gaza story and the occupied territories.


Keeping journos safe: more than a code of practice

May 30, 2010

About a year ago a 16 point code aimed at keeping Australian journalists safe in war zones and other areas of trauma reporting was released at a war reporting conference in Sydney. Last week in Auckland several New Zealand journalists suggested it was about time a similar code was established here.

Award-winning freelancer and producer, Jon Stephenson said that he hadn’t seen any progress in New Zealand in the year since the first Red Cross-sponsored conference on war reporting in Wellington; which coincided with the 2009 Sydney event.

Stephenson made his comments during a panel discussion at a follow-up event held at AUT in Auckland on the 24th of May.

TV3′s experienced correspondent and news anchor, Mike McRoberts, agreed with Stephenson, as did TV1′s Campbell Bennett.

The keynote speaker at the AUT event was former ABC correspondent and now journalism educator Tony Maniaty. It was a great speech in which Maniaty talked about the outsourcing of danger now that most large news organisations in Australia and New Zealand no longer have fully staffed bureaux in many places and tend to only send reporters into hot spots when a story is breaking. He also noted that smaller, lighter digital cameras mean that the safety net of a larger, tightly-knit group no longer exists. Heavy gear and complex camera-audio set ups required three or four people to manage, creating camraderie and support networks:

Today, my students can – and some do – circumvent all that rigmarole by walking around the corner, buying a laptop and HD camera and a cheap air ticket to Kabul, and two days later be filming – alone, unsupported – on the frontline. And in this increasingly prevalent scenario are two more challenges facing us. One, we need to inject compulsory safety training modules into our media courses; and two, we need to address more carefully the vexed issue of freelancers, and what I call ‘the outsourcing of danger’. If networks are not prepared to send staff reporters into hot zones, do they have any right to send others there – for far lower pay, without training or insurance or training, without safety gear?

The idea of running safety training modules in J-schools is an interesting one, but what do we leave out in order to include them? We constantly come up against this “pint pot” problem; I might also add that the news industry needs to take some responsibility here (and shoulder the cost). Though I think that having some sort of safety code is not a bad idea. Read the rest of this entry »


Freedom for those who defend it: Journalists – a film from Belarus

May 14, 2009

The docmentary Journalists, by Belarusian film director Aleh Dashkevich, is screening twice on the programme of the Auckland Human Rights Film Festival.

Journalists tells about how freedom of expression was destroyed in Belarus over the 15 years of Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s rule. 20081203_journalistLukashenka came to power in the 1994 election promising to allow freedom of the press. Unfortunately, like most politicians, he was lying at the time.

In most western nations journalists can operate within reasonable boundaries of freedom. It’s rare for a TV camerawo/man to be kidnapped and murdered; journalists don’t often get beaten up, arrested or threatened when covering protests. Not so in Belarus – nor, incidently, in many parts of the former Soviet Union, including Russia.

Belarus 1229920068Late last year Lukashenka’s regime signed into law further restrictions on media freedom. Among other provisions, the law equates the Internet with regular media, making sites subject to the same restrictions; bans local media from accepting foreign donations; allows local and state authorities to shutter independent publications for minor violations; and requires accreditation for all foreign journalists working in the country. [Committee to Protect Journalists]

Journalists is showing on Friday (15 May) and Tuesday (19 May) at 6pm at the Rialto cinema in Newmarket. I will be making a few brief comments after the screening and leading a question and answer session. After that I’ll be available for a quite drink if you’re interested.

Read the rest of this entry »


(Not quite) The end of journalism

October 22, 2008

Over the past weekend I was at a conference hosted by the University of Bedfordshire in Luton. The conference, of mainly journalism academics, was provocatively titled ‘The end of journalism?’ It turns out that the conference organisers were having a bit of fun with us.

Like all good journos (and former journos), they could not resist the punning headline. The ambiguity was at first lost on me. I assumed we were talking about the end of (as in the finish of), but Alec Charles and Gavin Stewart also had in mind the end of (as in the purpose of) journalism.

In this sense, they argued, bloggers and internet reporters could be seen as continuing a forceful and individualist culture of anti-authoritariansim that has motivated some of the best reportage for centuries.

So if we are not witnessing the end of journalism, at least we can be around for the birth (perhaps) of something new, but that also celebrates and continues the tradition of journalism into the digital age.

The problem with a conference like this (in fact almost all academic conferences) is that as a participant-observer, you only ever get to see and hear half of it. Parallel sessions allow the organisers to cram in more great papers, but audiences are then left with some difficult choices.

News workers are also today facing difficult choices. The  most difficult is whether to embrace or resist the intrusion of digital technologies into the news production process. Is it true, as I once read somewhere, ‘Resistance is futile

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Journalists, politics and the union movement

September 1, 2008

[Note: updated 7 September]

An interesting piece on Jafa Pete’s blog about the rights of journalists when it comes to trade unions. Particularly if their union, like the EPMU in New Zealand, campaigns on behalf of a particular political party during elections. [The freedom to belong]

The question is about union membership affecting the ability of reporters to be fair and balanced. Alternatively you could pose this as: Are journalists compromised by their membership of a union that aligns itself to a political party?

As you can imagine [dribblejaws alert] I don’t think it really matters. In fact, I’d go a step further and say that journalists natural class alignment is with the workers. Even more, journalism would be better if reporters recognised this basic class instinct and acted on it at all times.

My argument’s a simple one, journalists are proletarians. They have a typically proletarian relationship to capital and to capitalism. The ideology of professionalism masks this and creates all sorts of confusion.

Read the rest of this entry »


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