25 years of the broadcasting school: a celebratory gaze into the future of news

July 27, 2009

I spent an interesting 24 hours in Christchurch on Friday and Saturday as a guest of the New Zealand Broadcasting School. I was a speaker at the school’s conference to celebrate 25 years of turning out great Kiwi broadcasters and industry heavyweights.

Some other interesting speakers too, including the head of the Australian Special Broadcasting Service, Shawn Brown, himself a Kiwi; Brett Impey, the CEO of Mediaworks; Rick Ellis, CEO of TVNZ, Jim Mather, head of Maori television and John Follett, the head of Sky New Zealand.

All of them had some interesting things to say about the state of Kiwi broadcasting, but they are also fairly optimistic that the industry is in relatively good shape-if only it wasn’t for this blasted recession. Advertising revenues are down somewhere between 15 and 30 per cent and of course there’s been several rounds of cost-cutting, particularly in news and current affairs, but each of them was surprisingly upbeat about the state of broadcasting, particularly television, in the relatively (in global terms) small New Zealand market.

I was on a panel talking about the future of news and my fellow presnters were TVNZ head of news and CAff, Anthony Flannery, his TV3 counterpart, Mark Jennings and a recent NZBS graduate, Katrina Bennett, who’s now with the Radio Network in Wellington.

We had a lively discussion and again both Mark and Anthony were confident that television will continue to be the dominant news media for some time to come.There were some great questions from the audience too: about the ubiquitous TVNZ live cross that doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Anthony Flannery made the point that he thinks TVNZ news gets it right about 40 per cent of the time. There was also some discussion of how PR is tending to overshadow news to some degree and Katrina made the interesting point that to some extent journalists have just become the re-mediators of press releases. She asked why don’t organisations like the police just go straight to the public and this provoked some interesting responses from the panel and from the floor. Read the rest of this entry »


Iconic “falling soldier” staged – Yeah we know

July 19, 2009
The Capa "falling soldier" image - real or not?

The Capa "falling soldier" image - real or not?

Well, the controversy around Robert Capa’s “falling soldier” image from the Spanish civil war is not settled yet. A Spanish newspaper is now saying that the image was staged. AFP is now running the story globally.

A similar piece appeared in The Guardian a few weeks ago, but didn’t generate the same interest.

Regular readers of Ethical Martini will be aware that I have long been arguing that the photograph was staged. So I’m not really surprised that this is running again.

I said recently that we would have to wait to see what fresh evidence might emerge from the Mexican suitcase before it can be finally resolved.

In May this year the New York International Center for Photography, which houses the Capa archives, reported it could not find the negative for this image in the  Mexican suitcase which did contain many Spanish civil war photographs.

One interesting note from the AFP story:

El Periodico said it based its study on an exhibition–launched in New York in 2007 and now in Barcelona –of 150 Capa photos taken in conflicts during the 1930s and 1940s.

I saw this exhibition at the Barbican Centre  in London last year and I  wrote extensively on the series that includes “falling man” #1 and “falling man” #2.

I first wrote about the Capa image  in 2007. I’ve always had doubts.

En Francais, Andre Gunthert: “Capa vs Google Earth”

En Espanol, farodevigo.es: La mítica fotografía del miliciano de Capa puede ser falsa

For photojournalism students, if you want to see a reasonably interesting discussion about the ethics of the image, click on over to A Photo Editor.


The comical world of Karl du Fresne – “Dr Phelan, I presume!”

July 14, 2009

I have published Sean’s commentary on another exchange with Karl du Fresne because we (Sean and I) think it is important to keep this discussion alive. It began some time ago now with a column by Karl in response to an academic article by Sean. You can find all the backtrack links at the end of this post.

I am happy to host other responses here too. Ethical Martini is part of the historical record for these things and, besides, I’m nearly finished with the book manuscript, so I’m happy for any contributions at the moment to keep the front page fresh. I will be back to full-strength in a few weeks. My publisher wants the MS by Friday 24 July and the book, News 2.0: Can journalism survive the Internet? will be published by Allen & Unwin in October this year (fingers crossed!).

The short piece below was originally published in the Manawatu Standard (June 13) and Nelson Mail (June 17) as a direct response to an earlier column by Karl du Fresne. Since neither paper published it at the Stuff website, I would like to thank Martin for giving me the opportunity to belatedly publish it at his blog. I will be writing more about this brouhaha in time (a more ‘theoretical’ piece, Karl, I’m sure you can’t wait), but this is my tuppence worth for now…

Sean Phelan

Massey University

The comical world of Karl du Fresne

I would like to thank the editor for giving me a chance to respond to a recent column by Karl du Fresne (May 27). I’m sure Fairfax media could run a monthly supplement of columns by people who have been unfairly maligned by a man who seems to treat curmudgeonliness as a vocation.

I was the subject of an article that has since been published at du Fresne’s blog under the headline of ‘Why leftist academics hate the media’. The article was the latest instalment in a soap opera initiated by an earlier du Fresne blog, which lampooned an academic journal article of mine that was published in 2008.

While I don’t have much space to explore the substance of that debate here, it concerns the culture of New Zealand journalism and journalism education. Du Fresne attacked my essay, partly because it critiqued an earlier article of his. He also objected to my writing style, which, in his comic assessment, was ‘written in academic jargon of the most pretentiously arcane type imaginable’.

This whole affair has been comical alright, though not for the reasons assumed by du Fresne. This is because, in his world, what constitutes ‘bizarre’ is the thought that someone might write an academic paper suggesting that the ideas of the French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, could be relevant to an analysis of New Zealand journalism. Read the rest of this entry »


What is alternative journalism?

July 13, 2009

Atton, Chris & James F Hamilton – Alternative Journalism, Sage, London, 2008, (pp. 192) ISBN 978-1-4129-4703-9

Reviewed by Martin Hirst, oublished in Global Media Journal, July 2009

I opened this book and it seemed full of promise. It claims to be the first “academic book-length study” of alternative journalism. It also claims to critique the very epistemology of mainstream news and it seeks to address the “imbalance of media power” that marginalizes and demonizes radical or non-mainstream social groups.

“This is my kind of book,” I thought.

The central theme is that “alternative journalism” is generally a response to capitalism and imperialism “as the global dynamic of domination and consolidation”. And, already, right here in the introduction, the authors seek to identify the “powerful dialectic” that exists between “the use of a neoliberal new technology that is largely in the control of Western economic forces, and its deployment as a radically reforming (if not revolutionary) tool for globalized, social-movement-based activism.” (p. 4) This is a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the “alternative” journalists – to be at the vanguard of resistance to imperialism and global capital. By page five I was wondering if the book could in fact live up to its early promises. Read the rest of this entry »


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