Naive DimPost editorialist up in arms …Who rights [sic] this drivel?

September 14, 2011

This post deserves a subtitle:

“Kick’em when they’re up; kick’em when they’re down” Don Henley (see below)

My concern this evening is a weird little editorial in today’s Dominion Post concerning the reportorial credentialing of one N Hager Esq.

To wit, in evidence I copy and paste the following:

Hager sees himself as an author and a journalist. In the common definition of the journalistic craft, he is not. He is a meticulous compiler and ferreter out of information that some people would wish to keep secret, and he is very good at it.

What? Can I just take a moment to let this sink in.

Nicky Hager’s not a journalist, at least as you [DomPost editorialist 13.9.2011] choose to define it.

How do you define it by the way?

Nicky’s not a journalist, but he might be an author though.

Is that good or bad?

Is that what you’re saying here?

I must have missed something, run that par by me again…

Hager sees himself as an author and a journalist. In the common definition of the journalistic craft, he is not. He is a meticulous compiler and ferreter out of information that some people would wish to keep secret, and he is very good at it.

I don’t think “ferreter” is a word in the context you’re trying to shoehorn it into.

But, leaving aside your poor composition skills, what you’re trying to say is that Nicky Hager is good at his job — ferreting out information that some people would wish to keep secret — but that’s not journalism as you define it. How do you define journalism by the way? That last bit sounds suspiciously like what journalism is. Or at least, what it should be.

I must be stupid, but I still don’t get it…tell me more.

The flaw in Hager’s modus operandi is that he amasses what he has learned and then presents it to the public through the prism that best suits his world view, without allowing for the possibility that there might be a plausible explanation for what he has “uncovered”. The case he builds is thus rarely troubled by opposing opinions and inconvenient facts, realities that journalists in the mainstream media are morally obliged to take into account, and present.

[Seeing Afghanistan through naive prism]

Excuse me, even the headline on this piece doesn’t stand up to lexical scrutiny.

OK, you can call me a media studies poser if you like. You won’t be the first. The fact remains, we have to deconstruct this argument to make sense of the DomPo’s position.

First of all, a disclaimer. I know and admire Nicky Hager. I consider him a friend and I’ve defended him before here at EM on similar charges from Fran O’sullivan.

I haven’t yet read Nicky’s latest book Other People’s Wars — the centre of this controversy — but I am told by reliable sources that it is brilliant and you should all read it. I’m picking up my copy from Unity Books in the morning and will read it on the plane home this weekend.

I think his work in Hollow Men is exemplary investigative journalism, despite this mean-spirited and misleading line in the DumPoo’s rite [sic] of reply.

Take his earlier book, The Hollow Men, for example, which – though not news to political junkies – made uncomfortable reading for some associated with the Don Brash-led National Party.

Not even faint praise in this damning dismissal from the Dismal Poke.

Speaking of definitions of journalism didn’t Lord Harmsworth once say that it was about “afflicting the comfortable”?

Like many a determined investigator, some of whom have worked at the DomPost and done brilliant work of journalism, Nicky takes excellent care of his sources and his facts. He does, in other words, exactly what those imbued with, and accountable to, the spirit of excellence in reporting, should do.

The sputtering [sic] rage of the Dim’s editorialist — whether real or feigned for 13 sovereigns — is best expressed in this nonsense:

In the common definition of the journalistic craft, he is not.

Did that make your eyes water? Ferfucksake! Is this grammatic and syntactic outrage the result of outsourced subbing? Is there nobody in the office to tell the editorialist they’ve written gibberish; up with which we will not put.

[Ahhem, so to speak]

Can we just look, for a brief indulgent moment, at the definition of a journalist that is common today.

Actually, we might need a few, here’s one to be going on with.

“Journalism without a moral position is impossible. Every journalist is a moralist. It’s absolutely unavoidable. A journalist is someone who looks at the world and the way it works, someone who takes a close look at things every day and reports what she sees, someone who represents the world, the event, for others. She cannot do her work without judging what she sees.”

That’s from Marguerite Duras, it is echoed by many; including George Orwell. Regular readers of EM will know my line Orwell and Trotsky.

I’ll be back. In the meantime…

Read the rest of this entry »


#londonriots Looking for answers in the wrong places

August 10, 2011

If you want to know what’s really behind the rioting of the last few days in London and half a dozen other UK cities, all you need to do is understand the social dislocations, anger and cynicism that tell the real story of the numbers:

Unemployment statistics in Britain are sadly vague, but a reasonable estimate of youth unemployment just in Hackney is 33 percent.

The figure is from Michael Goldfarb an NPR correspondent who lives in the Hackney area. He goes on:

What happens after the rioting subsides is difficult to predict. Entry level jobs are in short supply these days, and as the government’s austerity measures begin to bite here, it’s not likely to get better any time soon.

Why London exploded last night

Unfortunately, I haven’t heard many commentators (liberal or conservative) talk about this. Instead we get lines like this

This type of coverage is not helpful

[anchorstooge] Many commentators say youth unemployment is behind the riots but [insert name of expert] from [insert name of rightwing thinktank] believes its just a bunch of sodding criminals who’ve been pampered too long by the nanny state

[expert, speaking in posh condesending tone that fits his double-barrel moniker] These young people come from intergenerationally dysfunctional families and they have a hand-out mentality. They don’t have to work, they just get pregnant or go on the dole. They are work-shy gangsters and by-the-way most of them are black, but we won’t mention that.

That type of commentary – criminalising the young rioters and blaming them for their existence – is underpinned superficial coverage (like in a warzone) by anxious-looking mainly white correspondents standing alongside police barricades in the early afternoon and vox-popping the gawking public.

It is stenographic churnalism of the worst order. It’s not good, but it’s understandable. The black, brown and poor white communities of the UK and elsewhere get almost no coverage of their daily lives. They live in estates surrounded by poverty, only able to secure low-wage jobs (if they can get work) and they live hand-to-mouth, day-to-day.

But then I found this little gem, recorded straight from the TV, but it’s brilliant.

I was pretty gobsmacked that Piers Morgan tweeted that the rioters should be treated like terrorists and shot, but it isn’t really that surprising. I guess it is his gall, under fire for phone hacking, and trying to rehabilitate his dusty image.

Then Darcus Howe pops up and gives the clearest and most eloquent defence of young people in the UK today. It is shocking when he mentions that Mark Duggan’s head was blown off by the police bullets. That’s yet to be tested, but the BBC anchordrone is clearly rattled and she should be.

Howe has a grand dignity and he let’s her know well and truly.

Fantastic remedy to the wall of BS.

Howe is right, it’s time to start listening to these young voices, but more importantly give them a future without random and constant police harrassment and give them work or education. Sure, many of these youngsters may be unemployed, but some are not. Some are also probably students who took part in other recent protests in the UK. They are not terrorists. But the Daily Star‘s front page is typical of what the British press is saying up and down the country.

The point is that the reasons behind what’s happening are complex and the broadcast media in general and TV in particular has so far not done a great job of analysing the causes. Instead it seems that large sections of the British media have fallen in behind David Cameron’s dangerous police-state rhetoric.

I’ve only heard one black voice on the radio (in Australia admittedly) making the absolutely valid point that all reporters need to consider. He said something along the lines of:

If the media is going to call this “mindless” violence, then it also has to ask the question: What makes these young people mindless?

He’s absolutely right. Part of the problem here is the news value of proximity. I don’t just mean physical proximity to the riots, but also social and cultural proximity and affinity between the reporters (mainly middle class and educated) and the ruling class. That’s why the very same correspondents who were four months ago covering riots and large protests in Cairo were telling a very different story to they one they’re telling about London.

In Egypt the media dismissed Mubarek’s ravings about rioting gangsters and focused on making the young people in Tahir square into revolutionary heroes and martyrs.

The lives of young men and women in Hackney is not that different to those of the same young people who so bravely chased off the (now) evil Mubarek regime.

The same root causes underlie both situations. The difference is that in Hackney the local political culture is completely flattened under media-driven consumer lust. The same issues and desires motivate the youth, their expression takes a different form.

Two other young black voices I heard on the radio this morning sum this up very well. Two women (17 and 18) were vox-popped. They had taken part in the night’s rampage and at 9.30 in the morning (Tuesday in London) were still in the street drinking from a bottle of wine they had looted. They’d been drinking all night and described what they’d been doing as fun.

But the telling comment they made was that the real target of their anger was “all the rich people”. That’s a pretty good gut instinct and it’s ultimately right. Unfortunately, these two women saw the local shopkeepers as representatives of these rich people. That’s a mistake, but it really only masks a deeper sentiment that does go toward explaining their anger and their sense of joy at the destruction they had helped to cause.

It was, in their view, no doubt an attack on the system that oppresses them.

That’s why the politics of this are so important.

Now the backlash will begin and it will be fuelled by racism. The Milwall fans who were supposedly defending their turf were all white and most likely target recruits for the English Defence League which recruits off the terraces (if not already members).

If the media continues to swallow and promote the spin from Downing street and the political establishment it will give the racists heart and the situation will get worse – a lot worse – before it gets any better.

The heavy police presence and aggressive pattern of arrests that will now rain down on Hackney and the other suburbs where disturbances occurred will only add fuel to the fire.


Public service broadcasting – Government serving New Zealand poorly

February 19, 2010

Step 1: Join the Facebook group

It was amusing to see Helen Clark defending Radio New Zealand in the paper this morning. It’s too bad that her Labour government didn’t do more to protect it and insulate it from the current campaign of a thousand deadly cuts when it had the chance.

I don’t always like Morning Report, but it is essential listening in my house every day and I try to catch Checkpoint as often as I can too. I’ve always been a strong supporter of public broadcasting and no matter how much I might disagree with the analysis and angles, or how much I am annoyed by fatuous or bullying interviewers I love and cherish Radio New Zealand.

I like the news and current affairs service, I love Mediawatch and I don’t mind some of the weekend shows – the book readings, science, technology and arts programming. It is all important, well-made and essential to maintaining a vibrant, eclectic and democratic public sphere in New Zealand.

In fact, we can probably make a strong case that Radio New Zealand is taonga. Read the rest of this entry »


Cambo leaves Sainso dead air in Napier: Close Up under siege

May 9, 2009

I can’t confirm this, I heard it from a bloke in my shed talking to himself after 16 pints of homebrew, but what the f*%$ I’m live on telly and I’ve got nothing but rumours: Sainso’s moustache is booby-trapped.

Another rumour I’ve heard, this one from a woman in Foodtown: Cambo’s a secret Rambo. Apparently he’s into body-building and small arms.

I’ve also been told, but I can’t confirm it, that Close Up is dead. Sauces tell me this just happened. Unfortunately, the next-of-kin haven’t been told, but sauces close to the programme believe it took its own life, probably with a high-powered, but unconfirmed small arm. However, other sauces tell me that Sainso set of his moustache bomb when he found out that Cambo had beaten him to be first with the rumour that the Napier siege was over.

In my previous post on the coverage of the Napier siege story I mentioned that we’d see a bloody finale to the story live on the news and evening current affairs shows. I was being a bit facetious, but FIGJAM.

It’s not over yet. The siege is ongoing, there’s likely to be more blood on the streets of Napier. The way things are going, we’ll get it live at 6pm tonight and again at 7pm. [A new low in NZ journalism]

On Friday night, there was a whole 90 minutes of breathless reporting. it was a blood-soaked ending to a low week. It’s only a rumour, but I heard that TV3 f*&%@d it up, big time.

Read the rest of this entry »


Legal challenge to spin and pseudo-news puts media on notice

May 5, 2009

A decision in the Australian High Court this week has put media organisations on notice that crossing the line between news and advertorial can be costly.

The Australian Seven network’s Today Tonight was found to have breached section 52 of the Trade Practices Act with two segments in 2004 and 2005 on an investment scheme dubbed Wildy Wealthy Women. The court said the network could not rely on section 65A of the act — the so-called publishers’ defence — partly because an “arrangement” with a marketer for WWW showed they were not at arm’s length.

Now what about this?

frontbanner-original-final

Yeah right!

Read the rest of this entry »


A last little bit of England

January 12, 2009

I’ve been back from the UK for about three weeks and I’ve just finished marking the project work my City University students completed last (UK) semester.

I’m actually quite proud of them. We had about 11 weeks to get our heads around a totally new (to them) topic and to learn the rudimentaries of journalistic writing in a web environment.

The paper they did is called “WEEM” – Writing and Editing for Electronic Media. So not only did they have to read up on convergence and new media journalism, they had to learn to write in an online environment and then to rustle up some half-decent HTML so that their projects could sit on the web.

Like all student work, this is a bit eneven. Some bits are better than others. But, overall I think they’ve done a very good job.

Some interesting topics were covered and I think it’s worth sharing.

Convergence Culture.UK.ORG

There’s no way for you to leave comments on the project pages unfortunately; it’s all rather static. However, feel free to comment here on the work as a whole, or on individual projects. I have let the class know that this link is here and that they should come back now and again to see who’s commented.

I would appreciate if you keep the commentary positive. All dribblejaws comments will be swiftly deleted, so don’t bother.


Morning Report – echo chamber for the opposition?

August 14, 2008

I like Morning Report, it’s my daily fix of news and current affairs. Occasionally I get annoyed with the focus on local crime stories, traffic and weather, but that’s cool; it’s just a morning heart-starter.

But in the last few days I have become more than annoyed, I’m totally jacked-off with Sean Plunkett in particular. I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that Morning Report is just an echo-chamber and amplifier for every piss-ant little claim made by the Nationals and now also the ACT Party.

It was double-barrel this morning and Sean really got on my goat.

First an uncritical acceptance of National claims that DOC is going to spend $2 million on a re-branding campaign; then ACT Party defence spokesbot, Heather Roy, (are they even big enough to have spokesbots?) banging on about some 40 year-old clapped out jets that the Government wants to sell.

Then the claims are rewritten and bundled up into the next news bulletin, making them ‘fact’.

Have the Morning Report presenters and producers left their critical faculties at the door? Read the rest of this entry »


Is this man right for the job

April 18, 2007

This is Anthony Flannery, the new head of news and current affairs at TVNZ. He’s from Channel Nine Australia and has worked on tabloid television current affairs shows for some time.
It’s interesting that this is a top news story in New Zealand at the moment – see my earlier post on job cuts at TVNZ.
For more on Mr Flannery, here’s a link to this morning’s New Zealand Herald online story. More on this later, I’m off to judge some magazine awards and will be out of the office for most of the morning.
One thing though, check out the ABC (Australia) Media Watch files on A Current Affair‘s past ethical history. Here’s one from 2003, but there’s more and the Media Watch archive is searchable.
Is this the future of “charter” television in New Zealand?