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 »


Fourth estate won’t bow to digital age – Business – Business – smh.com.au

August 10, 2007

Fourth estate won’t bow to digital age – Business – Business – smh.com.au

So are newspapers dying or not? Are they a little bit sick, or is it terminal?

According to News Limited CEO John Hartigan, newspapers need to aggressively market themselves as interpreters of the news, not just providers. In a speech this week to the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers’ Association (PANPA), Hartigan also called for more “crusading and campaigning journalism”.

This is actually a scary thought – most of News Limited’s papers, which dominate the Australian market, are conservative and more prone to spreading moral panic than crusading analytical journalism.

Look out for more tabloid-style crusades from the Daily Telegraph, the Herald Sun and the Australian. No paedophile, drug-addicted single mum or drunken Aborigine will be safe from the News Limited rain of terror.

Is there really though a new virtual public sphere — a ‘fourth estate’ of the internet? I’m not yet convinced as I told my students the other day. The interent is rapidly being suborned by the very same large old-media companies who currently dominate the print and broadcast media. In this climate there’s no greater freedom available to journalists of either the professional, or the ‘citizen’ type.


Another case of American media self-censorship

June 15, 2007

Media Matters – ABC’s World News only network news broadcast to report on subpoenas for former Bush aides

This is a disturbing story. Only one American news network reported that two former aides to Dubya had been subpoenaed to appear before the House and Senate judiciary committee over allegations of corruption in the appointment and firing of federal prosecutors. The Bush White House is being protected from public scrutiny by the media watchdogs.

This is a good example of how the force of the so-called ‘Fourth Estate’ in journalism has been fundamentally weakened over the past 10 years or so. The traditional media watchdog role was to bark and bite at those in power who abused the trust of the citizenry. That’s the historic foundation of the Fourth Estate model.

Today the role of the Fourth Estate in most cases is to sit quietly at the master’s feet, licking its own scabby ar*e.


The End of Journalism?

April 25, 2007

Journalism & Media Discussion Forum: The End of Journalism?
Adrian Monck is the head of journalism at City University London, the link here is to his recent post on “the end of journalism” blogsite.
Is there a link between journalism and democracy? In theory “yes”, but it needs to be much more carefully unpacked and analysed.
Most of the world has some resemblance to “democracy”, but usually of a limited, restricted parliamentary sort. In some parts of the world the values of democracy are already under threat.
The fourth estate model of journalism is discredited and news workers are generally seen as lacking in ethics and credibility.
The key paradox for me is in the duality of the news commodity. Journalism is, as Monck says, both an information source and a watchdog. But this is fatally flawed by the commercial imperative of the market system. The ethical imperative of journalism – to support democracy – is undermined by the cash imperative of capitalism.


All journalists and citizens need to worry about this

April 22, 2007

Press Gazette – Citizen Journalists in France threatened with arrest

This is a very alarming development, I suppose the law has been in place for a while (since March 3 2007), but its use against journalists, or anyone recording an event of public interest as opposed to just capturing a “happy slapping” moment is alarming.

Here’s a grab of the blog report linked to above:

I was present at the riot. I Twittered a series of eight live messages. I took photos. At one point, a police officer asked me to hand him my camera. I showed him my press card and I carried on taking photographs. An hour later, I uploaded the images to the photosharing site Flickr. And a day later, I noticed a comment by Mo, a fellow Flickr member, below one of the 24 images. He wrote: “I got all the photos and videos I took yesterday on my cameraphone deleted by a policeman, who told me he would arrest [me] if he ever saw me doing [it] again. I don’t know if he had the right to erase the photos. I should see about that.”

I’ve never been one to favour laws against journalism, or any kind of government regulation. This is why.
I hope to post more on why I don’t support the outdated notion of the “Fourth Estate”, but it’s ironic that it was really a product of the French revolution.
The bottom line is that was a bourgeois revolution and now that the bourgeoisie is the ruling class and its global dominance is complete, it doesn’t need freedom of the press, not even in the nation that gave us the classic slogan of liberation: liberte, egalite, [humanite]. Of course the original was ‘fraternite’, brotherhood in other words. I’ve updated it on behalf of (not really, more in support of) the sisterhood.