The future of newspapers – ABC podcast

March 8, 2015

I recorded this interview with Glyn Greensmith of the ABC on the future of newspapers.

All you have to do is click and listen.

future of news

Groupthinking or just not thinking? “Bedwetters” in the NewsCorpse bunker?

March 1, 2015

The most entertaining aspect of the slow disemboweling of Two Punch Tony has been the serial flip-flopping by the over-priced keyboard warriors in the NewsCorpse bunkers.

Astute observers of the Murdoch press in Australia are not surprised to see only one version of the hymn sheet being printed each day, but then we watch, smirking, as the various soloists each wobble to the microphone to sing their allotted verses accompanied by the cacophony of the discordant Greek chorus standing beyond the ghostly glow of the footlights.

This sort of thing.

A hatrick of keyboard monkeys, they must be right.

A hatrick of keyboard monkeys, they must be right.

It might just be a case of magical thinking — you know, if you wish really really hard then something will come true. Or, it might just be that for the Right Wing columnists in Rupert’s employ the thought of a small ‘l’ socially liberal Liberal turns them into “bedwetters“.

And the two-faced doublethink is amazing from these Orwellian reptilians.

Actually, this is not journalism either.

Actually, this is not journalism either.

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The media and the #libspill — covering themselves in glory?

February 9, 2015

There’s nothing that the political media pack likes more than a bit of blood-letting.

The entire Canberra Press Gallery is on a sugar high at the moment and there’s no sign that they’re coming down soon.

A leadership crisis makes for good copy and it allows the all-news TV channels to flood the airwaves with blue-tie talking heads from dusk till dawn and then from dawn till dusk – (rinse and repeat).

They really only have one thing to say, but it has to be said again and again by as many people as possible with spin (rinse and repeat) and with varying inflections.

Then the tea leaves, the coffee grounds, the chicken entrails, the pigeon droppings and the contents of the ministerial chamberpots are pored over, poked at, sniffed, taste-tested, licked, chewed, sucked and spat out like so much cheap plonk at a Dan Murphy’s wine-tasting.

But the audience (AKA, the punters, the voting public, the great unwashed) ends up being none the wiser.

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#AbbocolypseNow: Tony Abbott, Australia’s zombie prime minister

February 9, 2015

It is all over for Tony Abbott.

Yes, this is our Prime Minister. Tx Durandy

Yes, this is our Prime Minister. Tx Durandy

He survived a spill motion in today’s parliamentary Liberal Party meeting 61 votes to 39.

But the consensus is that he will not lead the coalition to the next election, due before September next year.

This is almost certain.

A NewsPoll public opinion survey released today has the ALP in an overwhelming position with a two-party preferred vote of 57 to 43.

Any election with those numbers would mean a wipe-out for the Liberal-National coalition and a Labor government would hold a comfortable majority.

Only a week ago Tony Abbott was addressing the National Press Club to outline his government’s agenda for 2015 and to push what has been called the “reset” button in an attempt to reboot his personal popularity and voter sentiment about the government he leads.

By the end of last week, two Western Australian backbenchers were so spooked by the negative reaction to Abbott’s NPC speech that they had called for a party room vote on his leadership.

After four days of speculation and furious lobbying, Abbott has held on to the party leadership and therefore the Prime Minister’s office, but only just.

Nobody expects this to be over.

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The view from Disneyland — you can see the Newscorpse bunkers from here

February 8, 2015

There have been two important speeches at the National Press Club in the past week or so. One of them got bucket loads of media coverage and has turned into a national story of gargantuan significance. EM covered it here.

The second NPC speech received some coverage, but there have been few ripples across the pond and the story has died. However, EM can’t let it go because it is a subject dear to our heart — Freedom of the Press.

Just two days after Two Punch delivered his wooden and self-wounding speech on Monday, perhaps fatally injuring his own prime ministership and his political party in the process, the chair of the Australian Press Council, Professor Julian Disney, gave an address to the gathered scribes and interested onlookers.

Disney’s speech won’t kill off the Press Council, but he is leaving soon anyway and his replacement has been announced, Professor David Weisbrot; so, in some ways, the address was a valedictory.

Disney also used the speech to make some thinly-veiled comments about the role of destabilisation and undermining of the Council’s authority by Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorpse.

newscorpse log

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Gallery journalists star in Abbott’s National Press Club match

February 2, 2015

The Prime Minister began his National Press Club address looking wooden and stiff. But that’s not surprising; as a human being he always comes across on television as wooden and stiff. Perhaps he’s like that in real life too.

I’m not sure about that because we were both 35 years younger when I was doing political battle with him at Sydney University in the late 1970s. Thus, we were both more supple, lithe and in our manly prime. Then Abbott was a “rugger bugger” and a “John’s boy”, which meant that we regarded him as wooden and stiff and best avoided in the Quad after dark. Today, I’ve got more hair, but also more padding; so let’s not go there, or at least no further.

Eat, Pray, Love while the PM takes us on a journey to the Abbocolypse

Eat, Pray, Love while the PM takes us on a journey to the Abbocolypse

But, to be fair, Tony Abbott loosened up a little towards the end. Not during the speech, but after when facing questions from the Canberra media pack. I have some experience of this too.

But some viewers thought the journos didn’t do a very good job.

My take it was, as always, a mixed performance. Some bring their A game and some are not fit to be in the team.

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Queensland ~ Always a Very Interesting Place

February 1, 2015

by Dr Mark Hayes

Whose ‘water’ let him down badly on the probable outcome of the Queensland election, and begins to explain why below.

I freely admit it.

I got the Queensland election outcome wrong, and even my ‘water’ let me down.

I was expecting a significant swing to the ALP, of the order of about 9% – 11% two party preferred state wide, with some ‘traditional’ Labor seats returning to the fold, possibly some interesting tussles over local issues such as coal seam gas and new coal mines planned for agricultural land, but with the LNP returned, minus Campbell Newman, with a much reduced, but workable, majority, so it could implement its Strong Choices neo-liberal revolution.

I was expecting the usual faux contrition from LNP heavyweights about ‘listening more to the people’, and ‘we’ll do better in the future’, but also resolution to press ahead with Strong Choices.

But none of the mainstream polls or analysts got the election result anywhere near right either.

The first indication something was seriously afoot surfaced on Channel 9’s Galaxy Exit Poll, promoted by an apparently stunned Shane Doherty about 4.15pm. He didn’t Tweet any details, but what he’d seen was enough to get me to watch commercial TV news at 5.00pm. Hadn’t watched commercial TV news for anything for many years, but this was serious…


And then, of course, the ABC fired up from South Bank at 6.00pm, with an enthusiastic Matt Wordsworth welcoming viewers from outside, and walking in to the Election Night set in the foyer, all the while explaining what was going to happen, and this viewer willing him not to trip or walk into something or somebody as he did so. Brave man doing this kind of lengthy walking welcome Live on national television too.

Then it was On, with the redoubtable Antony Green and his large touch screen, Wayne Swann and Tim Nichols having at each other, and Jessica Van Vonderen, calmness and control personified, anchoring the gig. What’s an Election Night Special without Kerry O’Brian anchoring, one might have wondered beforehand, but Jess and Co didn’t need him or his gravitas.

As entirely expected, the ABC and ABC Queensland in particular, demonstrated yet again how to do this kind of broadcast properly. And a Shout Out too to the bunch of QUT Journalism students tucked away to one side monitoring social media on the night and feeding their efforts into ABC Radio’s parallel broadcast.

The usual padding, palaver, sober projections generated on SFA votes counted, Antony Green gesturing and tapping on his large screen as he explained trends and bellwether seats, and what not.

Then the Serious Data started to come in, and by about 7.30pm, Channel 9’s Galaxy Exit Poll seemed to be vindicated, and Antony Green’s machines started behaving like the computer on Apollo 11’s Lunar Lander as Neil Armstrong neared touchdown, both being broadcast live. The ABC TV producer must have been feeling like Buzz Aldrin, trying to make sense of ‘dose blinkin’ lights, machines goin’ pHut, and calling on the backroom geeks to fix it fast.

Mr Green’s data, based on Electoral Commission feeds, was being crunched in his machines according to pre-programmed expectations, and they just weren’t coping with the numbers pouring in.

Something unprecedented, beyond extraordinary, was in play, and Mr Green and his machines, as well as Wayne Swann, increasingly buoyant then delighted, and Tim Nichols, digging himself further into disbelief and then denial, struggled to respond and make sense of it all. At moments, the machines just gave up and sulked, leaving Mr Green and his laptop to press ahead and very capably wing it.

You can look up the data on Mr Green’s Elections Site, and check out some early good analysis too, from New Matilda’s Ben Eltham and this brief comment from UQ’s Professor John Quiggin, and this audio comment from Professor Brian Costar. The Guardian has a good collated and curated wrap page too.

Where I’m pretty sure I got it wrong was in underestimating the depths of loathing in Queensland at the all but explicit neo-liberal imposition of Strong Choices by the arrogant and hubristic Newman Government, especially in its first two years, and the authoritarian, pugnacious, methods they used to try to force their Grand Future upon the state. Voters clearly saw through the bullshit post-modernist rubbish about 99 year asset leases as being only asset leases.

LNP Gaven Courier-Mail Bikies Back Labor

LNP Posters at a Gaven Polling Booth, Gold Coast.

And the Courier-Mail has some serious credibility questions to answer about how and why some of its recent front pages, linking the ALP to bikie gangs, were plastered literally for tens of meters along fences outside many polling places as part of LNP propaganda calculated to scare voters into only voting 1 (for them) when Queensland has optional preferential voting.

What I also think has been overlooked and neglected has been the role of what’s been dismissed as ‘electronic graffiti’, social media, a crucial component of Professor John Keane’s conception of monitory democracy, something I know scholars at QUT’s Creative Industries Faculty have been closely studying during the campaign.

Citizen journalism site, No Fibs, has been doing an excellent job of curating and aggregating social media feeds and commentary throughout the campaign. Well worth a good burrow around.

To their credit, though, the Courier-Mail re-published this excellent profile of Annastacia Palaszczuk, a name every journalist had better know how to spell and pronounce properly ‘cos she’ll be a major player for a long time to come. The ABC also has a profile of Ms Palaszczuk too.

This election outcome deserves some very careful thought and analysis indeed, and not just for the fairly immediate Federal implications.

More in due course.