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The Standard

“Name” journalism & voter dis-engagement

Written By: - Date published: 8:55 am, November 29th, 2012 - 75 comments
Categories: accountability, blogs, democratic participation, labour, news - Tags: , , ,

Attacks on the “anonymity” of bloggers by some MPs and journalists, are a symptom of change that threatens to make political participation more democratic.  Until the early 20th century journalists were largely anonymous.  The rise of “name” journalism and infotainment have increased voter dis-engagement.  A critical, independent fourth estate, free from commercial and state interference, is crucial to democracy.  However, well-managed blogging (by any name) can also contribute significantly to democratic re-engagement.

Auckland Star 12 July 1937 – from Papers Past

As outlined by Zvi Reich (2010), the now standard use of named author bylines, was the result of a gradual development during the 20th century.  With reference to his examination of NY Times and the UK Times, Reich shows how this was the result of a progression through 4 distinct phases:

1) anonymous journalists with an authoritative voice, aimed to stop the journalist coming between the reader and the story, by maintaining an impersonal voice (see the accompanying image of an Auckland Star article where Michael Savage talks directly to the public).

2) generic bylines promoting news agencies or newspapers; (still seen now with NZ Herald and NZ Listener editorials, written by unnamed authors).  It was also and attempt to deter plagiarism.

3) a few ‘star’ named journalistswhich began at the NYT before WWII, and at The (UK) Times after 1967.

4) most authors named with personal bylines, due to journalists’ pressure for an equal share of the public acclaim. This was accelerated by the celebrity-making  influence of TV news.

Reich: UK Times, named personal bylines began 1960s

Reich’s article shows how the use of bylines developed as the result of multiple, sometimes conflicting factors, which included changes in technologies and dominant discourses. In Reich’s article the rise of stage 4 in the UK coincides with Murdoch’s rise in publishing, when unions lost their influence.  They had been resistant to what Reich refers to as “the professionalization” of journalism.  As Geoff Kemp tells it, the introduction of new technologies in UK newspaper publication led to industrial disputes, which resulted in submissive journalists and a compliant press.

Naming of authors is supposed to create transparency.  However, this conceals the co-authors as identified by Reich; such as news sources, editors, sub-editors, spokespeople, and press release writers, each having the potential to add bias.  On TV, with the on-camera reporters being most closely associated with a story, co-authors would include camera and sound operators, editors, producers, studio anchors, and more.

As I argued in an earlier post, the international commercialisation of news has led to the public becoming increasingly cynical about the motives of politicians. One of the more negative impacts of infotainment and celebrity culture, has been the increasing public disengagement from politics and voting.  The visual medium of TV has contributed to the focus on superficial conflicts, the strategic framing of politics as game, and the insertion of well-known journalists into the story.

Running interference between politics & the public

“Name” journalists have become a proxy for the public voice, disempowering potential voters. When continuously associated with political news, they gain a false superficial aura of authority, trust-worthiness, and expertise in interpreting the news.  This was seen during the recent Labour Party conference, when TV3’s Patrick Gower led his own reality show exposé. He repeatedly thrust a microphone in front of David Cunliffe in an attempt to dramatically uncover an alleged leadership coup. The more important story about the democratisation of the Labour Party was side-lined.

Democratic political parties could look for ways to embrace the positive potential of blogs, in order to re-engage with the public. It was a promising development to see the consideration of the potential of  “new” media  at the NZ Labour Party Conference, towards the end of a speech by Judy McGregor. However, she seemed to see participants in electronic networks as an elusive, docile, loosely-affiliated population, unwilling to commit to the hard slog of party work; people whose voting choices are based on superficial assessments of personality and single issues.

In fact, well-moderated blogs enable ordinary people to become part of an extensively networked conversation: one that connects politicians, media stories, party members, and potential voters, while generating enthusiasm for political action on- and off-line.

75 comments on ““Name” journalism & voter dis-engagement”

  1. TightyRighty 1

    I don’t agree with the wholesale bagging of the “MSM” on the Internet. I think it’s a cop out and a failure if organisations and individuals to engage with the media as a stakeholder. Your post Karol however is well reasoned and makes some very good points. I agree with your motion that well-managed blogging encourages participation by otherwise disinterested parties, which is a huge positive for democracy regardless if which side of the political spectrum you normally reside in. Top post!

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      I think it’s a cop out and a failure if organisations and individuals to engage with the media as a stakeholder.

      I reckon the media should be engaging with the communities they serve, not acting as a political power base in of themselves.

      • shorts 1.1.1

        agree

        something blogs like this and many others do amazingly well and succeed with those, like myself, who feel let down by the MSM over so much of what they report/focus on – I care not for the if it bleeds it leads format, its revolting

      • TightyRighty 1.1.2

        Do you know any media types? I do, quite a few in fact, and they engage frequently. But you need a dead horse to flog, however unoriginal the meme “the msm don’t respect me”

        • karol 1.1.2.1

          I would dearly love to see the MSM really fulfill the 4th estate promise.  But, they way it’s become, I can see why so many people are frustrated with it and are highly critical.

          The MSM is more than any of the individual paid employees working within it.  Many on an individual basis are probably well-meaning.  But the focus on individual journalists, with the shift to naming them, masks how much, as Reich argues, they are constrained by the system they work within.

          With the developments in the 80s, there is a contradiction between the ways journalists were disempowered by the undermining of unions, and the way they are fronted as named individuals – often giving them minor celebrity status. 

          • TightyRighty 1.1.2.1.1

            There you go, ruining your previous intelligent comments by spouting some BS about disempowerment due to unions being taken down a notch.

            Blaming the woes of anything on the perceived class enemy only has so much traction. there is no doubt an element of truth in what you say, it’s hardly the entire cause of the problem. Far better to bemoan the fact that the editors who hold sway over the newspapers websites front page have to much power to shape peoples view of the news and yet are still largely nameless. how about how cost constraints on the industry due to the preferred medium now being basically free have forced the globalization of news generation?

            Have an academic debate about the problem, the tendency to ascribe every misfortune of the workers to some kind of class war is rapidly become the new godwin of the left. It also ignores the hindrance unions place on businesses within rapidly evolving industries.

            • Schlurps McGoo 1.1.2.1.1.1

              So Karol’s response @1.1.2.1 retroactively degrades any previous comment of hers that you may have found intelligent.

              Thats not only patronising, its illogical as well.

              As for reading criticism of structural flaws of Identity based journalism as segueing a class war argument in there by stealth is also stretching credulity.

              You don’t have to be a radical anarcho-marxist to observe the media of our time and suspect that there are some serious faults with how issues are being framed and disseminated.

              Anyone Left or Right can look at a dog’s hind leg and tell if its crooked.

            • karol 1.1.2.1.1.2

              I haven’t said the union disputes were the only factor with respect to name journalism and infotainment, but it was an important factor feeding into it.  The talk I linked to by Geoff Kemp, is an interesting take on it.  The undermining of print unions,  is worthy of a topic in its own right.

              I was in London at the time of the 1986 Murdoch-Wapping print union action and it was big news.  One of my lecturers at London uni also did some compelling research on how Thatcher manoeuvred towards getting supportive editors in key publications.  I see he is still talking about some of the related issues.

              During part of the 1980s, a large segment of the national press developed an almost cheerleader relationship to government. Indeed, the Thatcher cabinet minister, Ian Gilmour, wrote that the press during this period could ‘scarcely have been more fawning if it had been state controlled’.

              This was all part of the multi-pronged way Thatcher became so dominant, and also included a concerted attack on unions, including the mining unions, print unions and teacher unions.

              But I do think and independent media and open debate is good for democracy whether you are right or left wing. And too much of a fixation on name journalism can just obscure the ways the debates can be manipulated and skewed.

        • lprent 1.1.2.2

          I really don’t care if they don’t respect me. After all I frequently don’t respect members of the msm.

          I do care when they attack net institutions and standards because they appear to be too lazy to find out what they are and why they were created. My inclination then is to point out why I think that they’re wrong and lazy to try to apply their oddly hypocritical standards to a completely different type of system set up for a completely different purpose.

          I have no frigging interest in being a journalist or a talking head. That would seem to be a retrograde step from being a computer programmer who also expresses my own opinions on a self-published net forum. I don’t have any real respect for their “standards” which often seem to be specifically designed to protect them from criticism about the poor quality of their work ethics. People can directly express their opinion of my writing here, or from other blogs and they do it pretty damn fast. We don’t need intermediaries like the BSA or Press Council with their wet handslap months later.

          Looks to me like a few of the other authors feel the same.

  2. just saying 2

    I know for a fact that routine use of by-lines became policy for INL papers in the 80s.

    The trend from the previous practice of a couple of bylines per paper for features, columnists or “special” pieces, was rolled out as part of the infotainment revolution which also saw shorter stories, sentences and paragraphs, all active in tense, pitched at the reading age of a 14 year-old. The inverted pyramid became all-but compulsary. Regardless of the virtues or otherwise of this writing style, you can see how it fitted with the move away from analysing and informing towards entertaining readers, who researchers had apparently found to have, on average, the attention span of a fruit-fly.

    Cooincidentally, Judy McGregor, first as editor of the Sunday News, and then as senior management at Independent Newspapers was an enthusiastic implementer of the revolution. She also played a significant role in decimating the journalist and printers unions, which happened pretty much concurrently.

    (She also did some good things – women were appointed to senior positions in record numbers).

    • karol 2.1

      Interesting NZ background, js.  I was in the UK at the time, so I’m not so familiar with the background here.  But it did seem to me that the NZ media had gone through similar stages.

      It would be useful if there was documented evidence somewhere of that shift in NZ.

      The inverted pyramid is also important to attend to.  The main general and eye-catching points are put in the headline and opening paragraph, tapering down to the evidence and/or more contentious details at the bottom of the article.  

      It is always useful to see if the headline, lead, and later part of the article are consistent.  Often the opposing viewpoints are buried at the bottom of the article.  A lot of people don’t read beyond the headline or lead, and that is what forms their opinions.

      I was interested that McGregor came from a journalism background, and that she said she worked on the media part of Annette King’s, print-based campaign way back.  It does seem to me she is a little reluctantly looking at “social media” etc with a lot of negative pre-conceptions.

      Was McGregor one of the women who appeared in a TV documentary series on feminism way back in the 70s?  And that was revisited in the doco Sheilas?

      • just saying 2.1.1

        I don’t know. I was a kid then. She is featured in a couple of anthologies of NZ feminists and writings from prominent figures of the eighties, that I have on my bookshelf.

      • just saying 2.1.2

        You’re right about the inverted pyramid. As the industry knows perfectly well, the position, or opinion presented in the first one or two paragraphs, is the only perspective most readers are ever exposed to. Alternative viewpoints, and contentious (or any other detail) is placed further down where evidence shows, few consumers* will read.

        There is no doubt that the older style required more effort from readers. Apart from anything else, they had to wade through more detail to find salient information.

        *The word consumer, of course, took off in a big way at this time. My Mum said she never forgave Helen Clark for turning her from being a ‘patient’ when she needed medical care to a “healthcare consumer”. Point is, these changes evolved in the context of the wider neoliberal revolution, and, as is always the case, the one fed into and helped shape the other.

    • Colonial Viper 2.2

      (She also did some good things – non-unionised, ideologically compatible women were appointed to senior positions in record numbers).

      Just to clarify.

      • Populuxe1 2.2.1

        Doesn’t matter, they’re still women and that is a definite improvement. It breaks ground. There wouldn’t have been a Helen Clarke without there first being a Margaret Thatcher.

        • Colonial Viper 2.2.1.1

          nah that’s absolute total bullshit.

          • Populuxe1 2.2.1.1.1

            You’re obviously a man. It may not excuse their politics, but it still opened the way for their gender – glass ceiling broken, deal with it.

            • Pascal's bookie 2.2.1.1.1.1

              Go on, identify the logical fallacy you just used.

            • karol 2.2.1.1.1.2

              I’m a woman, and I doubt that Thatcher made it possible for Clark to become PM – but if you can provide evidence otherwise, I’ll be interested.  

              Thatcher wasn’t the first elected leader of a country, anyway, and I think she did more to set back women’s rights as progress them – especially with respect to low income women.  

              • Populuxe1

                Social change is a cumulative process 

                • karol

                  Indeed, pop. And social change doesn’t move forward in a continuous line of progress.

                  Without a couple of waves of feminism, Thatcher would probably never had made PM.  Pity that she then turned back some of the gains made for women from diverse backgrounds…. and also contributed to the undermining of the media as 4th estate.

            • weka 2.2.1.1.1.3

              Thatcher didn’t break the glass ceiling, she was teleported above it.

      • just saying 2.2.2

        Very true CV.

        I was a wee bit torn. Because although I strongly disagree with McGregor’s politics and many of her actions over this time, from my (minor and pretty superficial) interactions with her, I also liked her as a person. There was some surrounding context with her being the first woman to break the glass ceiling in the field, with all the difficulties and internal conflicts that entails. Which doesn’t excuse anything I know.

        It would be interesting to know what she now thinks about the changes that she helped pioneer.

  3. Tom Gould 3

    “The more important story about the democratisation of the Labour Party was side-lined.”

    Perhaps, but I reckon Labour dodged a bullet with this. Had the news focused on the actual voting system, with a handful of union heavy weights exercising the aggregated votes of affilited members on their behalf, and without reference to them or their wishes, it would have been a worse ‘look’ than the Cunliffe coup sideshow.

  4. DH 4

    Authors should take the criticism as a compliment, albeit disguised and unintended. If blogs weren’t getting an audience the media wouldn’t be bothered by them, ergo it’s the attention that blogs like the The Standard are receiving that causes the angst in certain circles.

    A lot of so-called ‘journalists’ and media personalities see themselves as the news these days . Content comes second to their preening in front of the camera or preaching to us from the soapbox of bylines. Anonymous blogs are the polar opposite of that populist attitude and they don’t like it; it’s undermining their status & stardom. It’s career threatening.

    The real reason they don’t like anonymous authoring is because it nullifies much of the power they wield & abuse. They can’t attack the author because they don’t know who the author is. They’d dearly like to use the name & shame, the belittling, the snide references; any dirty trick to turn people away from blogs & back to the MSM. But they can’t do that when authors are nameless, it pulls their teeth.

    My own thinking is that the Cunliffe chicanery was an attack on the Standard (and others) by the media; they were sending a message about who really wields the power here. That’s what the Winston Peters debacle was really about and this smelled the same. My answer to that would be for everyone to keep doing what they’re doing. It’s obviously working.

  5. BLiP 5

    .

    As overt shills like Clare Curran and the useful idiots like Brian Edwards attempt to soften us up, I’ll just leave this here.

  6. lprent 6

    Damn Karol – you beat me to it. I was reading through exactly the same material over the last week.

    I was going to call it – “Addiction to the byline”

    That Israeli Prof’s charts were quite compelling.

    Oh well, I have several other ones on the similar topics.

    • karol 6.1

      Whoops.  Sorry, Lynn.

      With several TS authors coming out with posts on similar topics and themes around the same time, someone will start saying it’s all been carefully orchestrated by…( ..?) 

      Yes, on the graphs.  And that article was also one of the few academic ones I found on the topic online, that isn’t behind a pay wall. 

      It’s taken me a couple of days to put this post together.  As I said on QOT’s name blogging a privilege thread on Tuesday, I had started researching this angle earlier that day. 

      I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a need to post on variations of this topic some time in the future.  I could have said more on the issue, but the post would have been too long.  An early draft was a lot longer. 

      I usually find research is rarely wasted, even if I don’t use it immediately. \

      PS: Your title is a lot better than mine!

      • lprent 6.1.1

        Don’t worry about it – great minds think alike etc etc… But there is a distinct paucity of visible info on this topic. Kind of weird when you realise exactly how big a change this was in the public discourse.

        • karol 6.1.1.1

          Finding something online on the issue seems to be the problem. I started looking because I had remembered seeing something on the topic & thought it might have been Auckland Uni’s 2011 winter lecture series.  There were other articles I came across in academic journals, requiring a paid subscription.  I didn’t check if any of them were available on the public library e-resource databases.

          I do have a couple of library books out on news media, but neither seem to deal with the rise of personal bylines as a substantial issue. 

          • RedLogix 6.1.1.1.1

            Brilliant post. What I wish I could have written myself. And interesting too how so many of us were drawn to write on the same theme at the same time.

            What is worth emphasising is that indeed it was the dismantling of the print unions which was one of the critical enabling steps towards dis-empowering journalists. There is no question that without even the sometimes tenuous backing of a union it became impossible for ordinary journalists to say ‘no’ to an editor or sub-editor. Or to insist on professional independence from the commercial pressures of advertisers.

            And it also highlights how much professional skill brings to the game. While us ordinary bloggers may bring the day to day experience of our lives and passion to our writing, it takes someone with professional training and experience to flesh this out into something quite compelling.

            Well done.

          • lprent 6.1.1.1.2

            Exactly, I had some material about it in some old books from the 80’s. However I offloaded all of my paper books when I moved to ePub’s.

            When I looked on Amazon I could see books that were likely prospects. However I couldn’t see any that were digital formats that I could buy directly over the net (and convert out of whatever useless format they were using). Most were older than a few years old.

            Journals – the prices per article were too high to do a fishing expedition. I really needed to get to a university library and I never have time for the long hours required. Much easier to just do this when I was at home late at night on the net.

  7. Wheezing&Easing 7

    Respected mag The Economist has a policy of not naming writers and in fact gives “names” to columns within the Mag with particular topics (eg Lexington, Bagehot, Schumpeter)..occasionally names groups that have written special reviews. I get The Economist and I like the policy myself.

  8. Wheezing&Easing 8

    Respected mag The Economist has a policy of not naming writers and in fact gives “names” to columns within the Mag with particular topics (eg Lexington, Bagehot, Schumpeter)..occasionally names groups that have written special reviews. I subscribe to The Economist and I like the policy myself. NZ journalists need to grow up. It’s quality that counts, not names in print – and much of it is not great quality!

    • lprent 8.1

      …I subscribe to The Economist and I like the policy myself.

      ditto.

    • The Economist does list all their writers plus provides their backgrounds. None of them are ‘anon’.

      http://www.economist.com/mediadirectory

      But they do say “…the main reason for anonymity, however, is a belief that what is written is more important than who writes it”

      • leftriteleft 8.2.1

        Exactly!
        As I said yesterday in a previous reply.

        It’s the message, not the messenger.

        Although, sometimes, I’d still like to kill the messenger.

        Pompus pricks that they are.

      • lprent 8.2.2

        Yep. You just don’t know exactly who is writing what in the print edition. It is somewhat easier in the ‘blogs’ except for the numbers of J.P’s and J.A’s at various times.

        • TheContrarian 8.2.2.1

          Though I wouldn’t equate The Economist with it’s integrity to The Standard with its angry assholes.

          • lprent 8.2.2.1.1

            Ummm – perhaps you should read the history of the economist magazine. Especially in its first few decades. They are pretty proud of it, and they still write opinion pieces in that same vein. You know the same one we use, based on a sense of outrage

            And in the now ritual putdown (becasue you don’t seem to ever listen to it): You really do need to get a sense of history

            • TheContrarian 8.2.2.1.1.1

              So you actually are trying to equate yourself with The Economist.

              Wow, now that’s hubris.

              • lprent

                The economist and more particularly their online blogs were definitely one of the models for this site. The authors are pseudonymous and they write opinions on topics that they’re interested in. In the last year or so as they’ve had more than one person writing under the same pseudonym, they’re added initials so people could distinguish individual authors. Still a guessing game as they have several authors with the same initials….. There are also authors initials that are not on their lists of reporters.

                I’ve been reading it for nearly 30 years.

                But I can infer from your words that you’re not going to look at their rather opinionated history as a newspaper? Or why they’re the newspaper that is most likely to be banned in the most countries at any one point in time over the last century and a half. Too useless to learn does appear to be your usual trait.

                • Oh I know about The Economist and am a subscriber myself.

                  The history of The Economist notwithstanding , comparing The Standard to The Economist is delusional…. unless the editor of The Economist also calls people names for no reason and insults their intelligence with comments like “Too stupid to learn” when someone dares question them.

  9. mike 9

    Another good post karol. The way the TV1 and TV3 frame political news as merely a he said / she said, team A spin vs team B spin power game has been bothering me for a while. Garner and Gower are shocking.

    As you say it simply leads to viewers becoming more cynical about politics, and thus less interested. Not a good thing for democracy. Any chance of some in depth discussion with party leaders about policies? Or some reporting about the current govt’s performance in specific areas? Nah, lets just go shove a mic in someone’s face, get a “No comment” comment and call it a story.

    I’m reminded of a quote: “You make a mistake if you see what we do as merely political.” – Adolph Hitler

  10. Wheezing&Easing 10

    My post disappeared before I finished it!

  11. Nunya 11

    I yearn for the day when all public broadcasters are required to wear a bag on their heads, all names are removed and bylines scrapped.

    FFS at time of increasing economic meltdown our pols have been flat out like a lizard drinking debating about the relationship between a former weatherman, his brother and their mother!
    A farce that is the direct result of allowing talking heads the right to self promote and it needs to be stopped. Not by the gutless pols who profit from the celebrity culture yeah I know they all bitch about it when it bites them on the ass, but it is the ability to get a ‘media profile’ by beating up some emotive issue that has reduced all NZ politics to the worst type of populism.
    It is us who need to stop it – not the pols -how? easy. stop clickin on links to gossip, minor legal issues made important because one or more parties have a profile, film premieres, whose up who n whose payin the rent on Tuesday nite gallery opening page, n all the rest of the fat toad in a small pond bullshit that our ‘fourth estate’ foists upon us.

    I find it disappointing that the standard gives every contributor a byline. Sure some use nyms but the nyms are pretty transperant. If the standard truly believes that particular issues should be associated with particular writrers so readers can follow an opinion’s rationale why not just call em citizens A or B or C? Comrade 1, 2 or 3. If writers demand a byline surely that is an indication of a dodgy agenda?
    Standard writer #57, anything which seperates the opinion from a commoditiseable (sp?) persona would be good because I reckon it enhances credibility. That is, if someone is saying something in the knowledge that their expression of an opinion can’t advantage themself politically, it follows that readers are more likely to consider that opinion valid.

    • lprent 11.1

      I find it disappointing that the standard gives every contributor a byline. Sure some use nyms but the nyms are pretty transperant.

      We have no editorial line which was the reason why newspapers had anonymous authors in the first place. If you read the material linked to you’ll find why the Victorians thought that was important.

      We are just a cooperative sharing resources. The only editorial controls that this site places on the authors is that the trust running the site doesn’t want to be :-

      1. successfully sued for defamation,
      2. engage in criminal activities.
      3. bore moderators.
      4. having authors spending all of their time attacking each other.
      5. journalists.

      Because there is no editorial style guidelines and our individual personalities shine through with everything from from QoT’s unique ability to swear at least once in almost every post :twisted:, to Irish’s sarcastic style, to my pontification – we just put a psuedo on each person writing apart from Guest Post and Notices and Features. Even so we get people dancing on the head of a pin in other sites arguing that Eddie has some kind of split personality because of his persistent blandness.

      • QoT 11.1.1

        QoT’s unique ability to swear at least once in almost every post

        I tried so hard in my last one, but then I fucked it up.

  12. Populuxe1 12

    “However, this conceals the co-authors as identified by Reich; such as news sources, editors, sub-editors, spokespeople, and press release writers, each having the potential to add bias.”

    Ah, application of post-structural theory by someone who almost certainly has no experience of the newsroom. For the most part editors and sub-editors do not deliberately alter the content of articles, and it is up to the journalist to read around the projected biases of spokespeople and press release writers. The worst you can say about editors is that they control what gets printed or not, which can certainly slant things, but otherwise the rest is – except for a few scandals – nonsense.  

    • karol 12.1

      Bias most often refers to something that is done without people always being aware of their biases and/or how they are slipped into an article or report.

      It can be seen when the headline doesn’t quite match up to the content of the article.  And too often these days, articles, often by the least experienced journalists, just repeats the content of press releases uncritically. 

      Biases can also be done when a journalist is subtly influenced by their editor’s views.

      News journalism is usually conducted under the pressure of deadlines.  This means that journalists can often unthinkingly repeat views that are all around them.  Sue Abel kind of shows how that works with the way the MSM tend to overlook Maori perspectives in TV news, and the way stereotypes keep getting repeated there.  Abel has done research that includes observing in a newsroom. (see p3 here).

      There also can be (inadvertent?) biases in the selection of journalists for a news organisation, so that the successful applicants tend to be in conformity with the editor’s perspectives. 

      • Populuxe1 12.1.1

        By that reasoning everything in the world is a contingent social construct including your post and all of your sources, so let’s apply Occam’s Razor and assume that a significant chunk of the MSM are in fact living, breathing human beings with functioning critical faculties at least partially aware of their biases and not simply two dimensional theoretical automata bereft of your obviously refined sense of self-awareness.

        • karol 12.1.1.1

          I think it’d be great if more people read/viewed news media critically, rather than just accepted them at face value.  

          I also am more for discussing issues based on verifiable evidence – others can look at the same evidence and, possibly come to a different conclusion.  I don’t see it as a case of impossible relativism, but an on-going critical discussion.

          I would also agree with those who say journalists should be self-critical, so that they are aware of their own values and biases, and make them explicit in relation to their writing. 

    • RedLogix 12.2

      For the most part editors and sub-editors do not deliberately alter the content of articles,

      Oh dear, of course not; they don’t have to. What happens of course is that the journo very quickly learns to write what is acceptable. It happens is most organisations, you go along to get along especially if you feel vulnerable and on the wrong end of organisational power.

      Always most effective if you can get people to censor themselves.

      • Populuxe1 12.2.1

        I’m guessing you’ve never worked in the media then. It may be the case in some organisations, but by an large not the fairly broad cross-section I’m familiar with.

        • karol 12.2.1.1

          Are there humans working for your organisations, pop?  Because it is something we can all slip into.

          RL,@4.39pm:  Yes, I think it is the more inexperienced, least powerful journalists that will be most susceptible to self-censorship.  It’s been a recent shift that there has been a tendency to hire more young and less experienced journos as a cost saving.  And, once they start down that road they may never become aware of how they’ve been subtly influenced.\

          I think it is no accident that some of the most critical news items come from some of the older hands with a little status: e.g. John Campbell.

           

        • KJT 12.2.1.2

          I think that was one thing Beria admired about the USA. He reckoned the, US, media was so brainwashed it was not necessary for them to be censored.

      • lprent 12.2.2

        I have edited substance in a few posts out of the 11,241 posted on the site. Maybe 4 or 5 all up. Violating suppression orders. A couple that had material I thought was defamatory.

        There have been probably a few hundred where I have fixed egregious spelling or grammatical errors. A few where the author managed to say the inverse of what they meant (the fatal missing ‘not’ usually).

        But I’m not an editor. I’m not even that good as an author, a fact that Lyn informs me every time she reads one of my posts. Her doing the nights putting up material on the online herald for a while evidently did interesting things to her ability to see poorly constructed text, because I swear she can see the errors long before she reads the words. Or it could be the material that all of her students give her year after year. I rather pity them :)

        I just like writing posts that get across my meaning.

  13. vto 13

    Been watching this debate and see most every single argument ever has been submitted for consideration, including this one ……

    Brian Edwards can go jump in the lake. Just keep going and posting and bloggering and all in anonymity. What is he going to do about it? Ha ha ha, stupid idiot.

  14. just saying 14

    A lot of great minds thinking alike. A very relevant and eloquent column form Chris Trotter today:

    …The tone of these attacks leaves little doubt that not only do these political journalists consider bloggers to be unwelcome and illegitimate contributors to the nation’s political discourse, but that nothing would make them happier than to see them tightly regulated and controlled. It’s an attitude that should send a shiver down every New Zealander’s spine. A genuine “Fourth Estate” would welcome the democratisation of the gathering and distributing of news which the Internet has made possible. That so many MSM journalists have greeted the competitive spur of the blogosphere with a mixture of self-serving patch-protection and outright authoritarianism is cause for considerable concern

    It also casts much of their recent reporting of political news in a new and worrying light. If the truth is indeed out there, then presumably it’s as readily accessible to bloggers as it is to members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery? If both are present at the same event, then their reports should be (with obvious allowance for nuance and emphasis) at least broadly similar? But what if they are not similar? What if the MSM’s coverage of Event X is radically at odds with both the experience of participants and the reportage of bloggers? Wouldn’t that raise some extremely disturbing questions about the credibility and trustworthiness of MSM journalism…

    Concluding:

    ..If this is true, then the decision by so many active participants in the blogosphere to remain anonymous or write under a pseudonym becomes entirely reasonable. Any system powerful and mendacious enough to suborn the one institution specifically charged with exposing its malfeasance is probably not the sort of system to be openly challenged or taunted by vulnerable individuals using their real names.

    The day focus groups and their deliberations cease to be confidential is the day bloggers will gladly abandon their pseudonyms and the “pandemic of anonymity” will be over.

    • karol 14.1

      Thanks, js.  Yes, Trotter makes some similar points although from a bit of a different angle.  He also sees the attacks on anonymity as a symptom of some underlying shift, or threat of a shift, with the Internet opening up some democratic possibilities.

      He also points to the Labour Party conference as a key event when many who attended the conference, saw it in a totally different light to the standard MSM interpretation.

      He takes a different angle by focusing on the way the press gallery tend to be pressured into producing similar interpretations of events.   

  15. just saying 15

    Relevant and compelling column from Chris Trotter today:

    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.co.nz/

    Mods: You can ditch the previous comment (currently in moderation) which I realise had wayyy too much quoted text from the above.

    • ropata 15.1

      No don’t ditch it!!
      BTW here’s a more permanent link

    • karol 15.2

      Also, I laughed at the opening of this Gordon Campbell piece – one of the few independent “named” journalist on the internet, taking on one (or two) of the “named” fixtures on the NZ Herald:

      The best way of appreciating Fran O’Sullivan’s attack on Auckland University law professor Jane Kelsey in the NZ Herald yesterday is to read it aloud as if you’re actually Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey. In which case the general content of O’Sullivan’s column – does this creature never sleep? How on earth has she managed to commandeer the debate on free trade? Are there no men in this house able to put this, this, this confounded woman in her place? – will sound exactly what it is. A last despairing squawk from the neo-liberal right, as yet another of its castles in the sand is washed away by the tide of history. Get used to it, Fran. It’s your lot that has lost the plot on “free” trade.

      I’m so glad the Internet still provides a diversity of voices to hold the MSM to account, and hope that it won’t be regulated down to an exceptional minority by banishing the use of pseudonyms…. if it was even possible?

      Or are we, as Campbell says, seeing the end to the neoliberal consensus?

  16. Rogue Trooper 16

    There is no point going back to the msm, magazine mounted media imo, not with the Truth accessible
    on the internet if one is conscientious and caring enough to search for it. I almost flinged the
    commodities forecast values link on to the local paper however they have changed their online format
    and I cannot be bothered engaging with them anymore, not when lprent provides a clean daily refill and
    binder. I used to try the articles in North and South, The Listener or such like, yet I found a lot of
    excess padding, non-sequiters, and only a bite of real meat from a couple of pages, i.e, The Conclusion.

  17. MrSmith 17

    Nice Karol

    A couple of things the poly’s fear from the anonymity of blogs is the public servants specking up anonymously and the fact the writer may have to defend their written words and that’s all that’s happening here people, the written word, no guns, no marketing spin or underlying agenda just words on a page that anyone can call bullshit and it’s scaring the crap out of ………..

  18. Rhinocrates 18

    Indeed, some very interesting commentary from Chris Trotter.

    I used to think of him as a bit of a “dinosaur” due to his disparagement of “identity politics”, but I appreciate that one doesn’t have to agree 100% (haha, considering recent statements by a certain someone) to realise that there will never be “100%” agreement, nor should there be.

    Chris Trotter at least is carefully observing what is actually happening in the media landscape whereas Brian Edwards, someone I had admired* has reacted so negatively, so hysterically to the seismic shifts in the landscape of discourse. Chris Trotter is watching and he’s thinking. Others, such as Edwards, O’Sullivan, Armstrong et al are just reacting.

    I don’t suppose that there is an actual conspiracy, but rather a commonality of interest and a tipping point. The old media establishment is, as Chris Trotter says, is perceiving their power slipping away and once someone says it, they all do. Some, like Farrar, Hosking, Trevett, Hooters and Long will certainly say that Shearer is the best leader for the Labour Party because he’s the easy one to beat, while others like O’Sullivan will simply see someone they can identify with. Meanwhile, that spineless cretin Armstrong is an idolator by nature while Garner and Gower just see a drama that they wants to play a leading role in while Edwards is a tired, ossified sanctimonious dupe clinging to fantasies of what “should” be the case among comfortable liberals like himself. Mallard, Goff and King are driven by spite and their own insecurity, Hipkins is Mallard’s Mini-Me and Robertson of course is delighted to see all of this happening and does his best, as subtly as possible, to keep it going.

    They may look like a conspiracy, but they all have different motives to achieve the same end. It’s not a conspiracy – it’s just a perfect storm.

    It will pass.

    For all the problems that I have with Chris Trotter (he’s got to “get” the identity politics thing – there will never be a unified “left” now, but a mosaic of progressives to which all ultimately contribute), I do believe that he’s one of the best observers of politics around today. Edwards, on the other hand, does what he did very well, but like an old dog, he isn’t learning any new tricks. He knows that in a vague way, hence his anger, but he doesn’t want to think why, and it angers him. He’s stuck in what he thinks the world should be, not how it is.

    *Well, I might just despise him on this one issue and respect him otherwise… hopefully.

  19. Rhinocrates 19

    Oh, and by the way, seeing what has happened to Edwards’ post, as has happened so many times elsewhere, as a corollary to Godwin’s Law, can I – anonymously – propose this:

    “The longer a discussion in which Pete George is admitted to continues, the greater the probability is that he will decide that is all about himself. Once this happens, he will ensure that it will cease to be of any worth.”

    • QoT 19.1

      I second this.

    • lprent 19.2

      Yes. Definitely PG is one of the most self-obsessed people on the local web. The really amusing thing about him is the way that he ascribes all of his own worst traits to other people – and seems to be oblivious that is what he is doing. It is a permanent source of amusement to me.

      However, so long as he is not here, it is rather good fun winding him up on other peoples sites. I’m sure that the operators will all thank me and others for doing it. However I’d suggest that it might be a good idea to only do it on posts that are rather crap anyway. Otherwise the sound of a good PG tantrum can drown out some good debates

      😈

  20. Skinny 20

    As someone who has been interviewed from time to time by MSM outlets, it’s often annoying  what actually gets published or broadcast. Quite often a reporter or editor will try skew what your saying to fit their theme or perception of a news item. Unfortunately  the facts sometimes get in the way of a good story. I had a print reporter chasing me for comments on an issue that was topical of the day, since I was speaking out ( whistle blower) against actions of my employer and wary the  
    reporter was seeking comments in reply from my CEO, I demanded he email what was written so I could check for accuracy of the verbatim Interview. The corrections needed before I was comfortable with being quoted was surprising. Once I read the new item in the paper I could see the original attempt too distort the facts! You could say I remain aloof of MSM nowadays. As for the story it’s going to be in the headlines again soon Boss :) 

    It’s great to post on here as an anonymous person as it allows you to have a opinion without threat of being sacked by your Govt employer, who’s HR team will deal to you with their ‘media policy.’ there would be a lot in a similar boat posting on here I’d say.

    p.s B b b b Boss your 800k  J j j j Job is gunna be o o o over!                        

  21. newsense 21

    It is also clear that ‘anonymous Labour-affiliated bloggers’ is a standard attack line now. Mostly from APN it seems. Armstrong, Fran O’Sullivan and Jane Clifton have used it or something similar.

    Interestingly in today’s paper there was a tiny corrections sidebar acknowledging the potentially defamatory inaccuracies in the ‘anonymous’ editorial attacking Dr Joy. Fran O’Sullivan remarkably attacked the university for not acting more as a rubber stamp for government policy over the TPP and allowing dissent a voice amongst it’s staff. There has been very little clear public debate about these trade agreements, that as Gordon Campbell points out are often not actually completely free trade agreements but riddled with exceptions to benefit the larger partner.

    Sorry if this is somewhere else and I missed it!

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