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Media Medicine

Written By: - Date published: 8:33 am, November 28th, 2012 - 45 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags:

The relationship between media and politicians in this country has become incestuous and toxic. For much of the time they confine themselves to merely slanting the game with spin and framing language. We’ve learnt to live with that. But increasingly we are witnessing instances where a pack mentality dominates the story, placing journalists themselves as players. We most recently saw it with the ‘take down’ of Winston Peters, now again on David Cunliffe. And it’s the stories we don’t see that are equally perturbing.

Clearly there are some media players who are abusing their privilege as ‘the eyes and ears of the nation’ to suit the needs of their own egos and the agendas of their corporate masters. In particular it demonstrates quite plainly that we never see capable, passionate, left-wing political leaders gain the government benches and implement, real lasting changes for the for all New Zealanders; they will simply be cut down by an establishment media pack with smears and falsities before they get there.

Blogs like The Standard peel up small corners off this scabby business but the I believe that next step in our progression eludes us because we’ve been allowing the media to define our credibility; when in truth theirs cannot withstand much scrutiny either. One stark contradiction is that while journalists and media pundits love hurling the ‘cowardly anonymous blogger’ line at us; while they themselves zealously guard the anonymity of their own sources whenever it suits them. And their papers routinely publish thundering right-wing editorial pieces without names attached. They cannot have it both ways; they cannot belittle and discredit bloggers for not using ‘real names’, while they themselves uncritically resort to the same. It’s a remarkable blind-spot.

In the online era old habits and methods from the print media days need upgrading. Here are some minimum suggestions:

There is no reason why political journalists should not be required to reveal and name ALL of their sources. If you want to quote a politician, someone elected to Parliament to serve New Zealand, then you have to name them. No more ‘off-the-record’ or nameless ‘senior sources’.

All interviews must be ‘on the record’ and fully available online for reference.

All ‘reportage’ articles must be either ‘fact checked’ and/or open to a right of reply from any participant, person or party mentioned.

Start using hypertext links like bloggers do in order to provide references that your readers can check. (Some already do; no reason why the rest cannot catch up.)

All opinion articles must be clearly identified as such. If you want to be a blogger, then fine … just let everyone know that’s what you are doing.

All personal and professional relationships must be openly declared and available in an online bio attached to every article. Credibility goes a lot further than simply knowing your real name.

No political journalist should be allowed to serve more than six years sequentially AND 33% of their total career in the Parliamentary Press Gallery. Any longer than this and you become embedded in the system, you become part of the story rather than a recorder of it.

The Press Gallery are accorded by convention special privileges, protections and access us ordinary bloggers don’t have, yet increasingly it’s obvious that as a whole we’re doing the better job. It’s time the Gallery stopped seeing the online world as merely an extension of the dead-tree media they grew up with; it’s time for them to start making some fundamental adaptations in order to justify their privileged roles.

45 comments on “Media Medicine ”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    Why doesn’t someone submit an anonymous editorial to the papers about why anonymity is important, etc?

  2. ad 2

    Cunliffe was incoherent and had several months to practise just one line. No conspiracy in that.

    And some MP’s are better than others at working the media. It’s a necessary skill. Peters knows it and has had his highs and lows as a result. Don’t blame the mainstream media for that.

    Having said that, perhaps redlogix protsesteth a little too much. Anonymity of source and anonymity of posting, ought to be givens in a free society. Othewise every statement becomes a court case or an employment case. I think there was a posting about precisely that by QoT recently.

    And there’s about as much check and balance against slander from the media in this country as there is against bloggers; functionally none. Anomie, in this sense is both a price of freedom and a virtue of freedom bound together.

    The Standard is on the right side of history. The newspapers will increasingly merge into magazines with fully named authors; The NZHerald for example is now really a collection of magazines itself.

    Why not simply presume everything in the media is an opinion of one form or other, and it is up to the viewer to form an opinion about the stability of information from a wide variety of sources. Isn’t that what the full contest of opinion is about?

    Television has political reporters who a named and famous, and gloriously fact-free in their opinions. They will for some years still have the power to turn a story and blast it out, but increasingly the blogosphere acts as a counter-force. But ther power is waning fast.

    The blogosphere will dominate the media within one political term. You’ll see.

    • RedLogix 2.1

      Anonymity of source and anonymity of posting, ought to be givens in a free society.

      I’m not arguing against that at all. But I am saying that you cannot be a journalist who uses anonymous, unreferenced sources yourself AND claim to a higher moral ground over those ‘cowardly bloggers’.

      Bloggers have largely occupied the space journalists used to have to themselves; if journalists want to maintain and justify any sense of professional privilege they need to think of ways to adapt to this reality by using their access, protection and resources in news ways ordinary bloggers cannot easily do.

      • ad 2.1.1

        We are comfortably accelerating the demise of that kind of journalist. Current affairs is in freefall. Investigative journalism of any length is now only the preserve of specialist magazines.

        I would reverse the question: at what point will bloggers get the same parliamentary access as the television reporters? (LPrent going to the party conferences is a start and was a helpful little shockwave through the MSM there).

        The answer to that question is: when we break cover, name ourselves, and say who we are reporting for.

        We simply need more from The Standard to have parliamentary passes. Become the new MSM. Don’t get angry, Redlogix, get even.

        • RedLogix 2.1.1.1

          But I am NOT a professional journalist. Never have been, never will be. I have a full-time job doing something else quite different.

          I simply don’t have the time or skills to be in the Press Gallery; I’m largely quite happy for professionals to do it. What I’m arguing for is that they do that job a whole lot better please.

          • weka 2.1.1.1.1

            This came up in Lynn’s post yesterday too. There are obvious overlaps between blogging and journalism, but they are not the same thing. We need to remember that, and understand the benefits and limitations of blogging in its own right.

            • ad 2.1.1.1.1.1

              That would be a more fruitful post if you spelled those out, thenwe could dissect the consequences when those differences are gradually obliterated.

              What we would get to with that is how the ignorable interweb and all those young people, is tilting the whole field.

              • weka

                Not sure what you mean – spelled out which?
                 
                Journalists can and already do blog, but that doesn’t mean all bloggers can be journalists. Some simply don’t have the skills. Or as RL says, the time. I don’t think the differences will eventually all be obliterated. Blogging gives us something that journalism doesn’t. And vice versa. If you mean that eventually the internet will dominate over print and broadcast media, that’s a different issue which doens’t fundamentally alter the point I just made. And I suspect that once the internet does dominate, we will see a resurgence in print media amongst the edges of society, who will again lead the way. 
                 
                Also don’t know what you mean by ‘all those young people’. I doubt that ts has age demographics on its readership, and we know that many of the authors are not chronologically young. What’s your point exactly?

            • lprent 2.1.1.1.1.2

              This came up in Lynn’s post yesterday too.

              My comments in Q0T’s maybe. I have a couple of posts on the slow boil around this topic. Now that Lyn has disappeared off to film in India I should have more time to attack my ever burgeoning ideas and half written posts file. She is away for 2 and half weeks.

              I really think that some people need a education on exactly how far the legal structures actually extend in NZ and how little legal difference there is between writing under your own name vs writing under a pseudonym.

              But also bearing in mind the current and background hysteria as net culture runs straight into journalists and our politicians fragile egos, I may take the opportunity to extend the data protections on this site a bit further by making it disappear into the international infrastructure. Specifically making it harder to extract personal information about commentators in violation of our privacy policies.

              I had a look through a recent Law Commission report of cyber-bullying of teens a few weeks ago. I have no real problems with their teen ideas as a whole. But teens are a rarity on this type of site anyway.

              I’m more interested in the implications forward as the way that local lawyers are thinking about ‘controlling’ the net. For instance a strange idea that operators are not responsible for what commentators place on their site. They damn well should be. Anyone who runs a website and is too lazy to police material placed on it should be the primary target of any action. That is everyone from Facebook through to the barest trash site for breaking suppression orders.

              Their proposals look rather like a manifesto for causing interventions that cover lax operators from liability without any significant protections for the breached privacy. I have no particular idea who NetSafe are, their tech expertise, understanding about the net, or what guidelines they want to use. But from what I can see it doesn’t look like someone I’d want to trust my livelihood to.

              Judgement orders to disclose private information without a opportunity for us to argue about it? You’re kidding me… And there appear to be no penalties for that information being leaked. I’d expect prison time at least if a lawyer or the purported “victim” outed people. But that isn’t in the rather repetitive cut’n’pasted documents.

              So I’m thinking that we will just treat this all as a threat and move the site kernels out of range. The traditional network vote for or against blockages is to simply avoid them. The reality is that they’d be better off trying for a IETF RFC.

              I have no particular problem following the current NZ laws on defamation and the like. In fact we’re usually rather harsher and a awful lot faster than anything that is proposed. But a quango that breaches privacy as it’s primary response and doesn’t protect the data is simply unacceptable.

          • Ron 2.1.1.1.2

            What we need is an independent media which once upon a time was what our National Radio & TV did. However we have let governments control and weaken these broadcasters to the point where they are not greatly different from the Murdochs, O’Reilly’s and Fairfax organisations.
            Labour to its shame spent 9 years in power and just toyed with radio & TV instead of helping implement a proper Broadcasting Policy, and in some ways (Ian Fraser debacle) actually made it worse.

            • aerobubble 2.1.1.1.2.1

              Leaving $100 notes laying around is meaningless unless there is a banking system, a economy, a sovereign backer, laws over property, lawyers… …and lastly a unbiased free press. The idea we can put not money, have no oversight of the media industry, to weed out distortions by the few (or worse those working for the few in the naive belief that their handsome rewards they receive are good for the many or even the few).

              The paradigm has shifted again, peak oil means the old problems besetting our species are returning. Sure disease isn’t one of them since we put efforts into disease and health understanding, but the problems of populations, resources, society and environment are now harder in a higher trending energy world.

            • geoff 2.1.1.1.2.2

              … now hang on … comparing Radio NZ to a Murdoch
              newspaper or tv channel is right off the mark. RNZ’s news
              service is literally the last bastion of serious journalism in NZ ..

              And PS: Linda Clark is a lawyer now, not a journalist

    • weka 2.2

      Why not simply presume everything in the media is an opinion of one form or other, and it is up to the viewer to form an opinion about the stability of information from a wide variety of sources. Isn’t that what the full contest of opinion is about?
       

      Theoretically yes. But many people don’t have the time, inclination, patience or skills to critically analyse the sources of information they are reading. Knowing who/what to trust and why is a crucial issue but I don’t think it can only be left to individuals.
       
       
       
       

      • ad 2.2.1

        But that’s what we do here all day long.

        On blogsites its just more like stories get pecked to death by ducks rather than a tv political journalist throwing a story around for 60 seconds like a pit bull in a meat truck.

  3. One Tāne Huna 3

    Unions are forbidden by law from taking industrial action for political goals. If this is fair and reasonable and not in any way a total breach of their rights to freedom of speech and association, I can see no reason why the same restriction should not be placed on shills journalists.

  4. Tom Gould 4

    At last, someone has said it, albeit anonymously. We are now in the strange situation where the line between reportage and opinion is so blurred as to be indistinguishable to the reasonable observer, where political journalists submit a news report for publication and then either blog or tweet, or both, on their own story, often revealing their own personal view. Beyond this, senior political journalists moonlight as ‘MCs’ at corporate events or act as ‘confidential commentators’ to corporates. Facts and ethics no longer matter. This goes far beyond the issues around the ‘blogisphere’ versus the MSM. The system is fundamentally broken. It needs fixing. I’m not holding my breath, primarily because aside from TVNZ and RNZ, all media outlets including blogs are privately owned, and the politicians are so scared of the ‘big chooks’ that they will never dare even suggest a fix. So, FOX and Glenn Beck are the wave of future, the new benchmark, and we will just have to get used to it. As for the blogs, perhaps the answer is in your own hands. Name yourselves, and strike a blow for accountability and ethics?

    • mike e 4.1

      beck limbaugh etc have been dropped by all their sponsors for spouting bigotry yeah!
      The tea party is in melt down the only reason the republicans have control of the hose is because they gerrymandered the fpp boundaries and made it difficult for democrats to vote!
      That has backfired big time and will lead to reform of the voting system!

  5. Sam 5

    Interesting points in the post. I will respond to one.

    What a ridiculous suggestion to have a time limit of six years in the gallery. That’s just nonsense.

    In my experience interacting with journalists, it is the ones who are long in the tooth who (generally) bring a considerably greater level of analysis and quality to their reporting, over the ones who’ve been there for 5 minutes and everything is a great big drama to get excitable about.

    I’d love you to explain to me how the removal of NZ Newswire’s (formerly NZPA’s) Peter Wilson, the Herald’s Audrey Young and John Armstrong, Fairfax’s Vernon Small, Newstalk ZB’s Felix Marwick, and a number of others, and their replacement with a new batch of journos fresh out of broadcasting/journo school, would somehow benefit political coverage.

    • RedLogix 5.1

      their replacement with a new batch of journos fresh out of broadcasting/journo school, would somehow benefit political coverage

      That was only one way to interpret my proposal.

      I’m arguing for six years in one stretch (at any time during your career …start, middle or end) AND a total of one third of your whole career specifically serving in the Press Gallery.

      This doesn’t in any way limit you to juniors fresh out of school.

  6. Rogue Trooper 6

    very productive vine; I hope it bears fruit

  7. The Fan Club 7

    Winston’s a racist, xenophobic, homophobic bigot. The smears against him amounted to telling the truth. Likewise with Cunliffe (well, aside from the racist/xenophobic/homophobic/bigot part). You are just going deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole here, alleging it’s all some media conspiracy to keep the Left down.

    (More broadly, ffs, of course the bourgeois media is against us. Expecting the bourgeois media to be anything other than lackeys of the ruling class interest is absurd. That means there’s no point in reformism, because fundamentally the class interests of the media are opposed to the needed changes. Quit whining, start winning.)

    [lprent: Just a warning. Please make it clearer that you are expressing your opinion rather than making an assertion of fact. And I’d suggest that you never use this particular tone of comment talking about a person who is not a politician. Lange vs Atkinson protects us and you here. Saying the same about a non-politician and I’d be bumping you off the site ]

    • Socialist Paddy 7.1

      Well what about the caucus leaker?  Unless you have both eyes closed and fingers in your ears for the past four years  you have to have seen the evidence that someone in caucus is trying to destabilize and smear Cunliffe.

      Or do you think that this is not happening? 

      • tc 7.1.1

        DC and his crew need to take time out and let the inevitable Mallarfia mayhem be reflected in the numbers.

        Wonder who the duck will blame then. Checkout the latest listener piece from his current romantic partner. Wonder how many shadows they jump at, move on everybody.

    • Colonial Viper 7.2

      You are just going deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole here, alleging it’s all some media conspiracy to keep the Left down.

      (More broadly, ffs, of course the bourgeois media is against us. Expecting the bourgeois media to be anything other than lackeys of the ruling class interest is absurd.

      Its hilarious you deny there is a media conspiracy, then you admit there is one, then you finish off by saying just accept it!!!

      MORON

      • weka 7.2.1

        Conspiracy means there is deliberate communication and strategising. It’s possible for the MSM to be lackeys of the ruling classes without that degree of organisation.

        • Colonial Viper 7.2.1.1

          It’s possible for the MSM to be lackeys of the ruling classes without that degree of organisation.

          the organisation doesn’t have to occur at the MSM level. It can occur at the PR firm/PR staffer level which then tugs at the strings of the MSM.

    • Populuxe1 7.3

      Really? Well the xenophobia thing has been cultivated by an out of touch press secretary still trapped in the 1980s, but you have no evidence for calling Peters a racist or a homophobe. While I didn’t personally support NZF’s vote against marriage equalisation, it was a legitimate response given their mandate of direct democracy by referendum on issues of conscience. 

    • Fortran 7.4

      The Fan Club

      Agreed with your Winston summation – his party (him really as there is nobody else) have [deleted]. He is a [deleted].

      But he may well have the balance of power in 2014.

      [lprent: If you are going to make an assertion of fact like that which has a high probability of being defamatory, then link to something substantive to support it. If you want to assert opinion, then frame it as such. One week ban for putting our site in legal jeopardy. ]

      • mike e 7.4.1

        Fortran you are playing right into peters hands he no political fool he come back more times than mohammed ali!

  8. Colonial Viper 8

    I think a sister site could be started up to the Standard, this one focussing on writing up actual, impartial news and doing interviews with key (spit) players who otherwise never get air time.

    What the MSM have done is fucked themselves by telling a very selective story from very selective people.

    Which means there are huge swaths of news and important views out there which are not being reported on.

    Pull that together in one place with some good interviewers, good writers and editors, and it will get legs and run. And amazingly, I reckon there is a lot of under used talent out there who would do this work for not that much, especially after the MSM has spent the last 20 years firing and sidelining anyone who was any good.

    • weka 8.1

      It would need funding and organising. Ideas on that?

    • Ron 8.2

      Maybe http://journalism.org.nz/ will give us something like that. I think Bernard will try and do a good job to pull news together into one site with interviews and topical news.
      Yes it is going to cost but at the lower end its not much more than a week of a conventional newspaper.

      • weka 8.2.1

        Which neatly excludes poor people.
         
        And unless there is a way to pay without using a credit card or internet banking, members will be providing their RL identities.
         
        His ideas are interesting, but it’s still going to be an exclusive club.

        • Ron 8.2.1.1

          “The poor are always with us.” I dont think the site will exclude people its the ability to comment and make suggestions that require a payment. I dont think $1-2 per week is overly expensive. If the site works well it might replace the local newspaper? who knows and thats getting on for that much per
          day. Also there are many ways to pay that dont include using credit card. Not the least a Pressie card or paypal or whatever

          • weka 8.2.1.1.1

            Nevertheless, it’s still exclusive. I would think free reading and free commenting, and then tiered subscriptions for other benefits would be a better way to go. Unless he wants to limit then numbers commenting, which he is perfectly entitled to do. Let’s just be honest about who it excludes.
             
            He’s talking about using credit cards btw.
             
            I’m not sure if pressie card or paypal can be done anonymously.

          • Draco T Bastard 8.2.1.1.2

            I dont think the site will exclude people its the ability to comment and make suggestions that require a payment.

            Which means that those who can’t pay are being excluded.

    • lprent 8.3

      Should really be a site run by journalists. I’d be happy to donate tech help.

  9. “Clearly there are some media players who are abusing their privilege as ‘the eyes and ears of the nation’ to suit the needs of their own egos and the agendas of their corporate masters.”

    I tend to go along with ‘The Fan Club’, “Expecting the bourgeois media to be anything other than lackeys of the ruling class interest is absurd.”

    These senior ‘journalists’ would not have been allowed to rise the the positions they hold unless they had clearly demonstrated they had successfully internalised the values of the system. This is why the western press is allowed to be ‘free’, the need to worry about what an ‘influential’ journalist writes is as unnecessary as a bank worrying that a regional manager will run his branch in an ideologically acceptable manner.

    To deviate from the corporate/establishment doctrine is to invite opprobrium from on high, people who do not conform to elitist norms are effectively weeded out; Gordon Campbell’s being exorcised from The Listener was probably the most egregious example, of which I can think, that underlines what happens when one of this country’s most analytically critical journalists does not conform to the expected norm.

    • Populuxe1 9.1

      I tend to go along with ‘The Fan Club’, “Expecting the bourgeois media to be anything other than lackeys of the ruling class interest is absurd.”
      These senior ‘journalists’ would not have been allowed to rise the the positions they hold unless they had clearly demonstrated they had successfully internalised the values of the system.

       Um, no – the chief requirement is that they attract and keep readership, ie revenue, in a market where newspaper sales are in decline.

      • RedLogix 9.1.1

        Or you by your own words I could argue that they’ve been remarkably unsuccessful at sustaining readership levels.

        Maybe the material their bosses want to see in their papers is getting to be an increasingly hard sell.

        • One Tāne Huna 9.1.1.1

          That’s dangerously close to saying the market (for genuine “news”) will decide, RL. Paradoxes abound!

          • RedLogix 9.1.1.1.1

            Some things just don’t make for good ‘markets’.

            For instance a ‘free market’ in childbirth services strikes me as a bad idea. Discovering after the event that the person you contracted was, while being the lowest price was also incompetent, may well leave you with a dead mother and baby on your hands.

            Well that’s an extreme example. But equally there’s no point in discovering afterwards, when it’s too late, that the ‘news’ was screwed either.

            In both cases we resort to the idea of ‘professional standards’ to moderate and regulate the action of the market.

  10. unicus 10

    OK so what about the give-aways in regional areas – usually the only print media available to rural and small town populations . These rag’s are nearly all owned by Fairfax and run by National friendly hacks . Most of the regional dalies ( also Firfax or APN owned ) are likely to be reporting constantly on the heroics of their local National Party MP . – in the world of provincial journalisim reference to the Labour or Green parties – or the “silly issues they are interested in is non-existant .

  11. Rodel 11

    Recently I heard Linda Clark on RNZ bemoaning that Labour provided nothing newsworthy and was boring.
    I’d suggest that she and other ‘journalists’ get off their lazy bums and do some work. i.e.go looking for news rather than just waiting for easy, pre- prepared PR copy and pretending it’s in depth journalism.

    Some politicians ( I know….Ruth Dyson, Lianne Dalziell for example) are working their butts off for constituents in their earthquake damaged electorates and I’ve no doubt there are others from NZ First, the Greens and maybe even National ( I doubt whether ACT is doing anything remotely useful or newsworthy) but today’s journalistic egoists don’t look for it and don’t see that as advancing their own careers.

    I suggest to Linda Clark and others….get off your arses, do some work and go find the news….don’t expect it to find you. You may even find some real news. grrr!

  12. Peter 12

    If the MSM in NZ tried to emulate the reporting standards of the New Your Times we would not have many issues.

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