Talking Back

In age in which we are flooded with largely depressing books on the death of traditional media and establishment journalism, it’s exciting to read the perspective of someone who has grown up in new media and who celebrates the rise of the audience.

Tim Dunlop, a writer, academic and one of Australia’s pioneer political bloggers, has written a refreshing insiders’ account of the rise of the new media insurgency. Thankfully absent is the now ritual characterisation of bloggers as pyjama-clad single-issue boffins or journalistic wannabes. Continue reading

Moving Forward


This is either the most well timed book on politics of recent times or the worst. In her meticulously detailed volume of the caustic three years of Julia Gillard’s prime ministership,  Kerry-Anne Walsh ends the narrative tantalisingly short of the final scene – the long-canvassed ‘Ruddstoration’.

It seems churlish to fail the book on events overtaking it, but this is always the danger with seeking to tell history on the run. Indeed, one wonders, after reading it, whether Walsh’s punchy news diary-style treatment might have worked better as a live blog than as a paperback. Continue reading

Old Empires New Legacies

Journalism isn’t like any other business. And that’s because journalism isn’t a business at all.  The great newspaper empires now being dismantled in Australia and elsewhere were actually advertising businesses supporting cultural institutions.

Industrial era journalism was a craft subsidised by the advertising. When advertising separated from the newspapers, the journalism lost its subsidy. Now, companies like Fairfax Media are seeking to put a market value on journalism itself. Good luck with that. Continue reading

That’s the Way It Wasn’t

At a Reuters editorial management course in Singapore around 1997, the attendees were being reminded about the principle of objectivity in journalism. To play his or her stated role in a global news organisation, the journalist had to be a perennial outsider with no affiliation.

At that point, the trainer theatrically looked over his shoulder as if to see that no-one else was listening and leaned in toward the class, sotto voce: “Actually, that’s not really true. We aren’t objective at all. Implicit in everything we write is an acceptance of the Washington Consensus.” Continue reading

Down to the Crossroads

Hundreds of young people in Australia enter communication degrees each year in anticipation of securing jobs in journalism that no longer exist. How must that make a journalism educator like Margaret Simons feel?

Well, not as depressed as you might think. In fact, as the title of her new book attests (‘Journalism at the Crossroads: Crisis and Opportunity for the Press‘), Simons – the director of the Centre for Advanced Journalism at the University of Melbourne –  paints a tentatively hopeful picture of the future of the craft which has been her living for most of her life. Continue reading

Estate of the Nation

 

If it hadn’t been Grog’s Gamut, it would have been someone else. The unmasking of the popular political blogger by The Australian newspaper in 2010 served in retrospect as the moment when blogging in Australia gained something of a critical mass.

Until then, the nation’s mainstream media had treated blogs as background noise, at best, unrelated to the real business of journalism and political commentary. But when News Ltd’s James Massola revealed “Grog’s” true identity as a Canberra public servant Greg Jericho, it was clear something had changed.

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The Murdochratic State

Anyone beguiled by appeals by the Murdoch press in Australia for the defence of “freedom” against the Leviathan of the state needs to read Tom Watson’s ‘Dial M for Murdoch’ – a forensic examination of the gradual corruption of the British state by News Corporation.

Reading the book should cure any delusion you have that these events are in any way controversial. Using court and police records, it shows in great detail that elements within News Corporation have bought police, put politicians on the payroll, intimidated regulators, invaded privacy and routinely smeared critics to get its way.

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The Mega Perspective

Good journalists still exist. It’s just that these days,with few exceptions, they tend to exist despite, rather than because of, the media organisations that employ them.

One is Laura Tingle, who continues to write penetrating and original analysis of politics. Another is George Megalogenis, whose sober, measured style and grasp of historical detail make him one of the few remaining reliable chroniclers of Australian political economy (and one of the few reasons, if any, to read The Australian).
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The Hall of Media Mirrors

 

  • Former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has sparked a bitter storm within the Labor Party after publishing a tell-all book that exposes the inner manoeuvrings of the final days of the Rudd government.
  • Prime Minister Julia Gillard has attempted to laugh off revelations by former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner of her role in the Rudd government dumping its Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.
  • Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has seized upon revelations of extreme disunity with the former Rudd Labor government  from former Finance Minister Lindsey Tanner in a tell-all book.
  • The minority Labor government is hanging by a thread after frank admissions by former Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner in his new book revealed still festering divisions in the ALP.

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Review: ‘Inside Story’

On holiday, I’ve been reading ‘Inside Story’ – ABC foreign correspondent Peter Lloyd’s honest and compelling tale of his humiliating arrest and imprisonment in Singapore in 2008 for drug possession (a trafficking charge was later dropped).

Lloyd was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of his arrest, a personal legacy of his work over the previous six years covering a succession of disasters – including the Bali bombing, the Boxing Day tsunami and the carnage around Bhutto’s return to Pakistan and her subsequent assassination. Continue reading