Graffiti Crimes

Basic RGB

“Graffiti crimes shall be written upon your walls.
Well I shall spray them so bold and so tall.
Just you wait ’til you read this one.”

– Misex, 1979

What distinguishes “electronic graffiti”, as a besieged prime minister characterised social media, from the “real” journalism of the mainstream? That’s easy. One is full of uninformed opinion, unsourced speculation and lazy trolling. The other is to be found on Twitter.

Unfair, I know. But it’s becoming increasingly hard to see why the “official” media should continue to hold any special place in the national conversation when so much of its content does not hold a torch to the best analysis of the “amateurs” online.

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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

Reinventing Journalism

It is a painful time for many journalists. Cast aside from the failing industry that used to provide them with a secure living, they are confused, frustrated and in some cases downright angry that society no longer seems to put a dollar value on the skills they worked so hard to perfect.

That the wounds of mass redundancies are still raw was rammed home to me last week when I took part in a panel at an inner Sydney hotel organised by the Public Interest Journalism Foundation (PJIF) to “share ideas and experiences around innovation in journalism”. Continue reading

Send in the Clowns

“What we will witness over the next 18 months or more is a Great Unhinging, an orgy of hysterics. The goalposts of what constitutes government legitimacy will be moved from the constitutional to the convenient, from the reality of the parliamentary majority to  concocted nostrums about mandates to govern. It will not just be a campaign against the government, but one rolling, frenzied campaign after another, where each new contrived outrage will assume a greater level of mania than the last.”

Uncanny, isn’t it? That prediction was made just over three years ago by blogger, econometrician and polling analyst Scott Steel (AKA Possum Comitatus). Perhaps, it’s his distance from Canberra. Perhaps, it’s because he doesn’t scribble about politics for a living. And perhaps, it’s because he doesn’t have to try to say something new every day. But Possum’s piece on the Great Unhinging is still the most chillingly accurate portrayal of the media-politics dynamic served up in recent years. Continue reading

The Man Behind the Curtain

Being a successful media pundit depends on a couple of core skills – one is a capacity for sounding absolutely confident about your predictions; the other is your ability to seamlessly and plausibly change gear after the fact without denting your public credibility at all.

Traditionally, pundits have gotten away with these 180-degree reversals because of the mainstream media’s monopoly on analysis. Being the sole mediator allowed established outlets to play footsie under the table with the poohbahs who told us what to think about economics, politics and everything else. Each needed the other. Continue reading

Ordinary People?

 

“Grandma, tell me about the Great Cyber War. What was it like?”

 
“Well, dear, on top of hill were the well-armed, but rapidly depleting mainstream media corps defending their turf to the death, or at least until deadline.

“Assaulting the outskirts of parliament were we brave bloggers, dressed only in our pyjamas, fuelled on skim lattes and clicking on petitions until our index fingers blistered. It was ugly, dear.”

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News Judgement Fail

Global media:

Local media:

One principle in journalism is that the closer you are to a story, the less likely you are to see it. It’s why wire services rotate people around the world. Journalists who work for Reuters, Bloomberg and AP have a frame of reference wider than the average local reporter.

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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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Citizen Kane to Citizen Mayne

Ten years ago, online publisher Crikey under then owner Stephen Mayne fought a fruitless battle with the Howard government to win access to the budget lock-up in Canberra. Despite producing what  was unequivocally journalism, Mayne’s operation was deemed not to be a media outlet. It’s a snub our newly digitising established media companies might want to consider.

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Oh, THAT guy

 

This is Jim Parker, a former financial journalist and now corporate communications flak. He’s also known as Mr Denmore.

I’ve kept this blog going for 18 months as ‘Mr D’ and I plan to keep doing so. But I thought it was about time I revealed my daytime persona.

By the way, I’m neither a public servant nor an academic, so those loyal foot soldiers of Rupert can’t pin those particular hate crimes on me.

But I do have an interest in the state of journalism and I can’t see why I shouldn’t be able to express my opinion publicly.

I spent 26 years in journalism – starting in commercial radio in New Zealand, then public radio, then radio in Australia. I even worked for the ABC briefly. Most of my career, though, was in wire services – particularly Reuters (still the best news organisation in the world in my view).

My last six years in journalism were with The Australian Financial Review, our best newspaper. While my experiences there weren’t particularly pleasurable – I was associated with their less-than-stellar ventures in television and online media – I nevertheless learned much.

In 2006, I quit the media for a full-time role in corporate communications in the financial services sector. Part of my daytime job involves speaking to financial and other professionals about how the media works and what a tough gig daily journalism can be.

After four years watching the (often uninformed) commentary on blogs about journalism, I thought I would offer my own pseudonymous contribution. I wrote a few pieces for Mark Bahnisch at the now defunct Larvatus Prodeo under the title of The Failed Estate.

This eventually led to the creation of a blog of the same name in August 2010.  I kept the Mr Denmore tag going not because I was evading scrutiny but because I needed to keep (and still do) my blogging persona separate from my professional persona. This is the case for many people who have something to contribute to public debate, but who are reluctant to do so for fear of compromising their paid employment.

As it is, my employers know about the blog and are happy for me to continue, providing I don’t cut across or talk about issues that compromise my paid role. So you’ll see my blog posts, written in my own time, almost always appear late on Sunday or Monday nights. You also won’t hear any “stock picks” or interest rate forecasts from me. Not allowed.

Anyway, I never hid who I  was from people who asked. Quite a few former journalist colleagues were aware of who Mr D was, as did a few former contacts in economics, politics and financial markets and other bloggers.

So why did I leave till now revealing who I am? Well, it’s partly because I’ve been invited to speak at a seminar in Canberra next week along with Finkelstein inquiry assistant, Professor Matt Ricketson and digital media guru Craig Thomler. (I’m going to Canberra in my own time and at my own expense by the way – no taxpayer funds involved).

But I also agree with journalists who say that critics of the media need to be upfront about their affiliations and identify. That’s a fair call. Having said that, I think many people concerned about the drift in our political and media discourse (“drink”!) feel reluctant to contribute to the discussion because of the vitriol coming out of certain quarters. (Witness the smearing of academics recently for seeking to improve the accountability of media organisations to their readerships.)

Finally, I don’t think you stop being a journalist and seeing the world as a journalist just because you leave the paid employment of an industrial age mainstream media organisation.

In fact, for any journalists wondering about life after traditional ‘news’ journalism, you can be assured that your skills in communication, filtering, editing, writing, research and analysis are just as valuable outside the media as they are inside. (BTW, I still do some paid journalism for Radio New Zealand and for the Sydney Morning Herald, but only rarely and with full disclosure).

And the great thing about social media and blogs is that many fine former journalists and policy experts and academics can continue to write and participate in public discussions among people of all political persuasions.

More voices from all sides of the debate are what we need in a functioning democracy. Mine is only one voice and I don’t pretend it is any more important or more influential or any more valid than any other. But a diversity of views is a good thing, don’t you think?

(A final disclosure: The great man in the Mr Denmore photo is Michael Joseph Savage, the only Australian-born Prime Minister of New Zealand and the Kiwis’ own version of Curtin. Yes, yes, he was a lefty).