West Side Tories

West-Side-Story-jets-vs-sharks

“When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet all the way. From your first cigarette, to your last dyin’ day.”

The mainstream media is deep into its ‘Me’ phase. Despite the world going through enormous change and upheaval, a large chunk of our media is talking more about itself and its competition than it is about anything that might remotely impact on its audience. Continue reading

Left Right Out

When people talk about media bias, they inevitably are referring to the house leanings of particular publishers. What’s often overlooked, though, is the bias generated by the necessity of journalists choosing certain frames and narratives to shape what’s known as “news”.

The March-in-March protests around Australia provide an object lesson in how journalists can be captured by those tired frames and by the tired institutions they report on.  While there were some straight accounts of the marches, the general media response was a mixture of sniffy condescension, lazy cynicism or a blank refusal to even recognise this as a story. Continue reading

Media House of Cards

Proponents for the dismantling of media ownership laws rightly make the point that in age where everyone can publish across multiple platforms it is anachronistic to maintain regulations designed for a different age. But if we are going to deregulate, why not go the whole hog?

Discussion about Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s proposals to dismantle specific laws for specific media platforms overlook another consequence of new technology: While consumers are plugging into a global media market, current laws still are mainly designed to protect local media. And those tired and clueless oligopolies will only get more powerful with the inevitable consolidation that Turnbull’s changes will spark. Continue reading

FEIJOA Awards 2013

What happens to media critics when the media disappears? Your blog host has lost count of the conversations he’s had this year with journalists seeking a way out of the smoking ruins of the old industrial word factories of the mainstream media.

Yes, Rupert’s cartoon sheets keep pushing on, but no-one of any integrity sees them as anything other than propaganda tools for the evil empire that is News Corporation. The shameless partisanship of their “news” coverage in the federal election certainly disqualifies much of their output as anything close to journalism.

But outside the fantasy factory, there was journalism to celebrate in 2013. And so with great fanfare (insert piccolo blast), these are the 3rd annual Failed Estate International Journalism Awards – the ‘FEIJOAs’. In the absence of the delicious and fragrant fruit, this sour old bugger grants you a smile. Continue reading

Doing a Number

Journalists, as a rule, don’t do numbers. They’re words people – topped the class in creative writing; struggled in maths. And in most areas of reporting, that’s not a huge disadvantage. But when it comes to economics, it can leave them open to being conned.

Take the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook. That News Corp would run this set-piece through its lazy and deliberately misleading partisan filter (‘Labor’s Debt Bomb!’) was not surprising. But when the ABC recycles the official spin you have to wonder at journalists’ competence: Continue reading

Freedom: A Moving Feast

‘Freedom’ is getting a real workout in the Australian media nowadays. It’s a peculiarly American view  of freedom, though – the Platonic, chiseled-into-granite view of the word. Hands instinctively go on hearts at its very mention.

Take the taste test and it is revealed as the Rupert/IPA flavour of freedom. In other words, it’s supposed stark and uncompromising nobility is in stark contrast to its ideological contingency.  How else do you explain the shifting views of Murdoch’s loyal footservants? Continue reading

Yada Yada Yada

 

Depressed by Australian politics? Take a trip to the US and witness the media conversation there. This is the original recipe for our post-modern show about nothing, featuring professional partisans rattling off practised punchlines like Jerry versus Newman.

On a sleepy Sunday at Dallas-Fort Worth, an airport the size of a small Australian city, chino-wearing business travellers hunch over laptops at fast-food joints lit by hundreds of screens showing the talking heads sparring over Obamacare or the debt ceiling or fracking or whatever else might raise a temperature. Continue reading

Under the Dome

News Corp didn’t win the 2013 election for the Coalition. The Labor Party’s dysfunctional internal politics had more to do with that. But that doesn’t mean the calculated propaganda which Murdoch’s papers call news is not an issue for anyone concerned about the health of this democracy.

The influence of the Murdoch papers on the public debate is more long-term and diffuse than can be read from a single election outcome, a point that veteran Media Watch host and now Age journalist Jonathan Holmes made in an appearance on ABC Radio National’s post-election wash-up. Continue reading

Did You Vote For This Man?

There are two upcoming power battles in Australia. One pits Kevin Rudd against Tony Abbott. The second positions Rupert Murdoch and his newspapers against our democracy. The outcome of the first battle may depend on the second, yet we only get to vote in one of them.

That Murdoch wants a change of government in Australia is evident. He has said so himself, tweeting that the Australian public are “totally disgusted with the Labor Party wrecking the country with its sordid intrigues. Now for a quick election”. Continue reading

The Australian Asylum

The Rudd government’s new PNG solution to the asylum seekers problem is aimed at shutting down a filthy trade run by cynical and low-rent opportunists who exploit the hopes and fears of the most marginalised for commercial gain. Yes, we’re talking about tabloid editors.

There are two dimensions to the refugees issue. One is managing the problem itself – a relatively marginal one for a rich economy that leads the developed world on most economic metrics. The second dimension – and the trickier one – is the theatrics around the issue, a charade kept alive by attention-seeking sections of the news media and the frightened politicians they goad into one piece of policy knee-jerkery after another. Continue reading