March of the News Bots

In financial markets, there is a debate about the influence of program-driven trading systems in which complex algorithms working at lightning speed seek to take advantage of microscopic movements in prices. News is like that too.

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Cast your mind back 17 years. A Reuters journalist prepared a report on the jobs data. loaded his script on the autocue, turned on his TV lights, positioned the ISDN camera, loaded his DIY graphics and went live to air on a digital feed to Tokyo. Afterwards, he wrote 800 words for the wire, recorded and cut a radio interview and turned around a 2-minute package for conventional TV.

Yes, that ‘multimedia’ journalist was me, which is why I’m surprised to read that “everything has changed” in the last 10 years and an entire new skillset is now required of journalists. Writing quick updates for the web is a huge imposition, it seems, and a radical departure from what came before.

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Pundit Fatigue

A consequence of the ’24/7′ news cycle is that everyone breaks their necks trying to be the first with news that’s going to break anyway. Witness the overkill coverage of the Rudd-Gillard spill. Perfect for live TV – a set piece in a confined space at a specific time and pitting warring protagonists in a showdown. Like a footy final really.

In the case of the spill, the result was never in doubt. It was only the margin. And once that was known, the big interest was in the demeanour of the key players afterwards. Still, that didn’t stop some of the networks from cranking up coverage from before dawn, which gave the on-screen pundits plenty of time to comment on the frocks and the build-up to the Oscar ceremony leadership spill. Continue reading

Mounting Precious

Just in: Pressure is increasing on Julia Gillard to call a leadership spill amid unrelenting pressure from backbenchers pressuring for a release of the pressure valve holding back potentially explosive leadership pressures.

Sources close to the ABC say talk is growing about an imminent shift of three non-aligned backbenchers to the camp considering a vote for Kevin Rudd in order to silence ongoing media speculation about the release of the imminent pressures. Continue reading

You Can’t Handle the Truth!

If the world of politics is now so dominated by spin and media management that ‘reality’ is whatever you choose it to be, what’s the proper role of journalism?

It’s to find the truth and report it, right? Journalists are employed to serve their readers and viewers by cutting through hype, digging out red herrings, challenging misleading statements and exposing what’s really going on. You would think so, wouldn’t you? Continue reading

Fast and Fatuous

The first the Australian public heard of the now infamous Say Yes television advertisement on climate change action was when The Sunday Telegraph told its readers that “Carbon Cate” Blanchett had “sparked outrage in the community” by fronting a campaign that no-one had actually seen at that point. Continue reading

The Forgotten ‘Poeple’

The Americans call them copy editors; the English and Antipodeans call them sub-editors. Whatever you call them, they are traditionally the most under-valued and under-appreciated people in journalism. And with Fairfax’s latest bout of self-mutilation, they take one step closer to extinction. Continue reading

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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Noise Vs Signal

First it was the nightly weather, then the finance report and now it’s politics. There is a creeping conspiracy in television news of people standing in front of charts, taking the daily temperature – of meteorology, of markets and of members of parliament – and trying to persuade us that it all means something. Continue reading

Easy Meat

The concept of “churnalism” – the idea that newspapers and broadcast media are increasingly dominated by PR-originated content – has gained a high profile in the UK in recent years. Given the same practices are evident in the Australian media, why aren’t we seeing a similar debate here? Continue reading