Lego Journalism

Lego

It’s not widely understood by the reading and viewing public, but a big chunk of what are purported to be ‘news events’ really are stage-managed set-pieces, minutely choreographed by the public relations industry.

The supinely lame local coverage of the recent triumphant “free trade” deal announcement between the Australian and Japanese governments provides a perfect case study in how “news” is engineered, with national leaders positioned as virtual lego figurines in a carefully constructed tableaux. 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

Analysts Say

‘Analysts say’: It’s the no-more-gaps of journalese. The dignifying of rent-a-quotes with the title of ‘analyst’ is all-purpose cover-up for the passing off of idle conjecture and sheer guesswork as the carefully though out prognostications of the prescient.

Financial media is full of it. Up against deadline and desperate to find facts to fit the premise snatched from the ether by an editor in search of an easy splash, journalists will find “analysts” who will say anything to fit the purposes of the story. 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

Media Stockholm Syndrome

‘Twenty Ways to Bulk Up Your Cash’. That was the breathless headline in The Australian Financial Review on September, 27, 2005

“It’s shop till you drop for ordinary people with money to park,” the article gushed. “And the range of investment options is so vast, it’s very nearly an embarrassment of riches.” Continue reading

The ‘Certainty’ Myth

A sub-narrative amid the media thumbsucking about the future of the Australian Labor Party after the leadership spill has been the ritual calls from business leaders for the removal of “uncertainty” – the idea being that the economy has ground to a standstill as the egos exchange handbags in Canberra. Continue reading

A Fistful of Donuts

Which party is best at cutting the red tape that stifles Aussie entrepreneurship, promotes small business initiative, checks lazy government waste and puts downward pressure on interest rates for working people? Me sir! Me sir! Just bend me over the desk for a moment and flash me your fiscal rectitude.

Isn’t the state of economic journalism clear by now? After the earnest and profound economic policy debates of the 1980s, we seem have devolved into  a pale imitation of that in our modern political discourse – one in which one side and then the other stage a predictable pantomime that bears little resemblance to our lived reality. Continue reading

A Show About Nothing

Where else but Australia would the media work itself  into a frenzy over a ‘MYEFO’? Perhaps if you told the Brits it stood for My Youthful Exotic French Odyssey, they might bite. But Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Outlook? Hold the front page.

In Australia, journos scribble millions of words every year about data that has little or no bearing on the lives of most of us – like monthly forecasts of volatile unemployment data (a throw of the dice by the statistical gods) or, worst of all, whether the federal budget ends the financial year in a small surplus or a tiny deficit. Continue reading