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

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

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

Freedom for Whom?


Freedom! Is there any word more abused than this in the debate about politics and media standards? From Rupert Murdoch, his editors and commentators and the ubiquitous IPA, the rhetoric of ‘freedom’ is now ritually used to forestall any examination of media power.

This American style hand-on-heart eulogising of freedom reached a crescendo recently with the failure of the Gillard government’s media reforms. Having gone as far as sending its own representative to make a submission at the Senate hearing into the legislation, the IPA predictably released a statement  welcoming the ditching of the reforms as a “victory for freedom of speech in Australia”. Continue reading

Free Media VS Free Market

Much of the opposition to the federal government’s tame media reforms stems from a now ritual assumption among journalists and others that “free markets” are synonymous with “free media”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Following the now infamous photoshopped front pages in the Murdoch tabloids, comparing Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to mass murdering dictators like Stalin, came this screeching meltdown by News Ltd columnist Piers Akerman on the ABC Insiders program.

The hysterical view of Akerman and others, mainly in the News Ltd stable, is that by insisting on a public interest test for media mergers and requiring self-regulating newspapers to live up to their own standards, Conroy is starting the process of “putting back the bricks back into the Berlin Wall”. Continue reading

FEIJOA Awards, 2012

Good journalists are troublemakers. They ask questions that others feel too uncomfortable to ask. They ignore the spin and seek inspiration from something other than the prefabricated fodder that forms the foundation of 90% of the PR masquerading as news that you see in the media most days.

With that in mind, it gives me great pleasure to announce the second annual F.E.I.J.O.A  awards (The Failed Estate International Journalism Awards), sponsored by ________ (insert non-compromising and appropriate commercial enterprise here). 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.”

Continue reading

Chest Beaters

Noticed how everyone is a passionate champion for “freedom” nowadays? In fact, among Australia’s pinstriped and share optioned media executives, there is more chest beating on this subject than in a Tarzan movie – but without the pecs.

Continue reading

News Values

The gnashing of teeth in print journalism about how to save the industry is understandable. But like a shipwrecked crew on a melting iceberg, the victims might spend less time wishing for a change in the weather and more time building a boat out of there.

Continue reading

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).