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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

blogging and pro journalists « Previous | |Next »
May 13, 2007

I tried to join the National Press Club in Canberra as a citizen blogger a while ago. They laughed.

Their view was that as a blogger I cannot be a serious media person since all I do is sit at home and mouth off at whatever takes my fancy. I said my reason for applying for membership as a blogger, rather than a country member, was that I was deeply dissatisfied with the the prevailing political and media power centers. Being an entrepreneurial sort of chap I had created my own online publishing instruments for expressing and activating that dissatisfaction.

The tone in the room turned cold. Hostility was the reaction that accompanied the tight smile. I pressed on: there is not enough real adversarial and investigative reporting by the Canberra Press Gallery I offered as a conciliatory gesture. An overweight middle aged journalist heard the exchange and opined that I must be one of those left-wing blogger types who act as parasites on the reporting by the professionals in the gallery who work for first-rate media organizations.

I decided to cut my loses and join the Press Club as a country member.

However, I could not resist keeping the conversation going. Doesn't the Canberra Press Gallery engage in punditry as well as reporting I asked? How is that not mouthing off at work?

The reply was swift. The Canberra Press Gallery are in touch with the common sense of most Americans and understand how they live and how they think about their government. Moreover the careers of the Canberra Press Gallery require access and information, which in turn requires networking with politicians and their staffers, and the media corporations for which they work. That's why we are professionals in contrast to you amateurs. The national Press Gallery is for professionals.

My response was that the Canberra Press Gallery was a source of the problem. The Canberra media are not outsiders looking in on the Canberra power system, for they are eager participants within it, and so cannot they perform the adversarial and watchdog functions that our political press says it performs and upholds. Moreover, the Canberra media are not representative of the Australian heartland or mainstream since they largely attribute their own views to what ordinary Australians believe. So we need to ask what, if anything, does it mean to be a professional journalist?

As you can see the conversation was going nowhere. A divide was looming. Time to move on.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:04 PM | | Comments (14)
Comments

Comments

Go for it!

Take it to 'em Gary. Good work!

So, supposedly-advanced forms of humanity in one arrogant, deceitful and lazy act of denial, reduce four hundred million years of evolution back to the mental level of of a grub.
To simplify, a grub would at least have the excuse of its early stage of evolution to explain away its mental torpor, if it could.
But what excuse the likes of Sheehan, MacGuinness and Akerman could offer beyond perversity by the most charitable of readings, and more likely something much darker, is beyond me!

Mark,
the little encounter probably suggests a divide in how many view the Canberra Press Gallery.

The majority view, and that of the media themselves, is that the political and media culture in Canberra works quite well. The journalists are good, capable and decent people, whilst the system is basically a good one. Sure it needs some reform here and there, but things are okay.

The other view --mostly found amongst bloggers is that the political and media culture is fundamentally flawed given the drip feed, rewriting of media releases, and the low quality work produced by journalists who know little about the policy issues.

Unfortunately there is little interaction with bloggers---what they are writing--- and little rational response to the critiques of the media. So, sadly, we don't really have much of a public conversation about the political and media culture, despite the deep dissatisfaction with the media.

Meika,
The lack of critical reflection by the Canberra Press Gallery on their integration into the political and media culture continues to suprise me.

I guess that many are so dependent upon the drip feed that they are unable to do anything other than view the way the Canberra Press Gallery has been integrated in our political culture as good. Consequently, they automatically defend it.

Paul,
the names you mention are media stars and they--along with others including Glenn Milne and Steve Lewis--are treated as such.

They can be seen as the defenders or guardian of Canberra Press Gallery power, and they do so by protecting their citadel from infiltration by the dirty and lowly bloggers.

The conflict currently takes place around Crikey and whether it is a legitimate form of journalism and whether it is seen as part of the Canberra Press Gallery.

Thats funny! Did you threaten to put them under Bloggers Arrest!

I would think that in the case of opinion pieces, many bloggers are far more attuned to the feelings of the general public, seeing as most of them work for a living, are not on 70k+ p.a. salaries and do not spend most of their day ensconced in a world far removed from the reality of most Australians.

Milne!
surely this point of embarkation from journalism to that riotous, old time, music-hall slapstick vaudeville.
Haven't seen any thing like the Poison Dwarf since the Buster Fiddess/Dawn Lake or Graham Kennedy/Rosie Sturgess days of the 'sixties.
Unlesss it's pompous Laurie Oakes doing his bloated "authoratative/last word" thing on nine, or Grattan's impersonation of Dickens' Miss Havisham from "Great Expectations"

Paul,
I would argue that Grattan is in a differnt league to Milne. She is independent in an old fashioned sense and respected for it. Her articles are based on research (many phone calls) not a drip feed, and she thinks about her material as opposed to rewriting a meda release.

Here is Milne banging on about Rudd:

Savaged by the business community over his IR reversal, his economic credentials are under serious threat. (And if you doubt that, ask yourself why he needed to make his "fiscal conservative" television ads: echoes of Mark Latham signing pledges to keep interest rates low.)The assault on his economic credentials has been reinforced by an increasingly panicked bout of shuttle diplomacy between the east coast and Perth as he attempts to convince a hostile mining industry, the present engine room of the economy, that scrapping Australian Workplace Agreements is a good idea. It was these acts of political self-harm that provided the opening for Peter Costello to almost swamp Rudd with a masterclass budget. In short, the Labor leader's present, and potentially fatal, period of vulnerability can be traced irrevocably back to the ALP conference.

Milne's argument is that the central contradiction of the Labor conference was that in a presentational sense at least, it was a textbook success. But where it really counted, in the development of crucial policy needed to put Rudd into the Lodge, it was an abject failure.

The phrase -----'an increasingly panicked bout of shuttle diplomacy between the east coast and Perth'-- reads almost like an interpretation that would be made by a top liberal party strategist.Grattan is more independent than being this kind of a political mouthpiece for Costello.


dj,
re comments about many bloggers being far more attuned to the feelings of the general public.

Maybe. The general public is split into two halves --Coalition and ALP---and many bloggers write from each side of the partisan divide.Many of the political bloggers are also more highly educated and knowledgeable than your average journo.

Les,
Crikey are rather narcissistic don't you think? Overly concerned with their own place in the media landscape.

Crikey used to be OK but I suppose a lot of these types of things start off well but after time they start to become mainstream and end up working on Maggie's Farm like Bob Dylan.
Perhaps we could engage the Chasers to bust down the doors of the CPG dressed in super suits with SB on the front.
But Seriously I think the thing that separates us and them is that generally we the bloggers write about what we feel and our opinions about things and generally they(the dark ones) write things from others aspects not always their opinions. Yes a lot of journos have ideals and opinions but I think those that do well can quickly adapt and write from others opinions and sometimes they do it so well that people think that it is their opinion when really they just put it on the editors desk and go onto the next thing.

Les,
There are a lot of contributions by people other than the Crikey crew --which is one of the strengths of Crikey ---its openness.

Re your comment:

Yes a lot of journos have ideals and opinions but I think those that do well can quickly adapt and write from others opinions and sometimes they do it so well that people think that it is their opinion when really they just put it on the editors desk and go onto the next thing.

They become the "professional journalist" writing what is required by the job in the media organization. What is required by the job is to work in terms of the drop feed and the spin. The media culture is an integral part of the political culture. Establishment journalists want their sources----senior Liberal or ALP figures--- to be off the record.

Bloggers talk back. That's what is wrong them from the perspective of the establishment journalists.