Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

what news? « Previous | |Next »
November 15, 2008

Have we reached the point yet when the news itself is less significant than the identity of the organisation or journalist telling us about it? One of those confused signifier/signified postmodern excesses where the sign is an entity unto itself, self-signifying? Signifying nothing, as the saying goes?

It's possible to know that the West Australian is easily the worst newspaper in the country without ever having read it, and that it's as unashamedly partisan as Fox News. You can be familiar with the reputation of its apparently worst celebrity polemicist Paul Murray without having read a word he's written. Having migrated online the paper is also accumulating brand power through a questionable comments policy. Rolan Stein calls the result toxic crap, which is being polite about it.

Mark Bahnisch describes the Daily Telegraph's subtle promptings for the NSW Labor Government to sacrifice itself for the greater good:

The Sydney Daily Telegraph, a newspaper which likes to see itself as some sort of courageous voice of the people, has been losing readers hand over fist, and more recently, an editor. The paper is also running a campaign for the NSW government to sack itself. It’s impossible to read any article in the online version on state politics without intrusive links in the middle of the story directing readers to its petition, and a plethora of other anti-Rees widgets, rants and commentary.

Is it a newspaper or some kind of uber citizen? The will of the paper is the big story of the day. Could they be more self-referential? Would it have been more appropriate for the editor to publish a letter to himself?

This is the game the Australian has been playing with the "Rudd's Bush G20 comment" story.

In a kind of tail-whip with front-flip logic, celebrity columnist Dennis "We understand the G20 story because we own it" Shanahan cleverly blames the whole thing on Media Watch. Apparently, if Jonathan Holmes wasn't on Christmas break everything would have been sorted by now, and everyone would understand that the alleged G20 slip was more important than whether Chris Mitchell was the source. Kind of like how a two point movement in the polls last year was more significant than whether it was Dennis saying so in the Australian. He didn't convince anybody then and it's unlikely he's convincing anyone now. Why might that be?

Christopher Pearson is another celebrity columnist cum living brand who wishes to share his opinion of fellow brand name Fran Kelly, and his doubts about her ability to fully capture the magnificence of brand Howard in the much anticipated ABC series The Howard Years.

My initial reaction is that the choice of Kelly to do the lion's share of the interviewing and the narration doesn't augur well.

He would say that, wouldn't he? Brand Pearson has a thing about brand ABC that's as familiar as Vegemite, McDonald's and Nikes. It's like Julie Andrews pointing out that she likes singing in the hills. Can we reasonably expect that in the not too far distant future KevinPM will be echoing Obama's Fox comments, "Even the Australian agrees with me on [whatever]"

In his Boyer Lecture on the future of news media, Rupert Murdoch tells us:

readers want what they've always wanted: a source they can trust. That has always been the role of great newspapers in the past. And that role will make newspapers great in the future.

No arguments there. Readers do appear to want a source they can trust. It would be nice though, if we were being asked to trust what we're being told, rather than this reassuring but pointless trust we now have that yesterday's talking head will still be there tomorrow saying exactly what they said last week. Right there you have your problem with associating a generalised version of trust with great newspapers.

In short, we are moving from news papers to news brands.

Less of the news, more of the brands, apparently.

The [Wall St] Journal has the advantage of having a very loyal readership -- a brand known for quality -- and editors who take the readers and their interests seriously. This helps explain why the Journal continues to defy industry trends.

So why can't we have one of those? Why are we stuck with brands as reputable and trustworthy as funnel webs, journalists more interested in themselves and one another than anything else, editors who can't tell the difference between themselves God, and newspapers that really should be on a register of lobbyists, since it's not possible for a media organisation to be a member of a political party?

| Posted by Lyn at 1:57 PM | | Comments (14)


The points you raise are interesting. I hope someone asks Fairfax for a comment so I can evaluate their merit.

Certainly sir. I'll just get one of our iconic staff members to whip up an opinion for you.

Would you like public debate with that, or are you happy with your partisan hysteria?

We also have an excellent range of whines.

There's no call to be flippant. All I ask for is balance ... so I can locate the opinions I agree with and feel that I have considered all sides of the debate.

Of course Sir. Fries it is. Wise choice Sir.

Exactly the follow up to Bahnisch we hope for OUTSIDE OF, the mainstream media and press.
I'd add two things.
Fisrtly, it's not the news outlets only that are "branded"/commodified. The audience itself is a tradable commodity, which is why the tabloid MSM is fighting so desperately to rebrand itself for credibility with the readership/audience it needs to to sell on to politicians and big business. It wasn't (shock/horror!)beleived last federal election, no matter what it said.
So, in order to keep the faith of the big politics and money that operates and relies on Murdoch etc, the MSM knows it must be able to sell even the most preposterous notions; that recent failures were merely abherrations...
Second point would be the utterly gutless performance of fed Labor on cultural/social issues.
You'd have thought after twelve painful years in opposition, with the propensity of broadsheet media to tell the truth its only escape out of jail, that the ALP would have moved quickly to salvage SBS, the ABC and been willing to return our country to industrial democracy so that the sackings of Steven Crittenden and Mike Carlton could not have happened.
Instead of fearlessly challenging steroetypes and false paradigms, Gillard and co have exclusively nauseatingly set about reinforcing them in ways that would have even shamed the Tories or Alan Jones.

Off topic but I am tipping Prince Charles "The Man most likely to be Poisoned in 2009"

I read Pearson to see what his problem was with Fran Kelly doing the interviews on the Liberals in power. He says:

As readers who listen to the breakfast show will know, she subscribes with an unabashed - even, some would say, girlish - enthusiasm to Radio National's in-house pieties. Whether it's the impending threat of global warming, progressive views on feminism and the rights of gays and lesbians, or the transformative effect of Barack Obama's election, she is parti pris and a nuance-free zone. Her radio interviews with Coalition politicians are well prepared and courteous enough, except when she lapses into prosecutorial mode. But too often she sounds at a loss as to how the other half thinks.

Isn't it the task of the conservatives to inform us how they think on a particular issue and why they do so in the face of criticisms? They have been provided the platform to talk about themselves and why they did what they did. What more can they ask? The soft questioning of a Fox News?

I found that line - she sounds at a loss as to how the other half thinks - indicative of how the commentariat understand just about everything, which is that it's all about them.

It's not about Howard or the Howard years or the nation or the audience, but about a war between media figures, the celebrities of partisanship.

So what they think is less important than who gets to speak.

As usual, the ABC is leaking the juiciest bits of the program as a promotional exercise, but Pearson is less interested in the content than in the ABC and Kelly.

The same thing happened with the spat between Manne and Henderson (was it Henderson?) The issue of massive human slaughter was less important than who got to publish where. They all seem to have become detached from anything other than themselves.

Fearless prediction: a snippet from the Howard program will feature prominently in tomorrow night's ABC 'News'. They've become quite shameless in using the news to promote their current affairs offerings.

I underestimated Our ABC. I predicted they'd dress up an ad for the 'Howard Years' thing as a news item tomorrow night but they couldn't wait. It occupied 7.04 to 7.06 of tonight's bulletin.

the ABC sure are pushing the series heavily wIth lots of teasing snippets/trailers. I find the snippets of conversation annoying, but I will watch for the insights, conflicts and deceptions, plus the illusions and defences.

My opinion of ABC news is sliding. The G20 thing happened, but their top story was about a vaccine which may or may not be available in a decade, but it was newsworthy because it featured an Australian celebrity scientist.

Sure, it was a slow news day, but did they have to go all Channel 10 on us?

I have the impression that the economic knowledge of Australian journalists is not very high. They haven't really helped us to understand the financial and economic crisis. I get the impression that the journalists fear stepping outside the government's press release ---that is stepping out into the unknown.

I have the impression that journalists and government have similar problems communicating the crisis to the public. The language of economics is not about communication, and nobody wants to be responsible for deepening the crisis. Add to that the probability that none of them really understand what's going on.