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

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July 2, 2009

There's plenty of comment today on John Hartigan's press club speech, where he came up with the unique idea that journalism is not blogging, and blogs are not good. And the other, somehow related in some people's minds, that Crikey and blogs should always be mentioned in the same sentence.

Journalist and blogger Tim Burrowes on the journalists versus blogger thing.

Crikey blogger Trevor Cook on the contribution newspapers have made to their own current circumstances.

ClarenceGirl figuring, almost Rudd-style, that all this consternation means bloggers must be doing something right.

Tobias Ziegler from Pure Poison on the hilarity of a News Ltd person criticising others for spouting nonsense.

Laurel Papworth pointing out these rants are actually attacks on their own readership, and therefore counter productive. In comments she makes a distinction between heritage and traditional media:

Heritage media = traditional media outlets opposed to community created media. Not traditional media that embraces it… and stays culturally relevant.
News Ltd's own Andrew Bolt and George Megalogenis are traditional media in the middle of a heritage outfit.

Just for fun, an example of what can go wrong when you attempt to fit in with this internet thingy, but continue to take your audience for idiots. Jamie Briggs at The Punch doing truthiness on Labor's handing of the economy. And they published that with their own figures to hand.

Mark Bahnisch connects dots between Hartigan's speech and Rudd and Gillard's unusually overt response to News Ltd.

During the Utegate/Ozcar/Grechmail nonsense Rudd made a few sideways remarks about News Ltd media, which he continued to do in relation to the Courier Mail's typically News Ltd coverage of events. Bahnisch points out that:

Crikey correctly observes that it’s a recognition that the “power of the press” to shape political outcomes has become a paper tiger, though that should have been obvious from the complete lack of any discernible electoral impact of campaigns such as that of The Australian in favour of Howard in 2007, and of the Courier-Mail against Anna Bligh in this year’s Queensland election. Nor would Rudd and Gillard’s comments have been spontaneous musings – when such coordinated and complimentary comments are made, you can be 100% certain that a particular political strategy has been decided upon.

A few things appear to be going on at the same time that don't bode well for the heritage model, never mind the business model part, of the News Ltd version of news media.

They've gone the lifestyle and opinion route at the expense of 'proper' journalism, to the point where reportage can't be disentangled from partisanship. That might have worked, if the internet hadn't come along and made the voicing of public opinion available to the actual public, as opposed to media's symbolic public in the op ed pages.

At the moment, they're supporting the wrong side, and have been since Kevin Rudd appeared on the public radar. Rudd studiously avoided attacking Howard during 2007, which turned out to be very smart. The public obviously approves of their 2007 decision, so it's a bit silly to think they're going to favour a news outlet that habitually rubbishes their choice. They have, after all, made news a lifestyle choice, then failed to appeal to the market they created.

So much for the public sphere ideal and the Fourth Estate.

We now have a news market, public, electorate, whatever you want to call it, with a majority opinion at odds with News Ltd overt political preference. It's reasonable, logical, and timely, for popular people like Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard to make the most of that. It may run contrary to everything we've assumed about Rupert Power and media influence, but if it turns out that the assumptions are wrong, as they appear to be, hard cheese. The public could very well choose to side with Kevin and Julia against media making the wrong political choices.

What, then, Hartigan and the empire?

| Posted by Lyn at 4:06 PM | | Comments (16)


I caught a chunk of the press gallery luncheon for Hartigan on ABC TV and found its purloined staginess, complete with an avalache of Dorthy Dixers from tame Murdoch "journalists" who just happened to be present, obnoxious.
But the scary part indeed did come with this whitewashing of the hairy substance of Hartigan's view, delivered with arrogance and clumsiness.
They have locked themselves out, and are not likely readmitted into the hearts of many readers any time soon because of their Turnbull-like dishonesty: we only turned to the internet in response to their lies and propaganda.
No apologies or humility for all the lies and abuse of reader intelligence the last few years in particular, no attempt to make amends, just a bulllish demand to accept their plans for our demise as they demand it; that was Hartigan's preposterous underlying subtext.
Well, this is driven by denial as well as arrogance and dishonesty, and I for one will continue to watch Media Watch and read the blogs for the correctives.

I see that John Hartigan relies on Andrew Keen's strident The Cult of the Amateur: How Today's Internet is Killing Our Culture for his criticism of Australian bloggers. There 'professional' is understood as gatekeeper, and the text assumes that everyone except big businesses blogs, posts, and chats on the internet out of sheer narcissism.

The assumption of this text --and Hartigan--is the duality of a transcendental reality in which truth, is purveyed by experts and trained journalists and the individual bigoted, prejudiced opinions of the great mass of bloggers and the radically relativised truths of Wikipedia where if two plus two equals five, then it is five.The latter threatens the former--the concentrated, cross-connected world of corporate media interests--that are trying to gain control of the networked economy.

Hatigan is cherry picking Keen, since Keen's The Cult of the Amateur argues that blogs and social networking sites like MySpace and YouTube are destroying America's culture. News Ltd owns MySpace. So Hatigan's attack on the partisan (ie., lefty) bloggers is part of the cultural wars.



Distrust of MSM is one part of the equation. Laurel Papworth rightly points out that a lot of people now get their news through friend networks and plenty of other online sources, like being exposed to headlines when you're Googling something unrelated. There are other ways of being exposed to limited news views than working it out for yourself while reading newspapers. It's a bigger battle than just trying to convert an existing audience.

Keen has taken to blogging as well, which just adds to the inconsistencies.

I don't see it so much as part of the culture wars as a kind of perception failure. Kind of like taking the Contiki tour and thinking you understand the locals because you have the t-shirt.

Trevor Cook at Corporate Engagement says:

But if the content on sites like Crikey and blogs is all so bad why is Hartigan so worried about it? His concern betrays the threat they, collectively, pose for his business. Conversely, he fails to understand just how important these sites, like the aggregators, are in driving traffic, and interest, in newspaper sites. After all this time, Hartigan still seems to resist the potency of the search / link power of the Internet. Strange.

Is it so strange? News Ltd spends a lot of time bashing public broadcasting--the ABC--another competitor. News LTD are solely about themselves.

well at least News Ltd are not in denial about the effects of the internet on newspapers, and how newspapers should adapt to a digital world. They do have some reasonable ideas, but that requires some big changes to how they currently do things--eg., turning a fake email into the real thing just so they could continue with bashing the Rudd Government. Hartigan did not mention that little episode.

Speaking of "News" limited nonsense the OZ published an atrocious bit of nonsense on Wednesday.

Namely an opinion piece on the Left destroying religion by Giles Auty.

It was atrocious. A collection of cliches which would be given an F triple minus in any philosophy and or religious studies class. 101 class.

They're having a bit of a bad week all round John. That Auty thing was senseless, but was typical of the total effort this week.

But rather than sit down and take a good look at themselves, Penberthy at the Punch has today decided to take on Crikey directly, as part of the effort to give readers what they want.

Way to improve quality guys.

News Ltd's agenda is attack attack--referring to Crikey Penberthy writes:

This funny little niche website run out of Melbourne has been obsessing about us since we launched, and it’s something we regard as proof positive of the navel-gazy bullshit which blights the media landscape, where journos both from the independent blogosphere and big media would much rather talk about each other than the readers.

Penberthy is doing the very thing he condemns others for!

John Hartigan, Australian News Limited boss repeated the big boss Rupert Murdoch when he argued that people will pay for "well researched, brilliantly written, perceptive and intelligent, professionally edited, accurate and reliable" information/news. That is News Ltd's response to the internet.It is what they will become.

The Punch cannot be described as well researched, brilliantly written, perceptive and intelligent, professionally edited, accurate and reliable" information/news by any stretch. It's been designed to squeeze the independent media, and to push Crikey to the sidelines and irrelevance. News Ltd reigns supreme is their strategy.

News Ltd have the big anger because they are not on the special drip feed from the Rudd Government as they were under the Howard regime. They are resentful and spiteful at being told by Rudd and Co to shove off. So the gloves are off in reporting on the Labor Government. Rudd and Gillard are quite right to fire arrows at News Ltd's deception over the fake email and they way it was used in an attempt to undermine the Rudd Government.

The Oz editorial today was also a crack at Crikey. I wonder which of them cut and paste from the other? Where's the original reporting?

Anyone who spends five minutes reading comments at commercial news sites knows that their regulars mistakenly believe that commenting is called blogging. Commenters refer to one anothers' comments as blogs all the time, and to themselves as bloggers. So I wonder what these News Ltd commenters think when they see articles in their favourite news sites criticising bloggers and blogs.

I glanced at the Australian's editorial. They see themselves as a great newspaper in contrast to Crikey, which, they say, is akin to what newspapers were in the 18th century, a small-circulation propaganda sheet, read by people less interested in news and debate than having their prejudices confirmed.

They define great newspapers as follows:

great newspapers, and their websites, are professional products staffed by men and women who combine deep knowledge of specific subjects with a talent for finding and reporting facts. Their work, rather than ink on paper, is the lifeblood of their publications. Their writing is the reason The Australian's circulation is increasing and why News Limited mastheads are making money, despite declines in advertising income.

So much for the image. The reality is that The Australian is the Fox News of Australia.

So Greg Sheridan is an example of how to "combine deep knowledge of specific subjects with a talent for finding and reporting facts." They are deluded.

Sheridan is a partisan "journo" who uses international events to bash the left to keep the anti-left comments from the conservative readership flowing.

Gary, as you say, they are not in denial as to lucre. But Nan's comment sums up their unimaginative straight-jacketed, control- pathological thinking.
As Lyn says, there is a problem, typified by the example Gary offers, of trust and it is a long-term, long suffering thing.
There IS denial and it comes down to what the concept of "news "is.
They want their cake and eat it.
They want to lazily peddle the same old intelligence-insulting rubbish, but still want the quid for "journalistic" effort.
The product is just not good enough and the product, "the news", is falsely represented when its not "the news" at all- Britney Spears sex life, for example, is of utterly NO interest, relevance or consequence to my life!
What they have to finally understand is, people read newspapers for the news, so as to plan their own lives around changing real-world events and circumstances.
But they are into witholding and sabotaging the news, because( control of )knowledge is power, by their outdated equation.
Outdated because, if they would only open their minds, they would realise there is a market for real news- all they have to do is provide an actual and factual account of the world's going ons, and people will buy any way.
But of course we will resist efforts to circumscribe us thru mind control, and even they ought to be able to recognise that not all people are as stupid as they think we are.

The idea that journalists are experts in anything fell over quite some time ago. As for News Ltd mastheads making money, there's a claim I'd like to see verified.

Nan's example of Sheridan is typical of their problems, where partisanship takes priority over any other consideration. And as Paul points out, you'd have to be brain dead to miss their permanent political campaign.

Personally, I'd like to see our newspapers survive and at least try to live up to the ideal, even though total objectivity isn't possible for people covering politics. I'd hate to see them fall over altogether.

News Ltd seems to share the coalition's problems, which makes sense since they're conjoined twins. They've hung on to fossil personalities, unpopular and failed ideas, unpopular attack strategies and the strange notion that eventually the rest of the world will realise what a great idea it is to return to the Howard years.

comments are temporarily turned off because of a nasty spam attack.

Mark Day defends the News Ltd line at The Australian. Referring to the proposal to devise ways to attract more revenue, and the decisions that need to be made about which content should be put behind pay walls and which should be free, he says:

This will be a critical test. The blogosphere is already alive with cries of outrage at the mere thought of paid sites with the strongest message being “I refuse to pay”.I am sure many of the people saying this mean it, but the blog loudmouths are not the entire market. Far from it, in fact. Those who regularly scan blogs on media industry commentary sites will quickly see that relatively few people repeatedly push their own barrows on a large number of outlets. They make a lot of noise but contribute very little other than their obsessions.

So it is a News Ltd strategy to destroy the credibility of independent bloggers.