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

media: Copenhagen + critical engagement « Previous | |Next »
December 7, 2009

The Guardian has teamed up with more 50 papers worldwide to run the same front-page leader article calling for action at the climate summit in Copenhagen, which begins tomorrow. Guess what? The Guardian reports that:

Two Australian papers, the Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, pulled out at a late stage after the election of climate change sceptic Tony Abbott as leader of the opposition Liberal party recast the country's debate on green issues.

So much for political courage. True to form the Australian raves on about Copenhagen's shift to a low-carbon society meaning that Australia must radically reduce its own domestic energy use; an attack on the right to our existing standard of living, and Australians cutting their energy use to Depression levels.

The Fairfax press's lack of courage is in marked contrast to that of Malcolm Turnbull---his willingness to stand up and fight on cutting greenhouse emissions and emissions trading.

Australia's mainstream broadsheet newspapers are in flight from the following statement:

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea...At the deal's heart must be a settlement between the rich world and the developing world covering how the burden of fighting climate change will be divided...The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

What is there to be fearful of, or threatened by, that statement of mainstream views at Copenhagen? In turning away the Fairfax press have dumped their watchdog for democracy role as the fourth estate and embraced infotainment.

At a time when Australia, which has some of the cheapest power in the world, is also the largest per capita carbon pollution emitter in the world, the Fairfax press refuses to engage with this issue. They've ducked for cover on Australia needing to finally do something about our reliance on coal for electricity, especially brown coal.

Fairfax are interpreting Abbott as blocking any substantive moves to achieve sharp reductions in emissions, and in doing so they ignore the following insight from the common editorial, which says that:

the shift to a low-carbon society holds out the prospect of more opportunity than sacrifice. Already some countries have recognized that embracing the transformation can bring growth, jobs and better quality lives. The flow of capital tells its own story: last year for the first time more was invested in renewable forms of energy than producing electricity from fossil fuels.

In refusing to enghage Fairfax, like The Australian, are turning their backs on this future in favour of Australia keeping on producing electricity from fossil fuels.

Into the vacuum of the online democratic public sphere strides the ABC presenting us with the The Drum --more informed diversity in critical online commentary that engages with the ideas, issues and concerns of the day. The Australian, as to be expected, is critical of this platform for what Jonathan Green is calling thought-provoking analysis:

This is not news, this is not opinion, this is thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis. We'll be taking the issues and ideas that count and digging a little deeper into and around them. Looking for a real sense of understanding.

This considered analysis by ABC journalists and experts is contrasted with the opinions of the voices on the ABC's Unleashed, which is now part of The Drum stable. Where does commentary sit? What is the difference between analysis, commentary and opinion?

Green is unclear what the purpose of the thoughtful analysis (quality journalism?) in this online space is, or how it relates to the other online voices in the public sphere? Mark Scott's "townhall concept" is not mentioned, the word democracy is notable for its absence and the emergence of user generated content on the blogs is ignored. What we are given is a defence of good journalism with nothing about the importance of good professional journalism; or the justification of this new role of the ABC is the new digital mediascape.

Is it telling the truth when the powerful commercial media are interested in profit, cutting costs, advertisements and their content, driven by commercial pressure is largely a recycling material from the wire agency and the publicity industry. Consequently, the commercial media present deception, distortion and falsehood rather than the truth.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:19 AM | | Comments (22)


Boland's criticisms are telling. The general drift is that the ABC goes all lefty and opinionated when the ALP is in power. Apparently ABC journos took to Twitter as a result of the last election.

Rubbish. Titter has only come into its own in political reporting in the past year.

There was no similar criticism of the Punch people on Twitter.

What was the point of the commentary on Insiders? Was it supposed to be arguing that the panel is stacked?

Another intelligent individual, David Roffey at Web Diary, is also mightily exercised, as to above.
Fairfax has the same aesthetic and practical value as used toilet paper, in the wake of the diruptive John Fairfax/ "Charley" McCarthy takeover.

In contrast to the Australian media Paul Krugman puts it well in his An Affordable Truth in the New York Times:

The truth is that conservatives who predict economic doom if we try to fight climate change are betraying their own principles. They claim to believe that capitalism is infinitely adaptable, that the magic of the marketplace can deal with any problem. But for some reason they insist that cap and trade — a system specifically designed to bring the power of market incentives to bear on environmental problems — can’t work.

Poor conservatives. They're all so terribly confused.They are tieing themselves up in knots.

"...the magic of the marketplace can deal with any problem..."

The marketplace??? Where is that exactly? And what is it made of?

When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

Of course Wall Street has all the answers! The problem is that so many people are asking the wrong questions.

I looked at The Drum yesterday. Is this the ABC's attempt to build an effective digital brand/platform? They are looking hard at innovation away from the core. Is their goal to establish the brand that defines news and opinion on digital platforms?

re your questions about the ABC's Drum "Where does commentary sit? What is the difference between analysis, commentary and opinion?"

Jonathan Holmes has a commentary piece on this. He says that the ABC's bible, the Editorial Policies, is very clear on this point. Clause 5.1.6 states firmly:

Context, analysis and comment included in news and current affairs content should be backed by demonstrable evidence, and based on the professional expertise and judgement of staff and not on personal opinion. The public expression of personal opinions of staff has no place in news and current affairs content.

Analysis good, opinion bad. Sounds cut and dried, doesn't it? But of course it's not. As the ABC's Director of Editorial Policies, Paul Chadwick, stated recently in a confidential guidance note to senior staff:
The ABC Editorial Policies assume that analysis can be distinguished from opinion. To audiences, the differences will not always be readily apparent. Even experts and practitioners tend to acknowledge that the distinction can be blurry.

Chadwick says that analysis as distinct from opinion:

is based on information that can be verified;
is not purely speculative or based only on faith or belief;
is not partisan or ideological.

So analysis is reasoned argument whilst opinion is assertion.

I don't know the work of Michaela Boland. His article on a new opinionated ABC seemed to not say that much.

He says that the move away straight reporting at the ABC has happened gradually; that it is entering dangerous territory with its enthusiastic embrace of social media and by encouraging its staff to be publicly opinionated; and that it is not the ABC's role to be "competitive" with those established media organisations and new media companies that are sources of excellent online news and analysis.

Which media organizations and media companies are these? What are they offering? Does he mean the Punch? Or the National Times? Crikey?

Michaela Boland appears to be a theatre critic.

Quite appropriate for a theatre critic to get stuck into a media organisation for publishing opinion.

Editor-in-chief Paul Ramadge said yesterday of the common editorial:

We applaud The Guardian's global initiative. At The Age we decided it was important to put our own views - to be consistent and partly because of the nuances of the debate in Australia.''

"the nuances of the debate in Australia"? What nuances? It's black and white.

re your comment: "Quite appropriate for a theatre critic to get stuck into a media organisation for publishing opinion."

Strange that Boland, as a theatre critic and co author of Aussiewood: Australia's leading actors and directors tell how they conquered Hollywood, didn't tackle the issue of the ABC marketing the media personalities or brand. Crabbe, Green etc own their online social networking persona and the ABC is providing the digital platform for these media personalities to build their brand.

Well, as some pointed out recently, the Queensland ABC was not willing to include news on the QLD Privatisation issue, despite all the sleight of hand that seems involved with that.
In particular, major league economics academics wrote a combined letter questioning any sense in the move based on need.
It was apparently pronounced "not newsworthy" by an exective replying to a Greens candidate who wanted it examined or discussed as a real world issue, on current affairs there.

The branding of high profile social media people ended up being a central theme of my thesis. It's not a clear cut thing, but I'd argue they're becoming major landmarks in the media landscape on and offline, old media and new.

In such a competitive industry, it's reasonable to expect a bit of resentment from others sticking to the Pulitzer merit system.

Lyn, given that last post of yours, would be fascinated to read your take on the recent antics involving Tiger Woods, Britney Spears and SA Premier Rann.

what surprises me about this journalism brand discourse is that the journos talk about themselves as a commodity. They are developing their brand by positioning themselves in the marketplace-eg., the way they twitter develops their brand.(Leigh Sales)

They do not see themselves as public intellectuals at all.

Journalists " not see themselves as public intellectuals at all".
Given the utterances of some of them, you'd have to doubt whether some of them would have the imagination- and they are creeping through public broadcasting like a dry rot, under the Minister's seeming (be/mal)nign neglect.

Lyn + Paul,
what we see here is the effect of a celebrity culture. The highly branded journalism's see themselves as celebrities. They are not critical of a celebrity culture.

I'm less interested in what the journos do to promote themselves. We've had high profile media personalities since forever. John Laws for example.

I'm interested in the ways the people formerly known as the audience contribute to the branding now.

Antony Green has acquired a cult following, many of whom expect him to provide opinion and analysis of the columnist kind. He didn't gain his status by offering running commentary, but by being a walking encyclopaedia. As more people who are less acculturated join in, his significance and meaning appears to be changing.

Dennis Shanahan is an obvious example of someone who's lost control of his brand, to the extent that his brand was what he thought it was in the first place. Since Andrew Bolt's blog has closed comments and attention has shifted from race and immigration to climate change, he's also losing control of his brand. Possum barely needs to defend his brand any more, because his fans do it for him.

Some of the people at the Punch are currently in danger of losing control as well. They were flooded with comments from what looks like the same campaigners who organised the email flood to Liberal MPs during the spill. Your image is as much a product of the company you keep as they way you are perceived and constructed by that company.

Marketing just isn't what it used to be.

Don't know much about Woods, Spears and Rann. I'd have to hang around sports and celebrity blogs, and you wouldn't put me through that, would you?

Having said that, I suspect that if Woods had limited himself to one mistress he might have got away with it. Spears has been stuffed since the foaming madness period, regardless of what her promoters tried to do with her image. Rann is a politician. What do you expect? Limited himself to one affair. See Woods.

Lyn, re your comment about the need to seek further than the tabloids, ACA, TDT, shock jocks, etc, to get to the REAL news;
"...sports and celebrity blogs... you wouldn't put me through that, would you?".
Don't you want to know about REALLY important things (eg do Tiger and Britney assume the Missionary position when getting down and dirty, or not. Could be v. important...
Sounds like aversion therapy, actually.
Think of the last chapter of "1984", where you have your worst nightmares come true for your transgressions.
Just imagine if you had to do the celebrity and sports blogs, etc, THEN sit down and watch a whole night's telly on seven, ten or nine, just to rub salt in the wounds.

The ABC promised the Drum would be:

thoughtful and thought-provoking analysis. We'll be taking the issues and ideas that count and digging a little deeper into and around them. Looking for a real sense of understanding.

They then published the Kill the IPPC article by Bob Carter. He asserts or claims:
the study of climate change, under the aegis of "dangerous global warming caused by human carbon dioxide emissions," has long since been captured by the small group of well connected, well networked and well funded atmospheric scientists and computer modellers who advise the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and whose nearly every utterance confirms their ignorance of the true course of climate history and change on our planet - a topic that is the domain of geologists, not meteorologists and computer jockeys.

The claim is that nearly every utterance of IPCC confirms their ignorance of the true course of climate history and change on our planet.

And the argument to justify this claim? None We are given the Climategate affair. Then this:

Behind the corrupted science of Climategate and the fall of the IPCC, then, lie two things. The first is the degradation, mainly by political interference, of research conditions and practices within modern government-funded research groups. The second is the power and financial clout of the modern, ecoevangelistic Green movement, egged on by crusading media reporters and editors. The world has probably never before seen a propaganda and political machine that is as well oiled, well funded and well organized as this modern army of apocalyptics and their media flag-wavers.

He ends by referring to the siren song of the Greens imperiling both our standard of living and the state of our natural environment.

So much for the ABC's thoughtful analysis.

Jeez Paul, you should have been on the Gitmo Bay recreational activities committee, coming up with such horrors.

Lordy, I'm such an elitist snob.

I can't ague with you Gary.
Earlier in the year when their News boss Cameron left, we waited to see if this was the break in the drought as to ABC.
But as you say, its been ramped up the other way and the antagonisation toward viewers has become overt and overt in its deliberateness.

Ah yes- the Gitmo committee. Those were the days.
"Today we have linen change: hut B changes with hut C, while hut A changes with hut D...".
Its alright Lyn, you can return to your basket -weaving cheeky little chardonnay-alfalfa Lahtays, organically grown carrot cake and left handed Gay whale perpetration of hate speech, you tree-hugging sausage'n chip hater, you bluestocking, you...
Hey, can you imagine all of above, plus three days locked in a room with Sam Newman, Neil Mitchell, Kerry-Ann Kennerly and James Packer?