Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Not the Hoi Polloi

OK, it's not Newspoll or AC Nielsen or Essential....it's not even a Morgan poll. But the Failed Estate is proud to unveil results of its first ever readers' survey. We polled your attitudes on party politics, economics, refugees, climate change and the media. Here are the (dubious) results.

On political leanings, five per cent of our respondents characterised themselves as former bleeding hearts turned grumpy conservatives. This is a category your host can identify with, except he is so old he has gone full circle from wet liberal to flinty conservative and back again - left, right, left.

A growing clique, seven per cent, identify as funky young neo-libertarians with cool glasses, skinny suits, lots of hair product and a distaste for the nanny state (at least until their cars are stolen or they have kids and the doctor's office doesn't bulk bill). A bigger group, 16 per cent view, themselves as angry anarchists (who scream at the neighbours' kids to get off their newly mown front laws). Another 11 per cent confess to being suburban Greens with air conditioning, SUVs and a peculiar love of Andre Rieu and pan pipes. But the vast majority, 59 per cent, feel politically conflicted. (You'll notice these numbers do not add up to 100%, but I told you it wasn't Newspoll).

In terms of the carbon price, two per cent of our readers see the proposed tax as an attempt by Godless Greens to set up One World Government (or OMG, it's OWG). Another three per cent favour the idea that a carbon price is a nefarious attempt by grant-seeking scientists to get money to upgrade their 1995 Camrys. Another five per cent think action on carbon is a plot by communists to destroy capitalism from within, by, err, bowing to market forces. Four per cent hark back vaguely to high school science lessons on photosynthesis and conclude carbon must be good. The rest, 83 per cent, think it's all just hopeless and the way the debate's going, the world won't be worth living in anyway. (Your host is with the latter group and suggests starting building the spaceship now.)

On asylum seekers, three per cent of sample (who clearly didn''t watch the SBS series) think boat people should be sent to some godforsaken hellhole (with the exclusion, of course, of Penrith). Twelve per cent favoured punishing with extreme prejudice the people smugglers (because that absolves them from having to think about what to do with the refugees). A relatively kindly group of 20 per cent liked the idea of billeting out the boat people in family homes (while stressing there's no room at their place because they're putting in a pool). Another 14 per cent thought the line in the national anthem about boundless plains to share was planted there by green elitists. But the biggest proportion, 50 per cent, think it's just too depressing and want to be on the first boat out. (Maybe this group could hitch a ride with the climate change believers on the spaceship?)

In terms of the economy, two per cent of respondents say interest rates will always be lower and ice cream will always taste nicer under the Liberals, which frankly just makes complete and utter sense. Another two per cent say the Nationals' devotion to free markets, 4WD subsidies, rural relief packages and cheap finance make them the best economic managers of all. For this group, the invisible hand is fine (as long as it's protected by a pair of milking gloves). The Greens are well represented, with 11 per cent saying Bob Brown's crew are the only ones who understand that economic management is best left to the rainbow serpent. Only seven per cent of our sample put their faith in Labor, citing its ability to ensure everyone sets the alarm for 4am to go and work in joyless factory jobs - representing the New Socialist Utopia (NSU). But a massive 73 per cent say the economy is the pimple on the arse of a flea on a cork floating on a seething ocean and it doesn't matter who's in power in Canberra because we're stuffed (presumably these are our Greek readers).

Finally, on my favourite subject, the media, just one per cent of readers identify with The Australian's audience - gouty, late-middle-aged Tories who feel their comfortable wood-panelled worlds are under attack  from bicycle-riding, body-pierced, vegans. Nine per cent of you like the ABC, because it reports whatever The Australian says but with a plummier accent and without Janet Albrechtson. Ten per cent of the sample say their favoured media is the style guide for baristas, loft buyers and Brian Eno devotees - otherwise known as the SMAGE. Absolutely no-one admitted to being fans of the Hun-Tele working-man tabloids, presumably because our effete elite readership can't find a Herald Sun app on their Ipads.  Predictably, most of you are digital natives - 77 per cent get your media from RSS readers, Google alerts and a bunch of blogs.

So my focus group are politically conflicted, highly networked, cosmopolitan globalists in favour of climate change action and embarrassed at our treatment of refugees. Damned elites in other words. This blog is never going to rate.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Not in it for the Money

Why go into journalism? The industry that employs you is in decline, the on-the-job training is virtually non-existent, the business model is broken, the hours are long, the work involves endless and mindless churning of pregurgitated material, and the pay is lousy. Most of the population rate you just above used car salesmen and now the major media companies are farming off jobs to sweatshops.

Yet people are spending more time with news than ever as the technology that enables the creation, distribution and reception of news grows every more sophisticated. It's just that no-one can work out how to make money out of it.

A graphic demonstration of the grim plight of the mainstream media that employs journalists is the share price of Fairfax Media, which is one of the worst performing "blue chip" stocks on the Australian sharemarket in recent years, losing about 80 per cent of its value. By the way, News Corp has hardly been a good investment either in recent years, delivering a negative annualised return of 6.1 per cent in the decade till the end of May, 2011. (Source: Bloomberg)

Yet for all the gloom and doom surrounding the media industry, communications and journalism courses continue to turn people away in droves. So clearly the supply-demand equation for new journalistic talent is still tilted in favour of buyers. What's inspiring these young people to seek to qualify for a craft with apparently little future as a commercial enterprise?

Perhaps one way of thinking of this question is to ponder what would happen if private hospitals and schools stopped being commercial viable. Would we still need doctors and teachers? Of course we would. Just because the business model that underpins commercial media has been destroyed by the internet does not mean that journalism as a calling is any less viable than it might have been 30 to 40 years ago. Indeed, there is a good argument (as I have made elsewhere on this blog) that we need start thinking of civic-minded journalism as a public service.

But for journalists to be able to feed themselves and their families, we are going to need new sorts of entrepreneurs not wedded to traditional distribution models and programming formats. And by this, I don't just mean the internet. In its annual report on the State of the News Media in America, the Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism found the audiences for AM/FM radio have been the most stable of any traditional media in recent years.  Given the total saturation of our commercial airwaves by right-wing shockjocks and shouters, it seems hard to believe there is no room for a progressive news-based network in this country. Perhaps Eric Beecher should buy the Fairfax network and fashion a radio version of Crikey?

Another option is to amalgamate many of the mature blogs into a radio/podcast network in which informed commentary on news and public issues can be heard.  Modest subscriptions could be charged, alongside commercial sponsorship, to pay for a small team of journalists to run this venture. To this, I can hear former colleagues saying 'yes, but how are you going to break news with such limited resources'?  The answer is that the vast bulk of the 'news' in mainstream media now is sourced from press releases and wire services. Most source material (ABS releases, ministerial statements, non-government reports, corporate releases) is available in real-time on the web. To that you add intelligent commentary and analysis.  And once you start becoming an influencer, the news often comes to you.

There is no question that if you were starting up a news organisation today, a venture that requires you to print hundreds of thousands of words each day on dead trees and ship them around the country to newsagents, who deliver them to offices and homes, would be the last option on your list. The way we consume news is changing. It is a networked phenonemon. It is interactive and it redefines the professional journalist as someone who curates information, provides useful links and hosts conversations with citizen journalists.

Alongside these trends, our levels of literacy and curiosity about the world are increasing. The magnitude of challenges we face - in climate change, the economy, our political system and public life - demand a level of excellence in journalism that is worth aspiring to. It really is an exciting time if you look at it that way. And THAT may explain why so many young people want to become journalists. A word of advice though kids from the great Jimmy Smith and Dr John. If you're only it it for the money, don't bother.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Media in Words

What do we think of the political media in Australia? Obviously there are some great individuals out there working as journalists, but the overwhelming impression of political journalists and editors - as expressed by an admittedly narrow section of the Twitterverse in a very non-scientific poll - is interesting.

This deliberate stunt was inspired by a similar (though less consciously shallow) effort by our national broadcaster, which was so starved for web content it it that it asked its readers to sum up their opinions of Julia Gillard in three words to construct a word cloud. Despite the obvious tendency for these polls to be rigged, the resulting map was deemed front page 'news' on the ABC website, which sparked an understandable outcry over the media manufacturing news out of nothing.

True to form, the ABC sought to "balance" the books the next day by pulling the same stunt over Abbott, as if that made the whole silly exercise legitimate. So a public broadcaster continually complaining that it is under resourced might like consider what it is offering that is not available on the likes of Sky and NineMSN. This is tabloid, bone-headed, populist, cut and paste 'journalism' at its absolute worst and as bad as anything available on commercial networks and Murdoch wrappers.

You want some story ideas Mr ABC editor? Assign someone to find out who funds the IPA (whose legions of swatty young fogish libertarians you feature so regularly). Do a piece on what is likely to come out of the government's media convergence review. Investigate how much is our Afghan commitment costing us and ask where is the national interest here? Write a piece on the return on investment in the resource industry right now and compare with what's happening in manufacturing and tourism. Then compare the tax takes. How many alternative energy start-ups have upped stumps for California or Europe because of this country's dithering over climate change action? Get a CEO on the phone. What about getting you digital mapping people employed on an interactive graphic showing where the boat people are coming from and how insignificant their numbers are in proportion to the overall immigrant intake. Those are real stories that take effort and research skills and which don't fall into your lap. Journalists write stories like those. Typists do what you're doing - recycling Opposition press releases and making up doodles.
By the way, in no way does this blogger pretend that the above hastily constructed word map is an entirely accurate depiction of the attitudes of the wider community towards political journalism in this country (though I suspect it comes close). But then this blog doesn't pretend to be a news site.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Empty Checkpoint

 What is news anyway? Young journalists are told it's what's new, noteworthy or unusual. It's something that prompts an "oh, really?" response. You usually know it when you see it.  But to be deemed as news, events needed to pass a certain bar. These days, though, they must be setting the bar particularly low.

On the day AC Nielsen reported the Labor Party's primary vote had fallen to a 39-year low of 27 per cent, ABC News splashed with the headline "Abbott Blames Policies for Labor Slide." The lead ran: "Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the Labor Party's unpopular policies are to blame for its dramatic slump in the polls." Now I realise that news can be scarce on a quiet Saturday, but this particular item would have to rank alongside "Catholicism Rocks, says Pope" in terms of newsworthiness.

In the days when editors used to actually spike stories, the rule was that if the copy prompted the question "well, he would say that, wouldn't he", then it wasn't news. It was publicity. And there's a lot of unpaid publicity around on the ABC these days. I'm not sure whether it's laziness, lack of news judgement, lack of staff, desperation for content or a pathetic attempt by an intimidated broadcaster to appear "balanced" to the paranoid culture warriors of the right  - but this shameless recycling of press releases does not do much for the ABC's news brand.

And it's not just the national broadcaster. Many of the major problems facing Australia right now are extremely complex and multi-faceted in their origins and effects (climate change, a destabilising resources boom, a rising rate of inflation for food, housing and essential services, inadequate retirement savings, under-funded public education and a change in the global strategic power balance, to name just a few). As the government seeks to act on some of these issues, powerful and entrenched forces become increasingly adept at forestalling reform by running paid and unpaid publicity campaigns through the media to conflate the national interest with their own interests.

At times like these, an independent, sceptical and questioning media is vital. Journalists must not blithely accept the statistics and industry-commissioned "surveys" thrust at them in shiny packages by ever helpful PR spinners. Sometimes they have to drop a story if they can't verify it from independent sources or do their own research. Unfortunately, that's not happening. In fact, a lack of training, the loss of older, harder heads to the industry, tighter deadlines, fewer resources and the pressures to do more with less are making our media collectively gormless and easy meat for the spinners. Just because the Opposition says something does not make it news (the same rule applies to the government by the way, although with the proviso that the bar is slightly lower because governments are actually able to do stuff).

Respected SMH economics commentator Ross Gittins, in a column this week, points to this increasing tendency by a desperate media to waive everything through as legitimate news, without verification. And nowhere is this more evident than with the resource industry - which, having robbed Australian taxpayers of $60 billion last year by nobbling the super profits tax, is now trying to scare the public into opposing action on climate change on the basis it will destroy jobs in an economy already running at full employment.
"If you come up with a big-sounding figure for supposed job losses, you can be reasonably sure the media will trumpet the figure in shocked tones," Gittins writes. "You can also be sure few if any journalists will subject your claims to examination to see how credible they are. Why spoil a good story? I didn't say it, they did. If it's wrong, blame them, not me. All I'm doing is acting as a messenger, recording both sides of the debate. It's not my job to act as a censor."
That's the nub of the problem. Journalists appear to have lost their bullshit detectors - or least the media organisations that employ them have abdicated any sense that their mission goes beyond creating widgets to keep the ads apart, or in the case of the ABC, succumbed to the view that its mission is to blandly report the "he said-she said" parade of press releases and uncritically point cameras and microphones at PR set-ups without a moment's scrutiny.

In the absence of a strong media and with the government depending on a handful of independents to remain in power, powerful vested interests are succeeding in ensuring that 'news' is whatever they want it to be.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hands Up: It's a Stitch Up

Hands Up: Gillard Faces Armageddon, Apocalypse The Australian

Denis Shamandham

The Gillard government is under intense pressure tonight after (insert name of industry lobby group here' - ed) released a damning survey which highlights the cost to consumers ('unspecified, check tomorrow and multiply by four'- ed) of its contentious carbon tax.

The release of the survey from the high-profile something-or-other association comes amid a clash in Labor ranks between one-faction-and-another and is bound to fuel speculation ('can we drag a backbencher out of the pub for an off-record quote?- ed) of an imminent challenge to Gillard's shaky leadership.

"Our economy is on the ropes and this is the killer punch," said Dig-it-Out-of-the-Ground-and-Ship-to-China Industry Association president Chip Chunkworth. "Now the government is pushing us into our own graves ('mixed metaphor, but let it go, he's a miner' - ed) and that's got to be bad for working people."

The angry ('bitter?'; 'furious?'; 'seething?' - come on man, I'm asking for adjectives here - ed) industry response to the carbon tax inquiry is likely to cement ("cement!" ". Yes! send a note to the cartoonist to draw Gillard with cement shoes being dumped into the harbour by Rudd) recent unrelenting trend in opinion polls away from a government that is losing the faith of even its most rusted-on supporters ('rusted' - iron ore, God I'm good' -ed).

Earlier today, the respected Newspoll ('It better be bloody respected, do you know how much we pay these people to stitch things up for us?' - ed) showed increasing support for Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, whose straight talk is resonating with voters.

"Tony understands the needs of working people," said Jadyn, a 23-year-old welding contractor from Penrith ('Where's the second name?' - ed: -  'Lib Party guy says he will phone through tomorrow' - Denis). "Straight talk, no fuss and plugged into the mortgage belt." ('Stock photo of tradie with tool belt' -ed)

The Abbott ascendancy ('ascendancy' - I LIKE it! call The Weekend magazine and arrange a photo shoot of Abbot rock climbing' - ed) comes amid declining fortunes for a Labor Party which even its truest believers is starting to doubt ('insert photo of Faulkner with damning quote from headland speech' and call Latham for an op-ed' - ed).

(Ed: 'Put some stuff here from RBA speech along lines of'): The mortgage belt is losing faith in a Labor government whose reckless spending ('cut and paste BER, pink batts standard pars') has fuelled six consecutive increases in interest rates and looks set to spark a seventh after the next CPI figures in late July. ('Plot Aussie rates against US and Japan; yes, I know they're in recession, but f**k me, homes are cheap over there' - ed)

"The economy is strong and that means" that we have lost control of the economy, said ANZ chief economist Paul Eslakeland. ('Is that partial quote OK? He said something like 'that means we need to moderate domestic demand', but no-one understands that gobbledygook' - Denis. 'Do I look like I care? -ed).

The plight of the mortgage battlers provides a stark contrast to the relaxed demeanour of Prime Minister Gillard and her live-in, de-facto, fellow atheist partner Tim Mathieson living in their godless relationship ('Steady on, Dennis. We're getting Tony to do a homage to BA Santamaria this weekend anyway, so that should keep  your rosary-fiddling mates happy' - ed)

The Prime Minister's clear desperation in courting 60 Minutes appears to presage her calling an election this weekend that polls suggest she would lose easily, providing greater certainty for business at a time of greater uncertainty ('where's the unprecedented?' -ed)

(Pick up wires from here. Link to Planet Janet on how secret 'madras' in Bankstown is telling kids that Mohammed was a surfie; link to whatever Kelly's writing about forks in the f**king road and tell Mega George he's fired! - ed)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Journos in Jarmies

 Over at Club Troppo, Don Arthur has run a  post titled 'The Blogosphere's Delusions of Grandeur',  regurgitating the now ritual meme that pits the apocryphal self-aggrandising blogger in pyjamas (usually venting about the meeja) against the hard-working professional investigative journalist risking everything for his readers.

Using as an example of the latter a Fairfax inquiry into Securency, the RBA subsidiary caught laundering bribe money through the Seychelles, Don argues for the value of old-fashioned hard-digging journalism and takes a swipe at those who (apparently) are saying that amateur blogging can replace this craftsmanship:
"There’s some great stuff on Australian blogs, but it’s hardly a replacement for the work of professional journalists. Writing in your pajamas after work might keep you out of reach of the truth-throttling tentacles of teh evil Rupert Murdoch, but it doesn’t leave much time to phone your sources, search public records or crunch numbers."
Well quite, Don. But just who is saying that blogging is intended to replace professional investigative journalism? And who says it is 'either/or'? Can't we have both? One would have thought we had got past this tired "pro" versus "am" debate and got to discussing what makes good journalism irrespective of how the writer is employed. The truth is journalism is changing for good and for THE good, regardless of what some diehards in the mainstream old media might hope.

The change does not pit the amateur against the professional. It pits those writers for whom "the audience" or online community is a source of collaboration in authorship versus those who prefer a passive, unseen and largely unheard audience at the end of a chain.  But it clearly suits some elements in the mainstream media to turn this into an us-versus-them debate, as US journalism professor Jay Rosen picked up in an editorial from The Townsville Bulletin (part of the News Ltd empire, of course):
"The great thing about newspapers is that, love us or hate us, we're the voice of the people. We represent the community, their views, their aspirations and their hopes. We champion North Queensland's wins and we commiserate during our losses. Bloggers, on the other hand, represent nothing. They whinge, carp and whine about our role in society, and yet they contribute nothing to it, other than satisfying their juvenile egos."
This gets to the heart of the insecurity in mainstream media about the influence of bloggers - that these supposedly perpetually pyjama-clad obsessives are out to replace the media. I'm not aware of anyone who seriously thinks that's the case. In fact the reason blogs like this exist is to point to the often large gap between the  principles of public-spirited journalism and how it is currently practised. Ultimately it is about supporting and championing good journalism and calling out bad journalism, regardless of where it appears or whether it is of the professional or amateur variety. The notion that it's either-or is a false dichotomy put out there by an often insecure mainstream media perceiving a threat to its existence, as Jay Rosen says:
"Blogging cannot replace the watchdog journalism that keeps a government accountable to its people. Journalists know that, but somehow the American (or Australian) people don’t. Replacement-by-bloggers talk is displaced anger toward a public that doesn’t appreciate what journalists do, a public that would somehow permit the press to wither away without asking what would be lost. "
In a second post on the subject at Club Troppo, Don reframes his question. Putting aside his original proposition that bloggers are presuming to replace investigative journalism (which no-one is actually saying as far as I am aware), he asks whose opinion writing is better - bloggers or journalists. I'm not sure that makes much sense or advances the cause much either. There are clearly good and bad in both. And like much discussion on this issue it gets unnecessarily hung up on delivery mechanisms and skirts around the more interesting and more fruitful questions - Like what IS the future of 'news' as a business? What is the role of journalists in a digital and interactive age where anyone can break news?  Is there still a role for an intermediary whose role is to decide what's news and frame it according to their commercial imperatives? How can expert bloggers complement the more general news and analysis of MSM journalists? How might the future look if bloggers and professional journalists collaborated, both with each other and with their audiences?  How might accelerated and universally available broadband change the landscape for journalists? If the MSM business model is broken and distribution is free, why tether yourself to a News Corp or Fairfax?

The reason we are having these debates is because, on the one hand, standards in the mainstream media are in rapid decline as struggling media companies, their business model broken, embark on a race to the bottom; while on the other, amateur bloggers - like Possum Pollytics or Matt Cowgill or Grog's Gamut - are doing serious and publicly useful  journalism on their blogs that shame 90 per cent of the output of supposedly professional journalism in the mainstream media. These are pieces that provide context, that refuse to accept the pre-ordained narrative as gospel and which use facts as their premise, not lazy spin spoon-fed to them by former journalists turned media relations operatives. In any case, true investigative journalism in the mainstream media is noticeable mainly for its relative absence.

So instead of starting the discussion from the point of which is best - blogging or journalism - the question needs to be asked how can we deliver good journalism in whatever medium and how we might fund it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Readers' Poll

'The Failed Estate' has been going now for eight months. So we thought it was time we found out a bit more about our readership. Please help us by answering the five questions on the right-hand side of this post.

We are asking you about your native political affiliation and your views on a carbon price, boat people, economic management and your media habits. This is truly scientific polling, as you will see.

We plan to use your answers to these questions so we can give you the news that you truly want. That, of course, means omitting key facts, pursuing an ideological agenda, calling for free markets while standing up for rent seekers, seeking leftist conspiracies by bearded academics on government grants and pursuing unnamed 'elites' whose interests are strangely contrary to those of our advertisers. Other than that, it's pretty straight.

If our comprehensive questions on the right do not cover the gamut of your caffeine-fuelled media-driven shallow emotional life, please vent in the comments section below.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fast and Fatuous

The first the Australian public heard of the now infamous Say Yes television advertisement on climate change action was when The Sunday Telegraph told its readers that "Carbon Cate" Blanchett had "sparked outrage in the community" by fronting a campaign that no-one had actually seen at that point.

Acting under the instructions of Murdoch editors salivating at a Marie Antoinette-style story of "elite Hollywood star lectures Western Suburbs to take their tax medicine", the reporter tricked up some some outrage from rent-a-quote Barnaby Joyce and Plymouth Brethren reactionaries masquerading as the forgotten voices of middle Australia.

True to form, the ABC echo chamber dutifully ran with the story and we were off to the races before the ad had even aired on mainstream television.

Such is the speed of the news cycle now that media organisations ritually 'throw forward' a story before the actual events on which it is based become public. This allows them to frame the story according to their own ideological and commercial imperatives. It's also economically efficient as they can manufacture reaction and plot the course of the story over a five-day news cycle in anticipation of the reaction it will receive. Editors love predictability, particularly given earlier deadlines and tighter production budgets.

The other recent example of the media jumping the gun on a story, based on their own impatient presumptions, was the early mentions of Lindsay Tanner's book 'Sideshow'. As Media Watch noted, these stories, again appearing first in the Sunday Torygraph, had Tanner "unloading on the Rudd government" when the book said nothing of the sort and when the reporter herself admitted she hadn't even read it. The fact that their incorrect and superficial reaction only proved Tanner's point about the media's obsession with the political contest, as opposed to the underlying policy reality, was completely lost on many journalists.

This tendency to, in effect, manufacture news according to the inbuilt preferred templates of the news organisation is a product of the combined forces of increasing encroachment of partisanship in nominally 'straight' news coverage, the competitive pressures brought about by the slow death of the mainstream media business model and the pressures of the accelerating news cycle driven by new technology.

Think of how often you hear of the Opposition's reaction to a major Government policy announcement before you have heard the announcement itself. Governments respond to this by seeking to get two or three cracks at a policy initiative by leaking its intentions to favoured correspondents beforehand. But this merely serves to fast-track the Opposition reaction and alerts less favoured correspondents and outlets (usually the Murdoch ones) to arrange a stitch-up that undermines the announcement.

This phenomenon of second and third guessing 'virtual news' before it registers in the real world is prevalent around the world.  In the US, it was noted by Pulitzer Prize-winning television critic Howard Rosenberg and former CNN correspondent Charles Feldman in their 2008 book 'No Time to Think: The Menace of Media Speed and the 24-Hour News Cycle..
"Contrary to Malcolm Gladwell's best-selling book 'Blink' treatise on the validity of first glances and snap judgements, instant response is not necessarily wise response," Rosenberg and Feldman write. "Plus the stakes become greater - quickness at times leading to quackery - in a higher and higher tech society that urges us to move faster. Not such a good idea."
The increase in speed puts pressures on journalists to offer "analysis" of events virtually as they occur, or, as we have seen, even before they occur.  Due to the impossible deadlines and the sophistication of the spinners and fixers working for vested interests (almost always former journalists), the "analysis" usually amounts to a pre-positioning by those interests around a contentious policy area. The aim is to hotwire the narrative with the aim of forestalling action, usually on the pretext of "saving jobs".  It works every time and encourages the view among a naive public that this is democracy in action.

But it should be evident by now that we are all being taken for a ride in this big, fast and fatuous media vehicle that manufactures news out of nothing and leaves democracy as the road kill.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Changing the Frame

Meanwhile, in another media universe...

'Geo Gina': Iron Woman Robs Australians Blind
The Australian, June 2, 2011 
Outrage is growing in the Australian community at the involvement of multi-billionaire Gina Rinehart in campaigns protesting against action on climate change and efforts for citizens to earn a fairer share from the sale of our natural resources.
Rinehart, the nation’s richest person with a fortune of more than $10 billion, has used her massive wealth to stymie reforms aimed at reducing Australia’s carbon footprint and ensuring an enduring national legacy from the commodities boom.
“Our regional infrastructure is falling apart,” said Opposition spokesman for regional development, Senator Farmably Choice. “Meanwhile, this spoiled heiress sits in her 50-room Peppermint Grove mansion, telling us she’ll be ruined if we take modest action on climate change and tax resource depletion more fairly.”
Family groups also expressed outrage at Rinehart’s self-indulgence and plan a rally for equity in the nation’s capitals this weekend.
“People can’t pay their electricity bills and it’s only going to get worse; we need to start investing in alternatives,” said Graham Straightlace of the Christian Family Association. “In the parable of the loaves and fishes, Jesus taught us the principle of community-mindedness. Ms Rinehart obviously does not read her Bible.”
The iron ore magnate has received a remarkable return on the modest $20 million outlay she and other miners spent to derail the government’s super profits resource tax. The subsequent compromise deprived taxpayers of $60 billion in revenues that could have been spent on schools, hospitals and badly need infrastructure.
“The bush is already bleeding and Rinehart is just opening the wound further,” Senator Choice told 2GB talkshow host Tim Dunlop.
Rinehart is known to have spent $70,000 on security measures around her compound in Perth’s salubrious western suburbs and recently hired tattooed pub rocker Angry Anderson as her personal bodyguard.
The pearls she wore in a protest in Perth last year against the super profits tax are reportedly worth $20 million on their own - enough to feed, house and clothe 200 families comfortably for one year.
Not content with carving up the resource tax and jettison the carbon tax, Rinehart is now buying up swathes of the Australian media to press her selfish cause even further. Stakes in the Ten Network and Fairfax Media are seen as her bulwark against policy measures that might otherwise protect the interests of tradies, small business people, teachers and nurses against the ruinously high interest rates brought about by an unsustainable commodities boom.
“We’re used to be a nation that looked after the little bloke and blokette,” Senator Choice mused. “Not any more. It’s a nation for billionaires and fly-by-nighters, robbing us blind and taking the cash.”
Next in our ‘Billionaires’ series:
‘After Murdoch: Warring Children Tear the News Empire Apart’

See also:
How Media and Mining Distort Australia's Climate Debate: The Guardian
Role Reversal as Liberals Belt Labor with Class War Rhetoric: David McKnight, SMH