Friday, December 20, 2013

FEIJOA Awards 2013

What happens to media critics when the media disappears? Your blog host has lost count of the conversations he's had this year with journalists seeking a way out of the smoking ruins of the old industrial word factories of the mainstream media.

Yes, Rupert's cartoon sheets keep pushing on, but no-one of any integrity sees them as anything other than propaganda tools for the evil empire that is News Corporation. The shameless partisanship of their "news" coverage in the federal election certainly disqualifies much of their output as anything close to journalism.

But outside the fantasy factory, there was journalism to celebrate in 2013. And so with great fanfare (insert piccolo blast), these are the 3rd annual Failed Estate International Journalism Awards - the 'FEIJOAs'. In the absence of the delicious and fragrant fruit, this sour old bugger grants you a smile.

1.  The Narrowing of Politics - Di Martin - ABC Background Briefing - Everyone can see Australian politics is busted, but Di Martin's well sourced report put some serious flesh around the ritual complaints. Drawing on frank interviews with former political warriors like Nick Minchin and Simon Crean, Martin showed how chronic short-termism, the cult of personality and constant polling has filled the vacuum where policy leadership used to reside.

2. Dear Grandchildren - I Can Only Say Sorry - Ross Gittins, SMH - God help us when Gittins retires because no other journalist comes close to him in his ability to strip the cant and obfuscation from policy issues. This was the best description I have seen for the real world impact of the failure of leadership identified in Martin's piece above - in this case in relation to climate change. This should never have been a party political issue. That it became one speaks volumes for the state we're in.

3. Trading Misery - Sarah Ferguson, Hussain Nasir and Clay Hichens - ABC Four Corners -  As politicians indulged in an arms race pandering to the population's tabloid-fuelled fear and prejudices over asylum seekers, Four Corners revealed the thriving micro-economy that our calculated cruelty toward the world's most desperate people is creating. Ferguson did what our growing security state has been unable to do - track down and confront the people smugglers in their lairs.

4. Profit About All Else - Adele Ferguson and Chris Vedelago - SMH  - So much that passes for financial journalism is really just unpaid PR for the financial services industry. But this was the real deal - an expose of dodgy practices within the CBA's financial planning division that robbed savers, many of them retired people, of hundreds of millions of dollars. Almost as scandalous was how the corporate regulator dragged its feet on the case after being tipped off by whistle-blowers.

5. In Murdoch-Land, Sans Public Sphere, It All Sounds the Same - Guy Rundle - Crikey - Yes, Rundle is an unapologetic leftie, but he writes more acutely about Australian politics than anyone in Canberra. Widening the angle of his lens, he states what none of the "official" media will - that the information environment in which the political contest is staged is as much a part of the show as the show itself. "The whole country has become a leagues club owned by a monolithic media corporation," Rundle says. "But to mention this every time is the pathway to madness. So the debate cannot help but be skewed."

This isn't a comprehensive list by any means. I regret no News Corp journos are on the list, as there still is some solid reporting in those publications. But finding it means wading through all the rest of the muck and madness. And for my sanity's sake, I chose just to stay away from it. I figure if they break something big, I'll hear about it elsewhere.

Given News Corp's utter dominance and the waning powers of Fairfax, everyone I know is crossing fingers and toes for Katharine Viner and her team at The Guardian Australia.  Great work is also been done by the fearless Mike Seccombe and others at The Global Mail. All power to their iPads.

I also should make a mention of some of my favourite fellow 'Fifth Estaters', including the Piping Shrike, Andrew Elder at Politically Homeless, Ben Eltham at New Matilda,  the crew at Larvatus Prodeo, Melissa Sweet at Croakey and Don Arthur at Club Troppo. Many of these people have day jobs and write for nix, but they always have something worthwhile to say and they say it well.

 This is my final blogpost for the year. To regular readers, thanks for indulging me in my creeping curmudgeonity.  And to those I have clashed with on Twitter or elsewhere, thanks for caring enough to have a crack. We need to stir it up.

Happy Festivus.


  1. Thank you Mr Denmore. You brighten my day with each and every new post. Why don't they listen to you? Are they so thick-skinned or headed not to realize they are making themselves look idiotic and destroying any claims to 'professionalism?

  2. Thanks for this Mr Denmore, and for your great blog, which I read religiously. I have to disagree with some of what you've said here, however.

    What's wrong with being a lefty, as Rundle is? I imagine the majority of your readers would be progressives? Colbert said 'reality has a ... liberal bias'. I'm writing an article at the moment about how good journalism tends to be progressive by default. In the absence of a commitment to progressive journalism, the ABC's focus on government policy is confined overwhelmingly to free market neoliberalism combined with excessive focus on the politics. It's impossible for journalism to operate within a values vacuum, and the ABC has become horribly dry as a result.

    The inclusion of Ross Gittins in your list is a problem for me. He castigated the Greens for refusing to have anything to do with the absolute dog that was Rudd's CRPS (both versions), conveniently forgetting that Rudd had refused to even meet with Bob Brown, let alone negotiate with the Greens. (Among other things, Rudd's CPRS would have locked in catastrophic compensation for big polluters by taxpayers, had the target been raised in the future).

    Larvatus Prodeo is also problematic given its slavish commitment to the ALP despite the roomfuls of evidence that the ALP resembles a progressive party in the same way Tony Abbott resembles a regular, compassionate human being.

    Anyway, hope to read more of your always informative blog in 2014 and a happy festive season to you.

  3. Shanahan has moved on from journalism to hagiography. I regard Murdoch's propaganda the same as a maggot-blown jackal's arse and keep it at the same distance but a mate alerted my attention to Shanahan's piece today (21 Dec) and this is what the pay site let me see:

    Tony Abbott: model of a cool, calm and collected PM
    Dennis Shanahan, The Australian, December 21, 2013

    "AS Tony Abbott prepares to jet away to France for his first real, personal and private holiday in years, it's possible to think he almost regrets going. Of course he doesn't, and going was an oath written in blood but, just the same, it is a measure of Abbott's fulfilled ambition in becoming Prime Minister and his calm confidence in the job that it would be possible to think he'd rather stay and work.
    The quiet calmness he exudes, even in crisis, impresses and influences many who have come into contact with him for the first time as Australia's newest Prime Minister."

    Let Pope Francis know we have a successor to Mary McKillop - Dennis is ready to have Tony beatified and he might as well pop over to Rome while he's in France so he won't have to interrupt his work in the PM's office again.

  4. Thank you, Mr Denmore. Your analysis has been instructive and interesting. I enjoyed reading the FEIJOA awards and thanks for the links. I was particularly interested in the report on the CBA, given that the Government is about to remove the regulations which the Labor Government introduced to protect customers from unscrupulous practises by financial planners.

    I liked the choice of the feijoa, as it is a much under-rated fruit (feijoa jam is delicious) somewhat like good journalism in the fourth estate. I look forward to reading your blog in 2014. Best wishes.

  5. Have a wonderful Festivus Mr Denmore & may you return to curmudgeonly blogging & tweeting with even more vigour.

    As the late & lamented X Files said "The truth is out there" although we shall never hear, read or see it from many of the MSM.

  6. <

    Representatives (with the exception of Murdochs) of Journalism from across the world attended the "FEIJOA Awards" and this was the refrain for every category :

  7. John (above)

    When I saw you're post, I thought that the video you posted would've been this one.

    Newscorp Journailsts At The FEIJOA Awards

  8. Mr D

    Thanks for the FEIJOA and would agree with the picks. Although I do think that Prisoner X should get an honourable mention. I think this was a fantastic piece of investigative journalism especially considering the secretive nature of the Israel Government.

    Have a great NY and look forward to your scribbles in 2014