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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Thursday, 23 August 2007
Media Watch's Tim Palmer & co should hold fast, impertinent The Oz still more bullypit than quality
Mood:  sharp
Topic: big media

Picture: Media Watch asleep on the job? Au contraire - The Australian as moral wolf in stylish 100% woollen clothing, reliant on the shill of industry, just as likely.


A judicious and honest consideration of the attack by The Australian editorial today on humble 15 minute ABC Media Watch of 20th August 2007 including:


-         long long ‘doth protest too much’ haughty editorial - Old tricks back at Media Watch - echoing the recent slumming editorial effort against accurate criticism by psephologist bloggers of  their Dennis Shanahan re Newspoll interpretation

-         skinny column by veteran hack David Salter – the only intrinsically convincing article re journalistic career cowardice in the face of a Treasurer's edict Watchdog must bite all hands equally

-         talented but flighty, opportunistic Caroline Overington in their Media supplement Ripping yarns not on the ABC more a plea for a longer more resourced MW than anything


and maybe more (?), must take into account ‘tis the season of electoral emotional violence and ambition'. In the case of relatively new editor of the Oz the ambition s to become the quality broadsheet in Australia with all the cut and thrust and blood that implies, not least poaching staff from the Fin Review, cosying up with Opposition Leader Rudd, and not brooking any criticism no matter how sound.


(Nor is it any coincidence in this stage of the political cycle as nerves fray and excitement reins, Mary Kostakidis is locking horns with dumb bosses at SBS, or ABC have axed the influential natural history unit in this election killing season.)


First, by coincidence we ‘watched’ MW last night on the web, having slept early last Monday night. Big tick to the ABC for their web service there.


Second, we found the line up worthy and competent. True, big sensationalist stories might be the preference of the narcissistic sector but if this writer’s tastes are anything like the usual audience we care at least as much about safe medical drugs coverage, drink driving in society, commercialism masquerading as news, credits ruining our family movie enjoyment and honest reporting of climate change. Sure we want a moderate coverage of ‘pop star’ journalists but keep it in perspective.


Third, on the content of the last story offending The Oz, fifth in the line up, this turns on cunning Matthew Warren an industry hack now ‘environment reporter’ exploiting the well known conservative diplomacy of the UN IPCC paralysed by nth degree consensus to claim Howard’s delay on climate change action is being ‘responsible’. Yet virtually everyone knows the high quality science predicts worse, not less, dangerous impacts not least sea rise, and that the IPCC is hobbled by needing to keep all vested govt interests in the tent. The Australian is being too cute by half arguing Warren, their paper with huge fossil fool advertising supplements, or economic dry denialist industry readership demographic is in any way objective. That’s a Shakespearean farce – hence the 'doth protest too much' projection of their own paper's bias well ventilated by MW in maybe a 3 minute item last in the line up. [On reflection 24.8.07 we agree with Warren's possibly main gist that ALP and Coalition are more similar than different on real practical policy settings, if that in fact is his main point, while disagreeing with his dubious positioning of IPCC chair as pro Howard.]


Fourth, when Salter argues the journo’s at the Water’s Edge should be front and centre in the MW show for failing to report an 'on the record' backgrounding at a dinner about leadership tensions, and then off the record ‘retrospective virginity’ (great line) well yes. But there is plenty of time for a considered view from MW after the dust settles. Nothing turns on rushing in now. No doubt a blogger like this one, who would never get invited to such a dinner, would have published by dessert with no chance for on to off . Salter we say is surely right – this aspect needs a lot more attention not least the operation of 'the drip' to ruin immediate coverage but also we say better to wait for a good solidly researched effort. Including interview with Brissenden (or Daley or Wright) on why they folded, in the chair making his inevitable mea culpa for belated acceptance of the Treasurer's confidence. Just get the grovel confession out Michael, it worked for Kev. Another aspect - re a confidence belatedly accepted then splashing it 2 years later - has been thrashed to death by all other Big Media, so MW could have rehashed but we agree why bother except maybe as a footnote.


Fifth, Overington is no paragon of moral judgement, notwithstanding the AWB outrage she nailed to her great credit. Stuck at The Oz to do their corporate vested interest as above, having tried and failed (?) to get into the ABC, the planks of her argument are not really so strong in the self defined inhouse media bible:


-         we have addressed the Waters Edge which is Salter’s not her point really.

-         The HMAS Sydney wreck that never was – not really false reporting at all, mistaken identity duly clarified, based on views of amateur searchers. It was a big story but a small mistake and all been cured and a small lesson in hedging your bets with a judicious question mark in headlines. Who is hurt by the error? No one, would be our guess.

-         The so called ‘Rudd strip club story’ – well it's still being clarified and embellished with World Today abc carrying the boss of Scores debunking the factual matrix only 2 days ago – after Media Watch’s schedule. In other words the jury and the evidence was still out and excellent editorial decision to hold off on the story at MW, AND for the Herald to not run the story at all. It was bogus. Indeed the real story is how Col Allan leads quality politicians into moral hazard to destroy honourable independent politics. But you won’t read that in The Australian owned by News Ltd.


The Australian with an obvious axe to grind should take it's medicine on misreporting IPCC political endorsement of Howard in an election year via Warren spinning a hobbled, hapless IPCC chief, and stop please stop whining.


Otherwise let's see editor Paul Whittacker publish on the front page that owner Rupert is a fool for also being worried about general delay on climate change policy. I don't think so.


Postscript #1


Low on the inside page of The Media supplement Matthew Warren (and editor Whittaker extract in paper version) of the Oz argue in Storm over IPCC chairman's comments with great sophistry about 'lack of global consensus on urgent strict targets to fight climate change', quoting variability of government positions across the globe. BUT this ignores the firm majority consensus amongst most best scientists inlcuding in the IPCC who do (often despite their governments) want such targets and call for endorsement of Kyoto Protocol which inevitably leads to ... strict emission targets. So its mostly splitting hairs. Only trouble is the Kyoto framework is constantly being sabotaged by Howard and his barrackers in Australia (like Warren, Whittacker), and the USA under GW Bush ... because it leads to strict targets.


Warren, like Gittins at the Herald, can argue cogently there is little practical difference between Coalition and ALP on real climate change policy, and maybe that's his real point anyway positioning Dr Pachauri as Chair of the IPCC, but that's not science or ecological reality, that's duopoly establishment privilege and denial, and certainly not the role of Media Watch.


Also it seems the ABC has shifted some ground on the Water's Edge imbroglio as reported (with glee?) by The Australian here:  ABC places ethics debate on record with no doubt some official grovel there as a concession to critics. But let's not get too coy here - getting a story on leadership tensions provided on anonymous background, then running it in defiance of a request to bury it would be brave and right but also cruel any juicy access. That's the ABC's hard road to hoe, but the commercials surely don't have such scruples and would just balance up value of an immediate story versus value of the drip in future. In this way Brissenden is on a higher relative tax payer funded standard and deserves due sympathy for that heavier burden as a leader in his field, not a follower. It does him credit he feels the ethical pressure now obvious in his interviews. In short a due grovel by a quality journo, no one is perfect, and move on. Scruples should be a virtue not a paralysing obsession. My conclusion, Brissenden probably cured the pre emptive buckle (belatedly, improperly accepting the Treasurer's confidence) by running the story 2 years later and indeed better late than never. Bravo.

Posted by editor at 9:32 AM NZT
Updated: Friday, 24 August 2007 11:07 AM NZT

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