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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Thursday, 3 April 2008
Report on 'trust online' forum at UTS 2nd April 08
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: independent media

The small theartrette in building four was filled to the maximum with 100 students and the audience also included some professional journalists.

SAM's editor went last and had the most formally prepared speech (tip for young players - speech written in 16 point triple spaced bold - it works!) and it seemed to go off okay. The Q & A at the end was fairly energetic. The refreshments afterward were even more so. We stuck to the tea.

The other presenters and details of the event are listed here.

We met the covert blogger of HousoLink dedicated to the cause of those in public housing. She is quite a trouper by the looks:

The forum was organised by New Matilda and Australian Centre for Independent Journalism.

Meanwhile we noticed in the Media section of the The Oz today the death of Rod Campbell yesterday after a long illness after a 30 year career with The Canberra Times. We offer our sincere condolences to his family particularly his younger sisters Heloise and Rowena. May he rest in peace.

Here is our speech below fairly close to what was actually delivered:

Hi, I’m the editor of a micro news website SydneyAlternativeMedia.com  also known as SAM which was born 3rd January 2007. I’m also a solicitor in NSW.

Thanks to New Matilda and Australian Centre for Independent Journalism for organising this

Trust is a very timely topic. I clipped an article recently that people are spending 13.7 hours per week surfing the net, overtaking 13.3 hours a week watching TV.

Talking about trust is also like the proverbial Denton "enough rope". I’m reassured it’s hard to rope a mossie sized operation like SAM. 

We are a micro news website  not simply a blog - no personal trivia, or anonymous junk. We go for the public interest issues. We dwell on the Big Media a lot too as meta reportage.

This topic is somewhat loaded because conversely we could ask: “Who do you distrust offline?”.

To put the positive case we source respectable non govt email networks and also 5 filing cabinets / 15 years worth of discipline form the green ngo sector.

We break some stories on conservation, local community centre, anything going. We bring a local government experience to our community media, the reverse direction of someone like Maxine McKew or Prue Goward going from professional media to big politics.

We get 20,000 page views a month on an upward trend and post the reader stats every month as a reality check.

Recently a producer for Sixty Minutes said he was aware of SAM, as did an experienced reporter at NSW Stateline . This suggests the SAM subversive ‘community media’ is finding its target, that is, getting inside the head of the big media. This fits our strategy of – in like a needle out like a plough.

Building content on SAM has been very satisfying. Even therapeutic – After 15 years in the NGO sector one feels a bit like jaded Peter Wright on the last page of his 1987 book Spycatcher: A person who knew too many secrets”. Or perhaps the old lawyer in the 2007 film Michael Clayton heartily sick of all the double talk.

In terms of trust why has humble SAM been growing in readers?

Firstly, The public interest mission is worthy

Secondly  SAM promotes ecological sustainability as a political economic subtext. This is 21C thinking. By contrast we recall the disgraceful axing of Earthbeat on Radio National late 2004. That was under a previous regime.

Thirdly: Legal resources. Like reversing a ban off Sydney Uni campus, and reporting the APEC and ICAC proceedings.

Fourthly: Experience. It may be  'age and treachery will beat youth and idealism every time'. But not age and idealism.

Fifthly, non profit – Gandhi teaches that self sacrifice shows sincerity. I started out as a corporate lawyer in 1990 and downshifted from there whereas youthful ambition and careerism is vulnerable to flattery of special interests. Also anyone who sues us will lose a lot of money before we ever do.

Lastly, basic journalistic principles even as an amateur –  check facts, balance, corrections given equal prominent, right of reply, rhetorical question marks to avoid being sued for defamation. Never say anything without evidence.

I heard investigative journalists Andrew Fowler of 4 Corners and the Herald’s Kate McClymont on ABC radio recently along the lines of “don’t trust anyone”[1]. I tend to agree.

Nor do I particularly trust a great facility with words because it could signify a clarity of thinking, or it could be sophistry. Or shallow charm as in the Brideshead Revisited sense.

Nor do I trust the hard Left who present like the fishers in the recent Children of Men post apocalyptic movie, nor the hard right who confuse healthy competition with cancer causing stress.

Nor the naked ambition of the high volume Gawker website in New York trashing quality content with sensationalism[2]


I don’t even trust the Independent Commission Against Corruption after the Herald reported [3] their manager of investigations Melinda McCabe ended up working by coincidence with Joe Scimone in the NSW Maritime Authority.

I don’t really trust the Herald either with two recent examples being

Firstly, a thinly veiled advertising special for the NSW Govt promoting their Green Globe Awards heavy on the corporate greenwashing [4] with such as Stockland pushing development over Sandon Point coastal dunes;

Secondly, another worry was the airbrushing of the Green Party and Environmental policy as a voters concern in their comparison of the ALP and Coalition [5]: Arguably it was environment that turned Govt for Greiner in 91-2 (known as the Metherell Affair), Fahey in ’95, Carr in 99 and 2003. Yet the Herald ignored it as a policy factor? The Australian same day showed the Green Party on 14% in the polls.

Nor do I trust the Rudd Govt which may yet get its own Howard style National Media Liaison Service aka aNiMaLS [6]. Then there is the great insider/outsider debate over whether ‘independent’ journalists should really be duchessed by the 2020 summit.

Similarly I like and respect the ABC but I don’t trust it entirely. I am heartened by an article by Tony Moore [7]where he notes:

“The ABC is grappling with how to transform itself from a paternalistic public broadcaster catering to a loyal if passive audience to a multi-channel narrow-caste, engaging diverse and conditional audiences that have an expectation they will participate, or at least be consulted, in content creation.”

But all is not lost – what I do trust is:

- a dynamic free press as represented in the totality of these 2 folders of clips about the good bad and ugly of the Sydney 2000 Olympics: Lies, bribes, gangsters, drugs and arrogance. One can only hope the same dynamic coverage for Beijing later this year.

- similarly I trust the maverick spirit like Jamie Johnson who the Wall Street Journal reports is the rich man’s Michael Moore (via The Australian p35 25/2/08) seeking out and embarrassing rich folks in the USA for “going too far”.

- I trust getting out in the field and seeing stories and issues for myself, like mum and dad APEC protesters putting the lie to smear and demonizing by authorities.

- I trust an open inquiring mind even while 70% of Australians have limited education.

- Like Gandhi I trust openness, which not only helps avoid violence

- I trust a vocational commitment, where career and profit are a mere by product.

- I trust my digital camera because when the Big Media come after you, just trade clicks as I did down at the Holt St Harlot and funny to say they feel just as naked as anyone else.

In learning about the chimera we call truth I recommend Giuseppe de Lampedusa's historical novel The Leopard  which is a marvelous study of how time distorts all perceptions so people actually create their own 'facts'. If official history is so plastic, we can hardly expect more of the web. At least with the web we have the instant compare and contrast of keyword searching via google, which presumably is why the erstwhile Carr govt banned web based archive of their media releases. Did Google kills Bob Carr's career?


In conclusion, don’t trust anyone online or offline until they’ve earned it.

[1] Deborah Cameron, ABC 702 radio, 26th March 2008

[2] Hits or dismiss, Iain Hollingshead, The Guardian, 10 March 2008

[3] Sydney Morning Herald page 1, 21/2/08 “Watchdog investigator became colleague”

[4] 4 pages worth 4 March 2008, Sydney Morning Herald

[5] Sydney Morning Herald on 5th March 08

[6] Mark Davis, Will the latest ANiMaLS be CUTsies or go CaCTUS?, SMH p11 25 Feb 2008

[7] SMH 25 March 08 p11

Posted by editor at 7:01 PM NZT
Updated: Saturday, 5 April 2008 10:04 AM NZT

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