Bulwarks of truth?

A major factor in whether the present Coalition government surmounts the challenge posed by its remarkable electoral success and goes on to achieve Menzies-like longevity, will be whether Howard and the rest of his leadership team are capable of exercising wisdom and restraint in victory. Costello certainly appears to possess those qualities in large measure, but they’ve seldom been evident in people like Tony Abbott or Nick Minchin or Phillip Ruddock, and especially not in acolytes like Bill Heffernan.

Howard himself is a wily veteran, but also a classic Clarkian Punisher and Straitener. If he succumbs to those instincts now that he (probably) effectively controls the Senate, or if the ideological zealots aren’t restrained by wiser heads, the Coalition may well over-reach itself and implement a raft of drastically divisive, unpopular measures. Howard’s very success could ironically seal his party’s doom.

But that will depend in part on how the fourth Howard government is portrayed in the media.

If Howard does indeed use his new-found vastly enhanced power to abolish cross-media ownership rules and deliver Fairfax to Packer and Seven to Murdoch, and if the ABC is also successfully cowed and beaten, then to what extent will most people ever learn about what is happening? Kerry and Rupert will happily keep bread and circuses on the front pages and on A Current Affair et al if Howard delivers them the long-coveted spoils of absolute media duopoly control.

Fortunately, the Packer empire seems unlikely to survive Kerry’s death by too many years, unless Jamie exhibits a lot more ability than he’s shown to date (mind you, people once used to reckon Kerry was Sir Frank’s idiot son too). But in the meantime, the blogosphere (along with independent organs like Crikey) might well become a critical and lonely source of independent political analysis and opinion.

And whether the blogosphere rises to that challenge might depend in part on whether at least some blogs manage to evolve beyond the current norm of self-indulgent partisan shrillness and develop something resembling traditional broadsheet media standards of journalistic rigor and objectivity in presenting the facts, together with balanced presentation of a wide range of opinions. Otherwise we all risk descending into a post-modernist maelstrom of relativistic uncertainty, where anyone’s spin and vitriolic hyperbole is as good as anyone else’s. Maybe Jacques Derrida’s death on Friday was an omen. But signifying what?

Update – John Quiggin picks up on my musing about the role of blogs in a post-abolition of cross-media ownership rules Australia, and is rather more optimistic than me about the prospects. On reflection, I mostly agree with John’s points about the quality of blog opinion punditry. I agree that left and centre-left punditry compares favourably with mainstream media comparators, and even some of the RWDBs are no worse than their mainstream compatriots. Currency Lad and Professor Bunyip are both more entertaining than just about any of the mainstream right wing pundits.

However, I’m nowhere near as dismissive as JQ of the value of Canberra Press Gallery journalists. In fact, I don’t see how any blog-based political “broadsheet” (or loose collective of blogs) could fulfill a plausible journalistic role in the absence of a Gallery journo. Somehow it would be necessary to garner enough cash flow from subscriptions and other revenue sources to allow a credible relatively senior political journo to be employed, and international coverage via Reuters etc to be purchased.

JQ also muses about whether there would be value in “using blog software as the basis rather than the more elaborate content management software used by the Internet versions of mainstream papers“. Ideally I reckon you’d use something like the Google News software, which grabs stories from around the world on a continuous basis and displays them in an online newspaper-like visual display. That would be ideal for content provided by a loosely-connected group of bloggers. Graham Young’s Online Opinion site is already using a fairly basic system of that sort to produce its The Domain aggregation feature. You’d need to improve the appearance substantially, incorporate some images, and implement some loose co-operation on allocation of subject matter to minimise duplication and ensure reasonable comprehensiveness. But the more I think about it, the more it appears that there are no insuperable obstacles to such a development should it ever become democratically necessary.

Another point about generating political content that’s worth making is that a significant proportion of stories in the national print and electronic media merely consist of recycled press releases pumped out by politicians, lobby groups and corporations, with little or no independent intellectual input from journalists (other than a bit of minor sub-editing for length, grammar, spelling and so on). Again, a loose collective of blogs could fairly easily duplicate that function using a single sub-editor employee. But again it would need a certain amount of money, and where would it come from?

About Ken Parish

Ken Parish is a legal academic, with research areas in public law (constitutional and administrative law), civil procedure and teaching & learning theory and practice. He has been a legal academic for almost 20 years. Before that he ran a legal practice in Darwin for 15 years and was a Member of the NT Legislative Assembly for almost 4 years in the early 1990s.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
24 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
mark
2022 years ago

I’ve seen in a few places people hoping that Howard will overreach during the next three years, and give Labor a chance to bounce back, mandated to clean up the mess. But we should remember that, thirty years on, we’re still feeling the legacy of the Whitlam years, despite everything Fraser and Howard have done. Could we still be smarting from Howard’s projected candy store mentality in decades to come, roll-back or no?

Also, your last para rings alarm bells, not because there’s anything wrong with it, but just because anything even remotely approaching ‘blog triumphalism sets them off in the ol’ block these days. ‘Blogs like this one are good for commentary. ‘Blogs like Blair’s or Chris’s are good for sitting around the fire, bitching about one’s opponents. ‘Blogs like mine are good for… um… I’ll get back to you on that one. One thing they’re not good at (even political ‘blogs), with some rare but notable exceptions, is news coverage. Look at IndyMedia, the k3w1 kids’ alternative to Corporate Shills R Us™. Now imagine a thousand different IndyMedias, with more bias and even fewer resources. Now imagine swearing off any other news source. Now imagine playing a banjo somewhere deep in the Outback while you grin gummily at some city slicker and edge towards your shotgun.

Alan Green
2022 years ago

Ken,

Journalism requires facts. Where is a lone blogger going to get facts? Crikey may pull it off, but it’s only little.

You’re spot on to hope that Howard doesn’t overreach himself in the senate.

Jeremy
2022 years ago

I’m just outraged that it looks like the reason Family First is going to get up is that the ALP and Dems preferenced it in the Senate ahead of the Greens. I’ll bet most ALP and Dem voters had no idea that’s where their “1 above the line” was going.

Philip Gomes
2022 years ago

If control of the Senate does pass to the Coalition, does anyone think that Howard will resist the opportunities presented to him. I for one don’t think so.

If the shoe was on the other foot, or even if Labor had won and there was blanket Labor throughout Oz, I (you?) would encourage them to go for it as much agenda setting as possible.

Politics is about the implementation of ideas is it not? Why, if given the opportunity should you pass on it?

Of course much of this is to presume that the Howard agenda is the wrong one for Oz, what if he’s right? Many Australians seem to think that he is.

It is true that with effective control over the senate we now have some version of a parliamentary dictatorship (always a danger in this system), but we have to hope that the saner heads within the Liberal Party will realise that for them to become an even longer term embedded electoral winner that they can’t get too far ahead of the Australian public, no matter what the media barons, corporate shills, and Christian right think.

As for blogs, well it can become some sort of supplementary media, but what form that will evolve into no one knows. It’s all new to me so I’m still trying to nut it out. But my experience is that I have learned a lot in the last six weeks about the intricacies of our body politic from all of you so I think there is an effective place for this form of media.

But in the end, maybe it’ll amount to much ado about nothing.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Mark

I’m not suggesting blogs could provide an even remotely adequate substitute for an independent, diverse mainstream media, and for precisely the reasons you mention. But it might conceivably be all there is if Howard moves effectively against the ABC and on cross-media ownership rules.

Moreover, some blogs might conceivably develop in the direction of a Crikey, attempting to develop a paying subscriber base to build revenue to employ reporters properly so called. If we’re all starved enough of proper journalism, a market might well be there. It’s not something I’d ever want to do personally, but I bet there are some budding media tycoons out there amongst bloggers. One thing the Internet certainly does is reduce the initial barriers to media entry.

Martin Pike
2022 years ago

It’s a heartbreaking day to be an Australian. I hope people get the eco 101 lesson they deserve, and that the almost uncontrollable phenomenon of interest rates takes a leap and allows me some schadenfreude (spelling?).

Lotharsson
Lotharsson
2022 years ago

I think what we need is not so much blogs, as relatively non-partisan fact checking – prototyped in the US by factcheck.org (referenced incorrectly by Dick Cheney in the recent vice-presidential debate) and mediamatters.org. Note though that both are not considered non-partisan by the US right, as the only things they consider non-partisan are the likes of Fox News and littlegreenfootballs.com.

Blogs can do this to some extent, but almost exclusively by picking apart and correlating other information sources. They basically do not have sufficient resources to mine primary information sources.

Homer Paxton
Homer Paxton
2022 years ago

blogs and others like Crikey live off Newspapers and will never replace Newspapers.

As for the government let me predict now, arrogance, payback plus put in tired ministers with a lack of talent makes for interesting times.
also important here is the pressure of actually having to deliver policies now the Senate has changed.

Look at QLD and NSW or even the ALP in 93.

Paul kelly for example is sprouting the same rubbish he was writing in 93 when again he was completely wrong.

On this occasion the strength of howard in this election , highly geared houseowners’ could turn out to be a liability next election.

Ralph
Ralph
2022 years ago

Given the result in the Senate, I think the Northern Land Council should be feeling a little nervous right now.

While I am a strong supporter of land rights, I am part of that large group of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people who believe the NLC has generally failed to deliver on its promise and often adopts a paternalistic approach in dealing with Aboriginal Land and traditional owners.

Furthermore, it has rested on its laurels for many years now, ‘safe’ in the knowledge that a non-conservative majority in the Senate would offer it protection.

Let’s hope the incompetence, the numerous conflicts-of-interest and the overweight centralised bureaucracy of the NLC does not drag down the entire land rights system in Northern Territory over the next three years.

Martin Pike
2022 years ago

Don’t be so cocky Ralph, check out breaking news on families first:
http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,11039287%255E1702,00.html

Sorry to the stolen gens, better conditions for families in detention, sounds like at least some aspects of their policies will be quite palatable for the social left…

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

NB See my update above, which picks up on a post by John Quiggin that develops my initial post here. Maybe the idea of a blog-based broadsheet political daily isn’t as impractical an idea as I first imagined (although generating even marginal revenues would no doubt be problematic).

Mork
Mork
2022 years ago

The only way I see to challenge the coming media duopoly is to convince a new entrant that there is demand for an alternative newspaper – and it seems to me that it would be very, very hard to convince anyone that newspapers is not a shit business to be in.

Maybe APN might think about having a go – they run a mainstream daily in NZ, so they’re probably the one existing group that could do it without having to start from scratch.

Commercially, it would be much easier to start up a TV station, but TV is limited by the number of licenses. And if you think this government is going to reward Murdoch for all his help by licensing another station just when he’s about to get his hands on Seven, you’re ready for a padded cell.

Tony Healy
Tony Healy
2022 years ago

Actually, if the Howard media reforms go ahead, I imagine there will be a lot of good journalists out on the street looking for something new to do. Problem solved.

Mork
Mork
2022 years ago

Tony – content is not the problem with running a newspaper. The challenge is the high fixed costs that you need to start one up (mostly for printing and distribution), while you don’t get any revenue until you’ve proven that you have a readership. That lag means that you need deep pockets.

Ken Parish
Ken Parish
2022 years ago

Mork

I’m not proposing a print version, at least initially. It would be solely an Internet publication until demand for a print version made that viable (if ever). You’d probably have premium subscriber-only content like Crikey, that might be provided in email HTML newsletter format, in order to generate revenue. And presumably you could generate a certain amount of revenue from “click-through” advertising. I’ll be buggered if I know what other available revenue sources might possibly exist. But if you only need to pay an editor and a single experienced Canberra-based journo, as well as whatever rate for Reuters and AAP international content, conceivably it might be done.

Tony Healy
Tony Healy
2022 years ago

Mork, as Ken points out, this thread is about blogospheric news, so there are no printing and distribution costs. Also, you are quite wrong to say content is not a problem with a newspaper. It is THE most important problem.

saint
2022 years ago

Yes Martin, Family First could prove interesting for both the Senate and also those within church circles (my own musings on this and the impact of the net on my election experience)

I think there is some role for blogging. Blair seems to have been talking about it and positioning himself for this for a while (and now makes his famed $800 a month)

Darren at Living Room now supports himself by blogging and has a separate blog with ‘commercial’ blog tips.

However how much of the market share then gets diluted as new competitors get in on the act…and makes blogging economically unviable is anyone’s guess. It would seem that the early birds will catch any worm that is out there for the picking.

Cameron Riley
2022 years ago

On the issue of new media rivalling old/mass media; new media is aggregative which mass media can never be. The Australian blogs/pundit/commentary sites cross-link constantly.

It is a like a news cycle, the mass-media’s subject might get discussed, or if an influential blogger/pundit explores a new subject outside of the mass-media news cycle then other bloggers/pundits cross link it and add to the discussion as well, either in isolation or even in comment. In that extent the blogosphere already drives discourse which was formally the monopoly of government/mass-media.

Mass media is far more static in its delivery and far less aggregative. I think the day will come when the newspapers are more like the glossy trade rags that you constantly get at work for free, and are 90% advertising with some staff writers echoing the major advertiser#s needs of the day.

I expect that once journalists determine a means to earn a living out of blogging, pod-casting or stream-casting then they will desert the Murdoch media in droves – prefering independence over corporate ultimatims to content.

At the moment, blogging/scoop etc are very visual and textual. With the increasing band-width and devices like the ipod, pod-casting is starting to appear and those that prefer their news and commentary aurally get that option (rather than tv-radio).

One of my mates infrequently runs a (personal) radio station from his laptop – it is awesome and craps over mainstream radio. The next Rush Limbaugh, Alan Jones etc personality will probably rise from their shed/basement through narrow casting in some way.

Mass media is defined by scarcity of outlets and hence opinions, the internet is already defined by its diversity. With increased bandwidth, users and creators information will move to an abundance model and oust mass media until mass media is marginalized into niche media.

Soon come the day IMO

Cameron Riley
2022 years ago

On the issue of new media rivalling old/mass media; new media is aggregative which mass media can never be. The Australian blogs/pundit/commentary sites cross-link constantly.

It is a like a news cycle, the mass-media’s subject might get discussed, or if an influential blogger/pundit explores a new subject outside of the mass-media news cycle then other bloggers/pundits cross link it and add to the discussion as well, either in isolation or even in comment. In that extent the blogosphere already drives discourse which was formally the monopoly of government/mass-media.

Mass media is far more static in its delivery and far less aggregative. I think the day will come when the newspapers are more like the glossy trade rags that you constantly get at work for free, and are 90% advertising with some staff writers echoing the major advertiser#s needs of the day.

I expect that once journalists determine a means to earn a living out of blogging, pod-casting or stream-casting then they will desert the Murdoch media in droves – prefering independence over corporate ultimatims to content.

At the moment, blogging/scoop etc are very visual and textual. With the increasing band-width and devices like the ipod, pod-casting is starting to appear and those that prefer their news and commentary aurally get that option (rather than tv-radio).

One of my mates infrequently runs a (personal) radio station from his laptop – it is awesome and craps over mainstream radio. The next Rush Limbaugh, Alan Jones etc personality will probably rise from their shed/basement through narrow casting in some way.

Mass media is defined by scarcity of outlets and hence opinions, the internet is already defined by its diversity. With increased bandwidth, users and creators information will move to an abundance model and oust mass media until mass media is marginalized into niche media.

Soon come the day IMO

trackback
2022 years ago

Australian election round-up

John Howard’s thumping win on the weekend was always the most likely result. Labor’s inept final week and especially its unnecessary deal with the Greens which cost it two seats in Tasmania, not to mention Mark Latham’s limited time at the helm, all co…

trackback
2022 years ago

A blog newsdaily ?

One obvious consequence of the government’s victory and effective control of the Senate will be the repeal of restrictions on media ownership, with the likely consequence of a takeover of the Fairfax papers by one of our great magnates, or…

trackback
2022 years ago

The memes of defeat

A key “argument” making the rounds in the wake of the election is that the people were fooled by a rightwing media. Couple of points: yes, the media almost uniformly endorsed the Howard government and this makes it hard for…

trackback
2022 years ago

yep

A day off. A quiet coffee. Reading the newspapers. Enjoying the cool weather after Monday’s horror day of wind and

trackback
2022 years ago

roulette

You may find it interesting to visit some information about roulette blackjack 888