Another windmill; another tilt

Enough of critique already.  During the election I started a campaign to try to mix a little activism into the numerous well founded critiques of the truly crapulous quality of our media. I figured in this day and age it might be possible to ignite something via some consciousness raising and shaming using new things like the hash tag – hence my suggestion of #HeSaidSheSaid and #mediacarcase. Anyway, given that I had no time to promote it, it wasn’t a surprise that the ground did not swell.

Still I think it’s worth setting out here what I think is possible. I think a community of actors could come together to set out on a wiki a code of conduct – because I genuinely think that a lot of journalists do what they do not just for lack of time and resources – which has always been a problem and will remain so – but also because that’s the way it’s done in their trade. As there are journalists who seem to almost never transgress against the rules of this code of conduct – I can think of Margaret Simons and Peter Martin as just two examples – it’s quite possible to keep to the code of conduct. Partially in response to an emailed suggestion from me, Margaret Simons set out a code of conduct. It wasn’t exactly as I’d have done it which is probably a plus, because it’s a very engaging list. Still, I think it would be good to develop it with examples and strategies to help journalists avoid the pitfalls of their culture as it stands today.

The other thing I think would be possible would be to do is to strengthen the hand of Media Watch by building some community Web 2.0 resources to build a hall of shame and glory. Tim Dunlop has been doing some great things documenting the foibles of the media. So has Matt Cowgill and Mr Denmore whose site I shamefacedly confess I’ve only just discovered (so many good things to find online, so little time). Thus Tim outlines in detail how all the nonsensical reporting of the two party preferred vote was entirely avoidable. Journalists just needed to read Anthony Green or indeed (I presume) just read the footnotes of the Electoral Commission’s output and/or make a phone call to Someone Who Would Know.  Matt bemoans the reporting of anti-wage rise spin as news including the ‘cash rate cringe’. I’m sure a lot of the reporting he complains about – and about which he is right to complain – is produced by journalists who would be quite surprised that anyone thought they were doing bad journalism.

In fact the unions have the resources to start some crowdsourced community Web 2.0 showcase of good and bad reporting on their issues. I would have thought doing so would be a good investment for them. Even if such a resource had a pro-union bias as I expect it would, it would nevertheless be a very useful repository of information and of shaming the worst kind of reporting. And surely others could build something with a broader focus. Couldn’t Crikey advantage itself by joining and energising with such an enterprise? Of course it’s not immune from some of the tendencies that are documented, but it’s still a breath of fresh air compared with the MSM including often and sadly, the ABC.

Anyway, it would be nice to see some resources come together on this.  I’d be happy to throw some funds and a small amount of time that way.  It would be good to involve journalism students in it. Any journalism students or web geeks want to do anything? Any thoughts?

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Mervyn Jacobi
Mervyn Jacobi
11 years ago

Nicholas, There was a young lady living near us a few years ago, doing a course on journalism, and she said she was taught to present a controversial remark that would create action from people who were upset at her remarks and create responses. I don’t know if this is of was correct, just something I was told.

Richard Green
11 years ago

The rather hostile reaction from the press gallery to the recent critical response to their sheer incapacity may just be that it’s really the first time that journalism has been exposed to feedback from outside the system…and they’re just not use to handling it. Tim Dunlop made the point that the critics are the journalist’s audience – to put it another way, they’re the journalists customers. If I ordered a steak and said it was overcooked, I doubt the cook would criticise me for being an armchair chef…they’d probably adjust their cooking instead.

With media, with oligopolies, revenue that is based on duking the distribution stats for advertising and very little way of differentiating between buyers (or watchers) who are buying for the sports and those who want the opinion, there’s been precious little in the way of sales feedback for journalists to determine what their customers actually want. And since you bought off the newsagent, your only option previously was angry letters to the editor.

So they relied on the established norms and eagerly pursued a course of failing conventionally. Since the consumers of media rejected an approach that was uniform across the media, revenue dropped everywhere and was thus not deemed to be the failure of any journalists.

My basic point is that not only could a decent feedback wiki produce far better journalism, and far better public policy, it could also save the traditional media forms that are suffering. It might ram home that falling sales and viewership isn’t because inane hoi polloi only want to watch funny cat videos on youtube, it’s just that the funny cat videos are more insightful than the turds that established journalistic norms keep serving up.

Fred Argy
Fred Argy
11 years ago

Your suggestions seem interesting – develop a code of conduct, strengthen the hand of Media Watch, more Union input etc.

This what we get from our media, sensationalising: it’s not only Murdoch, although that is the worst of them. It is almost as true of the ABC. They all feel the need to compete.

Thank you for putting me on Tim Dunlop and Mr. Denmore and especially Matt Cowgill.

Matt C
11 years ago

Thanks for the links!
I love the idea of a showcase of good and bad reportage. I suspect it would inflame a lot of journalists’ anger, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Glad to hear you liked my blog.

Mr Denmore
Mr Denmore
11 years ago

Thanks also for the mention. The Failed Estate blog is available here.

There are so many us – Matt, Tim, myself and others – who are attempting to lift the standards of reporting, it would make sense to pool resources in some way.

Absolute Crabb
11 years ago

This sounds very worthwhile. Maybe Margaret Simons would be in a place to assist in recruitment of interested journalism students. Aren’t you sometimes on Triple J Dr Gruen? You could put out a call.

I like the idea of #mediacarcase; maybe tweaking it to #mediafail would get better traction – “Fail” is a Gen Y word.

What kind of tools are there for “Web 2.0 showcasing”? Would the idea be to host commentary on TV and print articles? I quite like the idea of those fake “warning stickers” from a few weeks ago, perhaps with horse race, insider, he said she said etc variants that could be awarded.

In addition to Simons’ piece, Prof. Jay Rosen’s “Pressthink” site has a lot of excellent deconstruction of the crapulous media from a US perspective. He wrote up a response to the question of “How should the campaign be covered?” asked on Lateline, and calls it the “Citizen’s Agenda”:

It would be great if this knot of dissatisfied economists and journalists could get something going. Why don’t you start a group blog…?