Possums Pollytics

Politics, elections and piffle plinking

Kick the Media Open Thread

Posted by Possum Comitatus on July 23, 2008

OK folks – it’s vent your spleen over political reporting time!:mrgreen:

What is bad, but more importantly why is it bad?

And what is being lost in the process?

What should political reporting entail?

Do bloggers fulfill a role in Australian political reporting, and if so, would they if political reporting in the MSM was of a higher quality? What shits you to tears about political bloggers? While you’re at it, what shits you to tears about me?

What is the future of political reporting and analysis in the media? How would you like to see it evolve into the future?

If alternative media went commercial to take the MSM on head to head for the pointy end of the market (that’s you dear readers), would you think more or less of them for doing that? What would be the pitfalls and perils of such a move?

And name who you think are the better MSM political journo’s and why?

I’m interested in all of your thoughts over this – just try to keep the defo in your pants.

UPDATE:

2 Tanners in comments raised the issue of expert knowledge and writers, and how knowing what you’re talking about is always helpful.

On this point, here’s a really good example of two opinion pieces on the same topic from the last few days, where there’s a vast chasm between the expertise of the authors – the results speak for themselves.

Kohler vs Albrechtsen over an Aussie Mac.

84 Responses to “Kick the Media Open Thread”

  1. Julian Watson said

    Possum,

    Ill advised people who refuse to let evidence be their guide and admit when they’re wrong, shit me right up the wall. Such algae seem to grow around The Australian, with the exception of George Megalogenis.

    Jules

  2. Sir Ian Upton said

    I think most people can identify the bias of our political newshounds and make adjustments accordingly. For instance, try to imagine Piers with an AK-47 on his lap as he pounds away at his keyboard and you can then strip away the bias in his articles. Try to imagine that Juanita has no control over both her eyebrows and you’ll soon dismiss her subtle efforts to influence the viewers.

  3. The West Australian:

    All that is bad about political reporting, encapsulated in one publication;

    1. Personal vendettas against ministers that go way beyond the due and proper scrutiny that is required in the absence of an effective opposition.

    2. Opinion polling with a sample size of whomever was on the same train as the pollster that morning being asked ludicrously imbalanced questions.

    3. Reporting on said poll omitting details like who they might vote for given that they don’t intend to vote for either of the majors (somewhere around 18% of respondents last time if memory serves), then being skewed to support whatever dubious arguments the editor feels like.

    4. No effective alternative!

    5. No interest in fostering genuinely participatory discussion online.

    Political blogging (state-based) here seems to be lacking – in terms of both the content itself, and a sufficiently high readership to engage with it. But please, somebody point me to a blog or two that disproves this point…

  4. Classified said

    The NT News from about 15yrs ago, now that was a scary bunch of no-hair-bears (no idea what its like now)

  5. Jeanette said

    Silly me The-paris-ite, I thought you meant the Courier Mail. Isn’t it about time there was a broadsheet in Queensland?

  6. ricc said

    I read thepipingshrike.blogspot.com, the only sensible political commentary in this country. The rest is just nonsense, especially in the commercial press.

    The press gallery is just a gossip channel

  7. Kina said

    The media is obsessed with how just about anything will affect LNP polling recovery and, it seems just about anything Rudd does will bring about the end of a honeymoon. I don’t recall the same approach being applied to Howard and Beasley ALP.

    In short much of the media is obsessed with the LNP recovery and chances of wining back government. We have seen some of the worst journalism in a very long time from some quarters when it appeared nothing was going to affect the standing of Rudd ALP.

  8. Marktwain said

    What shits me about you, Possum, is that you insist on only reading the Murdoch papers, insist on categorising the whole news media by what young Dennis has to say for himself, and, like most of your readers, insist on moulding your arguments around that little piece of illogic.

    Your inability to use an apostrophe correctly also shits me, but you know this. The bigger complaint is not that you constantly harp on how dreadful the media is, but that you are obviously gunning for more hits on your website by raising this topic. Why not just type in “big marsupial boobies Angelina & Brad Mugabe climate change denial Penny Wong is a lesbian Obamamania erectile dysfunction Cowra axe murderer” and be done with it? You’ll get more far more hits, and far more intelligent posts, particularly when I’m Googling.

  9. Kina said

    Murdoch papers make up a very large portion of the whole and in the West? Not to mention the movement of the ABC and parts of channel 9.

    People seem to not want to face the fact that the greater portion of the media has become tied up in how to down sell Rudd. Simple fact. I did go through the exercise of reading every major Australian paper every day for over a year from all states – it cannot be denied that there has been and still is a strong right wing bias and, in recent times they have become even more loopy in some quarters.

    When anyone starts to get personnel in their comments everything they have said is automatically devalued and seen as baseless rant – the focus turns from the attack to what is behind the emotion.

  10. Julian Watson said

    Wow Possum,

    For someone who doesn’t like your site, Marktwian (9) seems to know a lot about it…

    If he truly doesn’t read your site, then not sure how he can comment in such definite terms!

    Go Martwian – illogical or not, it’s good to see some fire in the belly!

    Jules

  11. janice said

    The media.
    The inability or disinclination to present balanced analysis (the pros and cons of a policy if you like). The inability to accept that the previous government were turfed out of govt for good reason and not on a silly whim. The blatant campaign to promote the agenda of the previous government and downgrade or denigrate whatever the new government does. As Kina posts at 7 and 9, the media is obsessed with upping the stakes of the Coalition and trying to find ways of tarnishing the Rudd ALP to achieve that end.

    All the above is bad irrespective of political views because it polarises opinion without giving both sides of the argument.

    Journalists, commentators and political analysts carry a certain responsibility to inform rather than present their own personal opinions and to report with truth and integrity.

    Bloggers.
    I believe that bloggers and the public at large are capable of coming to their own conclusions if msm political reporting was of the highest standard. I believe the public would be better informed and would not fall prey to the spin and misinformation put out by politicians seeking re-election.

    As for you, Possum, I have a soft spot for Possums!

  12. Possum Comitatus said

    Long time no snark Ms Twain!

    Unfortunately my misapostrohisation is a rather chronic disorder with no cure on the horizon.

    If I wanted traffic I’d do polling analysis -this piece will get only about a third of the traffic that a number crunching article would. I’m honestly interested in folks answers here for a whole variety of reasons.

    Bashing the media is the easy bit, it’s not like there’s a shortage of ammunition hanging around – but I’m interested in something a bit more specific, political reporting, peoples perceptions of it and what they expect as a basic yardstick of quality.

  13. Possum Comitatus said

    I think Laura Tingle in the Fin Review is the national benchmark for quality political reporting in Australia (Ms Twain should be happy – a mention of a Fairfax journo:mrgreen: )

    George Meg is excellent, but he’s really in a field of his own. There’s no other print journos out there that do anything like what he does.

    I also think Sam Maiden has excelled in the way she does the online grunt work for The Oz.If you look at the online versions of the all the Australian daily papers, Sam Maiden is the only journo from any publication that has been successfully able to combine the roles of real time political reporting, political commentary and audience interaction.

  14. 2 tanners said

    Maybe Marktwain will draw some useful commentary with the dangling Googlebait.:D

    In the MSM, I tend to like the issues based commentators, partly because they tend not to be so one-sided (in fact you can often tell them as they aren’t scared to criticise either side) and especially the economic commentators – and I don’t mean op-ed drivel produced by partisan writers intent on justifying a pre-existing position. In the first category, I’d put folks like George Megaloganis, Peter Martin and (in a less economic vein) Jack the Insider. In the other camp there are too many to mention, but I draw no real distinction between op-ed pieces by Adams and Albrechston. You know what the underlying argument is before you read (or in my case now, don’t read) the column. I just don’t waste my time with them, espcially as I believe they probably get paid/employed on the number of eyeballs their comments draw whether or not the reader agrees with the viewpoint.

    Bloggers are a different ballgame.

    For a start, the readership is far more selective in its choice – broadsheet readers are looking for more than just politics or (even more limited) psephlogical insights into politics. They want sports, entertainment, business, news, comics, TV programs and more wrapped in a neat bundle. This makes cheap and easy positions in the MSM a preference whereas bloggers tand or fall on both their expertise and presentational ability (as well as persistence).

    Bloggers are also often driven by passion. This in itself often makes them more interesting although not necessarilt more analytical.

    Bloggers often surprise. Bolter can’t vary from the script, as his readership would rebel (except as an April Fools Day joke) whereas scepticlawyer often takes a really novel viewpoint on a matter.

    And finally, bloggers are very often experts – academics, professionals, politicians and the like. they know what they are talking about, unlike many MSM journos who still have yet to realise that the saying ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ applies in spades to them.

    For those of us who want deeper analysis, it’s more available in the blogosphere. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s Tim Lambert or Harry Clark, they’ve got interesting things to say and the evidence and education to back it up.

    Finally, the worst of the worst is back in the MSM, but it ain’t the Murdoch rags, it’s TV 5 second soundbites masquerading as news. ABC’s Newshour is something of a welcome antidote and there are others, but they are the exception.

  15. janice said

    Possum,
    I agree with you on the excellence of Laura Tingle, George Meg and Samantha Maiden. I also think Michelle Grattan does her job well. I particularly like the way George and Samantha stand ready to back up their pieces with explanations as to the reasoning behind their conclusions in the face of criticism or otherwise from their readers. As far as blogs go, the likes of Shanahan, Albrectson and Sheridan write their often outrageous columns, put them up for comments in the blogs but by their refusal to interact, are safe from being challenged to debate or explain their thinking.

    George M stands out like a beacon because whatever opinions or analysis he presents, he is always ready to back it up with facts and explain the reasoning behind his views. Not everyone who reads George’s pieces would come away in complete agreement with him but they do come away armed with food for thought and facts with which to form an educated opinion.

  16. Possum Comitatus said

    Janice – as 2 Tanners mentioned, Jack the Insider is also another MSM writer that does new media really well. It’s interesting that the writers that do the new media format best, all have have a really healthy sense of irony. Maybe that’s a prereq with this sort of stuff?

  17. David Gould said

    I think that there are two problems:

    1.) Every writer is going to have an opinion on a topic, well-informed or not. They are paid to have opinions, so if they do not have one, they are going to have to get one.

    2.) These opinions are the focus of any writing that they do, not the evidence for or against them.

    3.) It takes a lot to change any person’s opinion on anything. And when your opinion has been in a national newspaper for all to see, you have a lot of capital invested in it – even if no-one really cares, you do.

    This is why, in my opinion😉, opinion pieces by people outside their speciality are most often worthless. And journalists are, pretty much by definition, giving opinions on things outside their speciality. Science journalists are not scientists as a rule; political journalists are not politicians as a rule; economic journalists are not economists as a rule. And so on. If the mainstream media concentrated on providing the facts and then used the blogsphere as the place for opinions, I think that would sharpen things up a bit.

  18. Firemaker said

    I used to get angry because I thought that Piers, Janet and Greg had some sort of influence with their blatant bias. I now realise that the only people people who are influenced by them have already been converted.

    But its a bit like “Media Watch”. I know that some of the stuff in the papers and on television is crap but I don’t really want to be told it once a week. Most of the stuff that Pos and Mumble provide is fantastic but the wars with poor journalists just gets boring.

    Some sort of admission that there was a narrowing in the last few weeks of the election. A ‘we were slightly wrong’ admission would up the credibility of these blogs from ‘Very Good’ to ‘Excellent”.

  19. Possum Comitatus said

    Firemaker – I haven’t ever disputed The Narrowing that occurred in the last week of the campaign, there was even entire threads on it that measured it and looked at it specifically:

    https://possumcomitatus.wordpress.com/2007/11/30/more-on-the-narrowing/
    https://possumcomitatus.wordpress.com/2007/11/26/the-fallout-open-thread/

    I just continue to poke fun at it because the whole thing was pretty funny!

    Undoubtedly “the wars with poor journalists” do get tedious and boring – but I am interested in what people define as quality in political reporting and analysis. What people expect of good political analysis and what sets the good apart from the bad.

  20. Firemaker said

    Pos,
    Your right.
    Nothing more embarrassing than being shot down by facts.
    I suppose that makes your blog excellent.

  21. LuckyDave said

    Possum, can I suggest taking a different tack by recognising the positive and as this column has started to do.

    As your contrast between Kohler and Albrechtsen demonstrates when quality is recognised it slices and dices the wannabes all by itself.

    I would like to start by giving Aunty much credit here. We take Kerry O’Brien for granted, yet his interview skills have held up extremely well. That last interview with JW Howard was a classic. His Queensland corruption invsetigation invterviews should be immortalised.

    Tony Jones doesn’t take much of a backward step. And whenever he dabbles in the political it’s remarkable what Denton reveals. Take for example his latest work on elders, with Bob Hawke and the Helen Thomas interview who personifies the topic of quality MSM political journalism.

    Newshour the USA, PBS service broadcaster hosted by SBS has Mark Shields who is an exceptional commentator. Encyclopedic knowledge akin to a partisan Antony Green.

    Antony Green is also a truly remarkable commentator. Just a pity he is so professional and neutral. I’d love to see him let loose with the 1 iron.

    Bob Ellis from an emotional stand point is our poet laureate and writes the best political sagas.

    And for satire our cartoonists (Nicholson, Leunig, Rowe et al) and Clarke and Dawes invariably deliver.

    Over to you

  22. David Gould said

    Hmmm. I would not put Bob Ellis anywhere in a good list of journalists. He can write well, but his opinions are so biased – and often so obviously wrong – that he is almost worse than dear Janet.

  23. Zaf said

    Wars with poor journos – or accusations of Crimes Against Psephology – raise the bar, they’re good for standards. Could they push some journalists to write more responsibly if only to avoid demimonde ridicule? Worth a shot, I say. And a cause for some guilty enjoyment for bystanders.

    Your blog? I’m still slightly traumatised by the “but this is how manly cricketers behave” thing, but it was certainly interesting in terms of showing an assumptions disconnect that I had honestly not realised existed.

  24. 2353 said

    Whoever proclaimed the Curious Snail as Her Magesty’s Official Opposition in Queensland needs to be shot. The Opposition’s job is to bitch, complain and offer alternatives – the media’s job is to report without bias. Unfortunately this doesn’t occur here.

    (Whether Her Majesty’s Official Opposition is capable of performing as such is an entirely different topic.)

  25. LuckyDave said

    David Gould at 22

    Surely Bob Ellis’ description of kissing a blubbering and salty tasting Sir James Killen on the mouth at the funeral of a mutual friend shows his ability to capture the moment and to transport the reader.

    I described Ellis as a poet because he captures the essences and times within a political context. To dismiss Ellis because he is eccentric is to discount an exceptional mind and great contributor to the Australian political commentariat. Bob Ellis is the antithesis of the soundbite.

  26. Mexican Beemer said

    There are two different issues at play here!

    1) The media is generally lazy and report politics in a shallow manner, often this shallow style of reporting reducing debate to headlines.

    A good example is channel 9’s Today show where they have Roos Greenwood talk finance but it always turns into a populist bash the Government of Business rather than explaining the pros and cons!

    Recently Greenwood complained about Public Servents getting a pay rise! yet if the Government made a bad decision he would be the first to bag the Government!

    I’m not saying Greenwood knows nothing about Finance but that is just one example where the media runs a story to create a response!

    I know that most people don’t want or need the inas and outs of every policy or detailed expernation as to why the American Economy is screwed! but the media needs to be mindful that its primary function is to report!

    Ithis brings me to the second point and even here and more so over at Poll Bludger debate on too many occasions becomes narrow and is reduced to petty name calling which is the very reason why people are turned off polictics in the first place!

    What we need is for the media to focus on issues and bloggers to reduce the name calling!

    I know Polictics is a bit like Football, we get passionate but there is a find line between detailed debate, rebuitted a position and outright abuse!

    There is nothing wrong with bias on the condition that it is open for we are all bias!

  27. josh lyman said

    My main gripe, aside from blatantly ignorant, evidence-avoiding and frankly boring op-ed writers of the Old Right and Left (does Adams speak for anyone on the Left anymore???), is lazy journos and non-existent editors getting basic facts wrong, or changing the ‘reality’ via bad summarisation.

    For example, in the Oz today on page 1: Lenore Taylor (let’s name and shame) mentions the AWU aluminium workers, who came out before the Green Paper arguing for exemptions for trade-exposed emissions intensive industries. Guess what the Green Paper delivered? Have you seen the AWU complaining since? So why does she still mention them as if they oppose the ‘preferred position’ of the government? To be fair to Lenore, she’s no worse than the other journos covering the ETS/CPRS – none of whom seem to have bothered to read beyond the 1-page media releases.

    Another example: I was at the Newcatle coal protest a few weekends ago, in which about 50 people crossed onto the rail line to protest gov’t tardiness on climate change and moves to accelerate coal exports. All but 2-3 arrests were for trespass (ie. nonviolent offences), but reporting across the entire MSM said “37 people were arrested for a range of offences including affray and malicious damage” and TV images and photos lingered on police horses pushing protesters around to emphasise the conflict. From the report, a reasonable viewer/reader who was not there would understand there was a ‘clash’ at the protest and lots of people were arrested for argy-bargy, which could not be further from the truth. These errors were even present in what most protestors would have considered comparably ‘positive’ coverage.

    Okay, rant over.

  28. Paul said

    I miss Matt Price of the Australian. We need more journos like him.

  29. David Richards said

    DG @ 17:

    Science journos especially seem to have scant knowledge of science. Is this area seen as one handed to the junior staffers because it is deemed to be unimportant?

    Generally, journos seem to have little knowledge of anything much at all, including proper English.

    As for having no choice – in Adelaide we have just one paper owned by Citizen Rupert.

  30. Classified said

    miss Matt Price of the Australian. We need more journos like him.

    Amen to that brother

  31. bilko said

    Possum
    Before Nov 24th I use to read the SMH,OZ & Age our own CT then the blogs now my reading is reversed,its like back to the days of Gough. Even Hawkie and PJK had it better.
    Whilst the blogs can be venomous the commentaries are from both sides of the political spectrum.
    I am disappointed that the Rudd govn appears to have wimped out on the hard stuff when the general public expects some pain, and a light at the end of the tunnel. Rudd needs to drop the nice guy act get stuck into the opposition, he is in government NOW. No more handouts to ex Lib\Nat has beens ie Tim Fischer etc

  32. David Richards said

    Ruddles has been rather a let-down. Howard had to go – but an opportunity to reverse the damage he wrought has been squandered. The housing plan in particular will do nothing to solve the housing crisis. What is needed is a massive revival of public housing (not multi-story tower blocks or other high density options, but civilised medium density solutions). I know this usually a state responsibility – but Federal funds that are tied to State Government expanding their public housing efforts in terms of increasing public housing stock and reducing waiting lists from several years back down to several months would be a way for the Federal Government to actually make a difference in this area.

    Similar criticisms of the Rudd approach can be made in every policy area. It’s a timid, luke-warm government.

    Having said that, Ruddles is at least not as embarrassing as JWH (Ruddles’ pathetic WCYD performance notwithstanding).

  33. Aspirational Aspirationalist said

    While i dont follow political reporting in the tree version of the papers that much, I never remember any of them reporting things that happen in parliament like the gagging of debate and motions that members no longer be heard.

    Seems to be analagous to a Ref not reporting a punch or pushing the face into the mud during a scrum or something.

    [Apologies AA – you were hanging around in the spam bin with Viagra and insurance spruikers….. Poss ]

  34. Ad astra said

    Like all of us, journalists carry biases. Some exhibit such extreme and consistent bias that only their rusted-on readers could enjoy reading their pieces; others avoid them. Some of the bloggers who respond to such pieces exhibit intense bias, accompanied by an astonishing level of vitriol. It seems as if their posts give them a satisfying way of expressing their deep and abiding loathing. I detest such extreme bias. It seems to serve only the writers, and those of like mind. Hopefully most balanced people see them for what they are, and ignore them, but my fear is that some may be swayed by what can be justifiably described as blatant cant. There is no obvious cure.

    Balanced journalists add to our understanding of issues. They report the facts faithfully and clearly separate their opinions from the facts. Too many journalists blur the distinction, and as they do, often introduce their biases. Some intersperse facts and opinion serially throughout the piece and thereby cloud understanding. Sub-editors add to the confusion by creating headlines that inaccurately reflect the substance of the article. Presumably their purpose is to attract attention, but in so doing they distort the message the article purports to transmit. I find all of these defects irritating. I have little confidence we will ever see any change for the better in our MSM.

    Many bloggers contribute meaningfully to debates with well informed comments. If these could be separated from the ranting posts, the quality of discourse would be improved substantially. It’s a burden though to have to wade through the dross for the gold.

    In a post on Possum Box, I suggested that the media in Australia is suffering from groupthink. A concept or slogan originated by one writer is soon copied, seemingly mindlessly, by another, and another, until it becomes a self-evident truth, a mantra. Supporting evidence is seldom advanced – the mantra is considered to be able to speak for itself. Some journalists, usually the lesser ones, feel the need to be more hairy-chested than their compatriots in the perpetuation of these slogans and mantras. Glenn Milne springs to mind. This type of behaviour diminishes both the journalists and the readers.

    The slogan aimed at Kevin Rudd: “all spin and no substance” is one I find particularly offensive. Although it has no substance itself, it is perpetuated endlessly in the MSM, even by some of the better journalists. It would be an enlightening but time consuming exercise to list the achievements of the Rudd Government to date. It may surprise many how extensive it is, but no matter how comprehensive, it’s arguable that it could ever counter the slogan. Slogans are not easily put out of the mind by facts.

    Maybe this is where the alternative media suggested in your post Poss could be effective. I would welcome an attempt to take on the MSM when it mindlessly uses slogans, exhibits bias, or misreports. But it would be incumbent on those supporting your idea to provide you with copy. This would require research, and that is time consuming. If enough competent and reliable writers that you could call on for a response volunteered, it could work.

    I value the writings of George Megalogenis, Laura Tingle, Lenore Taylor, Brian Toohey, Mike Stekatee and Shaun Carney because they usually get the facts right, and separate their opinions from the facts. Their opinions are usually well-supported by information. Paul Kelly can write insightful pieces. The Piping Shrike writes consistently first-rate pieces.

    So I support your idea of countering the MSM where it fails its readers. I hope you get support for the concept.

  35. Pedant said

    One of the best political journalists, though he doesn’t just write on politics, is Jack Waterford of The Canberra Times. He’s been around for years, approaches issues from his own well-thought-out perspective, chooses his words beautifully, and knows how to craft an opinion piece to a word limit in a way which is never trite or formulaic. Good journalism isn’t just about facts, it’s also about first rate writing. Waterford’s style is up there with the some of the great Australian journalists/writers of the past, like Richard Hughes and Alan Moorehead: he’s the sort of person whose collected columns would be a good Chrismas read, which you would never say about a Shanahan, quite apart from the latter’s content.

  36. gusface said

    excellent blog as usual poss
    cuplla comments
    1. marktwain is suffering exactly what your subject(and incidentally most bloggers here) allude too.
    Deprivation syndrome-johnny and his ragtime band are gone and yet the pining and the pain continues
    2.the MSM is why i started blogging pre election-a joke pushing a neocon serfdom lorded over by king jho and his band of deniers.
    Now in the new era of rudd the MSM are exposed for their abject lack of “the common touch” and an almost byzantine view of oz
    3.you da elephant in the room poss-long may you be anonymous

    ps a follow up post on WHY people blog would be most instructive imho

  37. charles said

    I’m sorry but I can’t bring myself to read Albrechtsen’s nonsense.

  38. Nick said

    Although they’re old stalwarts and it might seem a bit obvious to point them out, I think Kerry O’Brien and Michelle Grattan deserve our ongoing respect for what they do. Grattan’s ability to sit in Parliament and sift through so much crap from both sides of politics for so long and remain insightful and unbiased impresses me no end. Brendan and his coalition would do well to read her most recent piece and think about just what direction they’re headed on this whole Climate Change business. It’s here for those interested: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/climate-change-proves-more-than-a-challenge-to-the-coalition-20080724-3kh7.html

    Also, what do people think of Jason Koutsoukis? I think he’s doing the foreign correspondent thing now, but his political reporting last year was quite interesting, I thought, especially in the lead up to the election.

  39. The Big Ship said

    Let’s do this exercise, at least for the print/on line media, in the same way as most of the members of the MSM report politics – in terms of winners and losers:

    Duds/rabid Howardites = Piers Ackerman, Dennis Shanahan, Janet Albrechtsen, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine.

    Sometimes reasonable/mostly tendentious = Paul Kelly, Glenn Milne, Gerard Henderson, Greg Sheridan.

    Almost always thoughtful and balanced = George Megalogenis, Mike Steketee, Alan Ramsey, Peter Hartcher, Annabel Crabb.

    Left wing, or Centre, generally amusing = Mungo McCallum, Mike Carlton, Phillip Adams, Jack the Insider.

    It may be simplistic to “rate” journalists, but that is how much (most?) of our political discourse is now framed so narrowly by these same practitioners, so why not reduce them to a lowest common demoninator of performance?

    How I miss the wit and humour of our dear, departed Matt Price! We didn’t know what a gem we had until he was gone.

  40. Avalon Dave said

    I for one still greatly miss Paul Lyneham.

    Paul didn’t write “Opinions” – he was a Journalist. He uncovered big stories and broke “News”.

    He knew when a spill was on, who was behind it, why they were doing it and how the vote would conclude, right down to the actual number.

    And then he would relay that story in a way that the average punter could understand – often quite hysterically. A very good journalist indeed.

    I still remember his opening line in his speech to the National Press Club – “Welcome to the lunch we had to have.” Priceless.

    I still really miss the 9:10am political report that he use to do with Andrew Olle on 2BL. 10 minutes per day and that was all you needed to know about what was really going on in Canberra, and you got a great laugh as part of the bargain.

    That’s what I really want in Political Journalism – uncover the real uncomfortable, embarrasing story for whatever political party and break the news! And break it with analysis – not opinion.

  41. Xercius said

    It’s not just political journalism I might add. It’s journalists generally. I realise that ‘the media’ has changed markedly in the last decade (hands up . . . who had access to email and blogs fifteen years ago?) which has infused a certain immediacy (and a 24/7 news cycle) to it all, but does it have to be to the level of ‘infotainment’ or ‘superficiality’ that much (most?) reporting actually is?

    Name the discipline. Be it politics, sport, weather, general news, court reporting, consumer affairs, lifestyle — it doesn’t matter — the reports are generally facile garbage that doesn’t stand much in the way of scrutiny, nor offer anything worthy of the designation ‘analysis’.

  42. gandhi said

    I believe that nice Laura Tingle is married to Alan Ramsey, another top Aussie journo whose acerbic insights on a Saturday are always delightful to read.

    I wish I had come in at the top of this thread, I would have let rip. As it is I will confine myself to saying:

    JOURNOS: What shits me is how easily they swallow the memes and falsehoods peddled by politicians, how quickly they resort to cliches and stereotypes, and how gutless most of them are in pursuing Big Business targets like Murdoch and Frank Lowy.

    BLOGGERS: What shits me is how boring and middle-of-the-road most Aussie bloggers are, how terrified of radical ideas, and how quick they are to condemn any voices that disturb the groupthink humming inside their relaxed and comfortable little social networks. And yes, I am talking about leftwing bloggers.

  43. Andrew B said

    The West, because even their Restaurant Reviews contain political bias.

  44. David Richards said

    Xercius – you are so right – that’s why I don’t buy our local Murdoch rag.

  45. fred said

    http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/05/17/murdoch

    I keep posting this link around the blogs in the hope that its message will sink in.
    In this interview Rupert admits/boasts/declares/whatever
    1.He has the power to “persuade the hundreds of millions of people who watch his TV channels and read his newspapers to join the cause.” Not his words but read the article and you will see its a valid summary of his statements.
    2.He can and will and does promote causes [in this case ‘greening’ but it could be anything he decides eg, kill Iraqis, Mr Howard is nice, etc].
    3. Why? Because he can and [this is the biggy] its “simply good business”.
    4. Individual journos are irrelevant…”[Sean]He’ll see, he’ll understand it. As will Bill…”
    Who pays the piper calls the tune.

    The problem in Oz is not the individual journos.
    It is that the media exists for specific purposes mainly maximising profits for its big business owner[s].
    So all media efforts, news, entertainment, sports, is oriented towards the wants and needs of big business, those that pay the bills [ads] and own the outlets.
    And we here in Oz unfortunately have one of the most centralized media oligopolies in the world.
    So we will continue to suffer from a forced diet of ‘what is good for business’ until the ownership of media is drastically changed.
    Journos come amd go, its the system that stays that counts.

  46. Harmless Cud Chewer said

    While it’s fun to have a poke at raving ratbag conservatives, and those who let power/fame get to their heads, my concern is more about the general lack of intelligence and attention to logic that seems to span the media in general.

    Part of this is our culture. Dare I say it, there are an awful lot of ordinary everyday human beings who would be quite happy living in caves and carrying clubs, but instead content themselves with A Current Affair.

    Part of this is also the changing economics of journalism. Anyone with half a brain who isn’t motivated by a cause, or personal power, is going to move to PR, no?

    Yes, that was a bit cynical and yes there are those who give a rats, but it must be said, it’s all a rather sad reflection on our culture. We’re sports mad and science poor, and it shows in the lack of critical thinking in the press, in general.

    -moo

  47. Just Me said

    While you’re at it, what shits you to tears about me?

    You and the missus playing hide the possum sausage for hours on end on my tin roof night after bloody night. I mean, when does a man get to sleep in peace? There are many acres of carefully preserved natural bush on my property permanently set aside just for you and your kind, so why do you have to do it on my roof? Take your raucous exhibitionist possum porn somewhere else, you ingrates, or Mr Chainsaw-Bulldozer will be visiting and you will have to find alternative accommodation! Sheesh.

    Back to serious land…

    Another vote for Mike Steketee.

    I also like Paul Toohey’s stuff in the OO. He was consistently and accurately reporting the serious problems in aboriginal communities long before it got fashionable.

    And whatever happened to that SBS journalist from several years ago, Paul somebody? A soft spoken, plumpish gentleman, but articulate and tenacious, and without fear or favour. I think he used to present Dateline when it first got going, and also did the North Coast News before that. He was excellent.

    Don’t mind most SBS reporters either.

  48. Aristotle said

    There was a thread at ozforums on a similar theme recently, discussing and rating the National TV News reporters.

    http://www.ozforums.com.au/viewtopic.php?id=3226

    This is was list:

    1. Paul Bongiorno  Ten   

    2. Laurie Oakes  Nine 

    3. Karen Middleton  SBS 

    Equal last 

    Mark Riley  Seven 

    Chris Ulhmann  ABC   

  49. the-paris-site said

    Just Me@47 – brilliant. Possum keeps me awake at all hours too.

    I had an interesting conversation last night with a university lecturer who is teaching a unit in political journalism – sharing the duties with another lecturer.

    One of them is a very good, though lefty journalist, the other is a conservative academic/author/former political staffer.

    Is it possible, just maybe, that this could lead to a group of tech-savvy, new-media-literate fresh faces in Australian journalism with both an insight into politics and an understanding of fourth estate journalistic responsibility?

    Maybe even just for a little while, before the MSM swallows them whole and destroys their capacity for independent analysis…?

    Well it was a nice thought anyway.

  50. TurningWorm said

    Possum, when you use the term alternative media, are you referring to yourself and your colleagues in league, Mumble et al?

    It is my view that the work you do here is providing a very traditional function of the media, which is to analyse the issues and inform the audience. It is the MSM which are providing the alternative to that function of the media. I read your blog and others for the same reason that I may have been an avid listener/watcher of Ed Murrow if I was alive back then.

    On going commercial – information wants to be free.🙂

  51. Hello Possum,

    This post might be the appropriate place to remind you about our disagreement a few weeks ago and for me to say I told you so. I was right and you were wrong, the turnaround of the coalition vote at the beginning of the year was not just a matter of a margin of error or noise but has accelerated – beyond the margin of error – since we spoke. The leakage from the ALP to the greens has accelerated more apparently too.

    You said….. “What will most likely happen is that over the next 6-12 months the blue line will slightly turn and bottom out before maybe rising a bit. ” refering to this graph…. https://possumcomitatus.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/npq0802coalallloess2.jpg

    I wonder if you have a graph with a similar timeframe to that one, with the added info that your pollytrack graph now has (and the new polls since that one too).

    Does the blue line in the old graph have to be moved upwards as I suggested (and you dismissed) that you would have to do if you denied a bounceback, or does an updated graph show (correctly in my opinion) a bounce back between January and march as the polytrack indicates?

    Or have I misread the new polytrack in relation to the old graph?

    I say my folkloric political rules are looking more accurate than the statistical data that you relied on to prove me wrong.

    I still say that a change of government is going to cause a change of voting patterns and just because someone abandoned John Howard does not mean they will be loyal to Kevin Rudd over time.

  52. Matt H said

    Hope this thread is still alive to have this question answered: Is it just me, or has the online version of The Australian stopped putting up each day’s Editorials? Earlier in the week it seemed to be a one day delay, but they haven’t been updated since Karadzic’s capture, and I always enjoy comparing and contrasting the weekend Editorial views to that of the weekly stuff. Anyone know why this is happening?

  53. Ningaui said

    Hmmm, rather than just venting my spleen, which I enjoy, I might just dream a little. Some things I would like to see:
    1. A move to a more representative range of reporting. I mean going well beyond the current business of govt v opposition to a greater range of values being expressed and a greater range of perspectives. If this happens I wouldn’t mind if I disagreed with most of what is in the media.
    2. A greater sense of context, in particular historical context. A lot of what is written seems to assume that relevance started today. Australia has a mixed history of great achievement and very nasty murderous war criminal-type stuff, a impacts of a lot of which we still live with today. We need to come to terms with all of it, and we need to understand that what is happening to came from somewhere and will go somewhere.
    3. A greater sense of proportion in the sense of how ‘time’ is presented and constructed. Get rid of all that silly breathlessness.
    4. Getting rid of ‘Who’s to blame?’ as the starting structure for so much of media reporting.
    5. Getting rid of having issues reported through the presentation of individuals, whether they are victims, bystanders or perpetrators.
    6. A greater sense of proportion about the global cultural importance of Australia. Not very important, I’m afraid, despite Aussi Aussi Aussi Oi Oi Oi.
    7. I would like to see far better quality discussion about futures and the current issues that might affect them. An example would be that the United States (like Germany just before WW2 and like the Roman Empire towards the end) appears to have a structural problem with a very expensive military and an economy that cannot support the expense of that military. Will the US be able to make a peaceful and orderly transition to the new balance that is required? What are the implications for Australia?
    8. I would like journalists and correspondents to write an annual piece in which they identify where they got it right and where they got it wrong on the big issues, what formed their judgments and misjudgments, and how it will affect their future reporting.

  54. Evan said

    Big Ship,

    I wondered when someone was going to mention Mungo McCallum. For my money he’s the best at taking the piss out of ’em I’ve ever seen. Pity someone doesn’t shove Piers’ AK up his clacker and hand Mungo the job.

    As for the rest of the MSM, I wouldn’t bother reading them (apart from, perhaps, Bob E’s irregular grog-soaked musings).

    So, until Piers’ gets that AK suppository, the Net’s the place for me.

  55. Possum Comitatus said

    John Tracey at 51

    That was in reference to the Newspoll Quarterly polling aggregates that Newspoll releases. We wont get another one of those until September – so we’re probably jumping the gun a bit here. Those quarterly newspolls are good for the very long term trends as they only give us 4 points of data a year whereas things like Pollytrack will give us 52 a year. To see how the very long term trends play out we’ll probably need to be looking at this around September next year.

    And thank you very much folks, your comments have been extremely insightful and more useful than you could possibly imagine.

  56. gusface said

    How so von possum

    you have made me more curiouser than normal dammit!

  57. Chatswood Statsman said

    To Just Me Says at #47

    I think the SBS journo was Paul Murphy. He had an excellent voice, albeit a bit plummy for SBS.

  58. Rudi said

    I tire of opinion writers who prosecute the culture war in their articles especially when it is a take down of another journalist. It makes it all seem like a club, which it is, but is a boring as batshit even for media obsessives.

    I love newspapers, normally reading the Australian, the Age, the HS and the Fin review most days. However, most of the coverage of national policics is partisan with cheering for one side or the other and derision for the other. The better journalists – I think George and Mike at the Australian – can surprise because it is harder to guess what they’ll write on a particular topic than, say, someone like Grattan, Bolt, or the Shan.

    The blogsphere is not much better. This site I liked very much in the lead up to the election but I fear its Labor bent sometimes clouds analysis now.

    The worse sort of blogs are the echo chambers where the writer whistles and the dogs all bark in unision. It’s ugly reading the comments at most blogs where there is a definite clique with shared views who attack anyone who deviates from the shared view. The most obvious ones are mainstream sites like Bolt but it is true too of fringe sites.

  59. Just Me said

    Chatswood Statsman

    Thanks, Paul Murphy it is.

  60. Ningaui said

    I don’t think much of the Australian’s chief political correspondent who last week reported that there was no dissension in the opposition about what to do about climate change. This is a significant, timely, issue and readers have the right to expect that he gets it mostly right. It could be that he was too lazy to phone a couple of folk. It could be that he is a complete duffer. Or maybe he is a complete something else. Today’s Australian editorial puts the lie to its own chief political correspondent. They must think readers are woodies.

  61. Rx said

    I hope I never hear the claim again that Fairfax is biased towards Labor. Julie Bishop blogs for the Sydney Morning Herald …
    http://blogs.theage.com.au/business/archives/2008/07/australia_must_consider_nuclear_energy.html

    Gerard Henderson is a regular columnist:
    http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/gerardhenderson/

    Michael Duffy likewise:
    http://www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/michaelduffy/

  62. Labor Outsider said

    A few thoughts:

    What is bad about political reporting?

    – To generalise, the press are better at analysing the politics of policy debates than analysing the policy itself. Climate change is a perfect example. This makes it difficult for there to be an informed public debate about public policy. This is unsurprising because: a) most political reporters don’t have the skills to analyse complex policy ideas and b) owners and editors have their own subjective views about who should govern and what they should do when they govern – this inevitably taints political coverage.

    Do bloggers play a useful role in political reporting?

    – Yes and No. Yes, for people who are already well informed about the political process. Like minded people like to engage with each other. However, blogs have little effect on swinging voters and hence blogs don’t have much of an effect on political outcomes. I think of blogs as a consumption good for the highly educated.

    What shits you to tears about political bloggers?

    – many political blogs have an inflated sense of the rightness of their own perspective. They are read largely by people with similar views and their is little acknowledgement that such views are contestable. LP’s coverage of climate change is a perfect example. Their bloggers generally have a good sense of the science of climate change, but have an extremely poor understanding of the economics of climate change. I would like to see less ill-informed opinion and more questions and critical analysis.

    What would be the benefits and pitfalls of commercialising the alternative media?

    – Commercialisation will be a good test for the alternative media. Is the alternative media in Australia of high enough quality for people to pay for? Would enough people pay to broaden the appeal of the content outside of its current niche market? Would commercialisation improve the quality of the existing product? Or would rigour be sacrificed in the drive to increase profits? Would the existing media organisations wave cash at successful alternative organisations and swallow them up? I’d be interested people’s views on this.

    Finally on the MSM – this is definitely a topic that requires less generalisation. Just critique the journalists you don’t respect – and the editorial policy – and leave it at that. If I can name Paul Kelly, George Megalogenis, Samantha Maiden, Jack the Insider, Geoff Elliot, Mike Steketee and Alan Wood as good journalists – at what point does it become ridiculous to to generalise about the quality of the MSM? I prefer reading the Fin to the Oz, but I also prefer the Oz to the SMH. I would read Crikey after all of those papers but before the DT and the HS.

    To summarise – right now I can log on to the Australian, the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, the Times and the Economist and read their content for free. So why would I pay for something like LP?

  63. Pedro said

    I’d add Marr and Gittens to the mix as quality journos.

    The issue that shits me most at the moment is climate change. General media treatment is nothing short of pathetic. I have a brief thesis I would like to share.

    According to an Australian CC expert I had the opportunity to meet the other day, fewer than 10% of the population understand the science. I wouldn’t put myself in that minority. Nevertheless, I support the CC agenda, for reasons which might be labelled ‘ethical’, but ‘ideological’ might do as well. I just think sustainability is a good thing, irrespective of whether the planet is warming or not. I am therefore not unhappy to buy the ‘planet is warming’ thesis – it seems to me to be common sense that what we are doing to the planet, and our resource base, is not good. I suspect that most of the population would be characterised by a similarly values-based support (noting that the Newspoll data quoted by Possum in his post is neutral on this issue).

    If this is correct, then so called CC ‘skeptics’ (the Bolts etc.) have a real point when they claim that the CC agenda is not science based. As such, I think that their opposition to CC action is to this extent legitimate. However, even based on my limited understanding, they overreach when they seek to discredit the science that does exist. Two claims are characteristic of this effort: 1. that the planet is not warming and 2. if it is, humans are not contributing to it.

    Now, whenever these specific claims are repeated (say, for example, by Bolt on the insiders or Q&A), often backed up by reference to some piece of so-called ‘evidence’ (e.g. the latest Nasa temperature figures, or the fact that atmospheric carbon increases lagged temperature rises in previous epochal periods of warming), none of the journos on the panel are able to make a coherent counter argument. They just do their best to dismiss Bolt as a wingnut, and try their hardest to move the discussion on.

    My point is this: these issues are not that complex or difficult. 20 minutes on the Internet can turn up all you need to know about the basic facts and mechanics of AGW to quickly discredit the arguments of Bolt and his ilk. However, no-one seems willing or able to do it. The only reason I can ascribe is laziness. It is this laziness that the Bolts, Ackermans and Albrechtsons of the world exploit.

    Thesis over.

    Same subject, but a different perspective. Here’s a link to a great speech by R.F. Kennedy Jr on why the US media is so bad. Terrific historical and political analysis. Some of it applies here. It goes to the laziness issue.

  64. Xercius said

    Bugger it . . . I’m gonna add something no matter how ‘stale’ this topic might be. My latest peeve?

    The blogosphere.

    Here’s how the theory goes. Once upon a time, there was no innannet. Along came the innannet and it was greeted with enthusiasm. Well . . . in some sectors of society at least. In fact, in some sectors of society it was greeted with what psychologists might call an almost unhealthy enthusiasm. This has played out in a variety of ways since.

    Thus, there are those truly au fait with the ways of the inannet and those less so. I tend to fall — by virtue of my advancing years — more into the latter category (and to some extent by choosing). All the while, I find plenty to amuse on said innanet: the product of some advanced research skills learnt in the pursuit of learnin’ in a learnin’ place while learnin’ me some political sciences or two.

    Thus we come to blogs and their users. I — obviously — are a user. You — clearly — are a user as well. Both of us are invisible to each other and this is A Good Thing. My gripe? Simple.

    It would be my assessment that, by and large, the folk what are bloggers are gentle folk who might also occupy a specific cleavege within society. This would be apparent to me as a cleavage with, um, not so many years of wordly experience under their belts as, perhaps, I might have (for instance).

    Subsequently, I find a certain perspective or authority is sometimes missing from many posts. Sure, they may have academic rigour, but they can fail to be balanced against a variety of disciplines OR — worse still — are balanced against a paucity of real-world, first hand experience.

    That’s what I find frustrating in the blogosphere. Too ‘theoretical’, little or no ‘memory’, little or no demonstrated experience. Plenty of self rightousness though.

    It’s an innannet thing . . . sorta.

    And I am officially, therefore, a Grumpy Old Person.

  65. Christian Kerr versus this tread. Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

  66. Er … “thread”.

  67. Classified said

    I do believe he’s calling you out poss

  68. […] Which site? Was it Possum? […]

  69. JP said

    What a superb piece from Mr Kerr.

    It starts with a plug for three other Murdoch organs, and ends with:

    “The sheer fact it’s mainstream, though, means it must offer two crucial elements missing from the world of the blogs. They are balance and fact.”

    Seems like the Oz is becoming more “Fair and balanced” by the day, if that’s possible. I mean, there’s no way he’s not taking the piss there, surely?

  70. […] quotes he takes from a thread on the shortcomings of political journalism are cherry-picked from this discussion on Possum’s Pollytics, which offered many considered comments that he didn’t acknowledge at […]

  71. gusface said

    bilbo
    well spotted sir!
    christian kerr is a cur,actually he is just a piss weak coward who hasnt the guts to name poss.
    what a wimp 😦

  72. Grumps said

    After feeling sick and out of it for a week it was time to catch upon what was about. What a surprise to find Christian K. has called you out Poss. (Sorry to pinch Classified@67 but good lines must be recycled in order to reinforce our subgrouping culture of right wing bashing)

    We all needed proof to the level to which OO reporters, particularly, check out your site. Now we know they all visit, and presumably with permission from Rupert and on company time.

    Why has he had a look?

    Research. With the expert Phesp ability of Shananana on tap why come ,,,, D’oh!!!!,,,, answered myself!!

    Interest to see if they made the list of top juorno’s, Ciishrtan didn’t rate a sausage. This might worry Criatishn if there is any truth in the blogsphere rumour out there that Rupert rates his juornos’ on Google whacks, excluding his rags.

    Poss old boy you can add this to the excellent contributions here (which I wouldn’t have added to until Cthriaisn opened his mouth and shoved two right leaning feet and ankle), how some of our MSM have fallen for the cult of personality and the sense of infallibility that comes from having your name up there. Coupled with the ability to strut out the same line over and over until such times as it becomes the perceived wisdom / way it will become / future history. (In olden times CtriashIn this was called propaganda)

    We need more informed experts prepared to share their knowledge and have that knowledge tested. This must be coupled with the ability for those who take the time to seek out that knowledge to test their understanding by asking the dumb questions.

    Keep at it Poss

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