A discussion of contemporary issues in media ethics, with olives and a twist. Made with only the freshest ingredients, shaken, stirred and poured over ice. I should also mention that I do like the odd, occasional martini. Bombay Sapphire gin and Lillet, dry and plenty of salty olives. Welcome to this cocktail of journalism and alcohol. A fine combination!

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Does news HAVE a future?

It's probably still a rare thing for a blogger to actually advertise a rival blog in a post, but here goes. This deserves a shout. I got this message from Steve Borris, the associate director of the Center for the Application of Information Technology at the Washington University in St Louis. I've had a quick tour of "the future of news" and it's probably going to become a regular stop on my rounds of the blogosphere. It's covering some of the same ground as me, but ventures into technology a bit more than I might do. The "future" of news and journalism is a subject close to my own intellectual interests and my own passions about the future of journalism (but not as we know it). I will add a permanent link in my own blogroll, but for now, check it out. Here's the gist of Steve's message:


I would like to call your attention to "The Future of News" blog that was launched last month. It is a spin-off of a college course by the same name that I teach at Washington University in St. Louis. This site provides a vision of what news will look like 5-15 years from now. It also provides ongoing commentary on how closely day-to-day events fit this vision. While most web-based information on the future of news tends to focus on the perspectives of those involved with current news organizations or technology, this site will also incorporate perspectives from history, political science, consumer marketing, economics, and finance. This should be evident in the three permanent articles that I have posted on the site: News as it was meant to be, Four advances that set news back, and The future of news.

Celeblogging - so yesterday

"Celeblogging" - the tasteless art of tittle-tattle about two-bit half-wits that we're sick of hearing about.
Does Australia, or the world for that matter, really need or deserve another senseless and humourless website devoted to blogging about celebrities? Well, apparently one company thinks there's money to be made by mining this weak vein once again. Here's a story from Friday's edition of crikey, which outlines the deal.
Crikey 27 April 2007
Look out, wonkettes: Defamer hits Oz

By Jane Nethercote

Defamer now has an Australian lovechild.

Based in LA, the original Defamer blog -- part of the Gawker Media stable along with Gawker , Wonkette and Valleywag -- takes Hollywood gossip for a smart and riotous spin.

Australia is getting some of the action. Not that there's been much fanfare -- Crikey only discovered the active site yesterday thanks to a bit of procrastinatory internet gambolling. Gawker Media's gadget blog Gizmodo also has an Australian spin-off .

The two titles are published in Australia by Allure Media -- an outfit that was established by Netus, an investment company which sets up proven tech-based business models in the Australian market. Netus, which is financially backed by News Limited, is run by folk like eCorp alumni Daniel Petre and Alison Deans who helped bring eBay to Australia (as MediaConnect/ITJourno (via Squash) has noted).

Crikey understands that Netus initiated the arrangement, approaching Gawker Media to do a licensing deal. And although it's stopping at two blogs at this stage, Allure Media in fact has "rights to all the Gawker titles", managing director of Allure Media Chris Janz tells Crikey.

But we shouldn't expect an Australian Wonkette any time soon. They're stopping at one gossip publication for now.

Defamer was chosen for Australia, rather than its more famous sister blog Manhattan-based Gawker, because the Hollywood focus translates more easily for an Australian audience. And Defamer Oz will be sharing copy with the US version.

As for the Australian content, it's in good hands. At the helm is Jess McGuire who established herself as an Australian blogosfigure at pop culture mecca Ausculture which brought us all-important live blogging of Australian Idol and Big Brother, Neighbours wraps, Dolly Parton Appreciation Week and turkeyslapgate.

So will the bitchy and witty Ausculture vibe penetrate Defamer Oz? "I would hope so", McGuire tells Crikey. There are "no plans of impersonating Mark [Lisanti], editor of Defamer. The good folks that are getting me to do it, knew what they were getting into. I won't change my writing style too much ... Though perhaps I "won't be as rudely angry about political issues".

The Defamer approach is to "not ever really be cruel" and "that's my philosophy" for the Australian edition, she says. The aim is to produce something that's shamelessly pop culture-based but more clever than one-trick ponies like puerile gossip blog Perez Hilton. "I can't fathom why the Australian media is bending over backwards for Perez Hilton", says McGuire. "He's not a good writer ... I have a problem with the media fel-ating him". There are "far better bloggers in the States writing about pop culture".

Still, she concedes, "there's a market for everything".

Yep, including a "bitch slap" festival between the Defamer crew and a two-bit, "blogger to the stars", Perez Hilton.

The sooner we get over our obsession with celebrity, the better. This stuff is so purile it makes reality television look positively Shakespearean, not!

Just a thought: Isn't Perez Hilton that little dog that Paris carries in her Gucci tote along with the cocaine, marijuana, s*x toys and video-camera?

Friday, 27 April 2007

What to do with a drunken sailor?

From time to time you're going to here from my mate Bruce. He's on the first leg of a journey, short-handed sailing around Australia. Whenever he's in broadband range he'll be sending emails with lots of great photos of him and his yacht H2O. He's got friends on board and - if fate hadn't intervened (landing me in Auckland a few weeks before he sailed) - it would be me on the deck, beer in one hand, tiller in the other, as Bruce throws another mackerel on the barbie.
Here's a grab from his last message, with his account of the night which sealed the unfortunate fate of three sailors who went missing from a catamaran in the same stretch of lonely ocean.

As the coastline between Bowen and Townsville was pretty uninteresting with
only one or two swelly anchorages, we made the decision to sail directly to
Townsville (about 120NM), sailing through the day and night, my first night
sail on H2O. Sailing in the morning got off to a slow start but by noon the
wind had picked up, pushing us along at 5-6 knots and we began to worry that
we were going too fast and might get to Townsville too early, arriving in
the night. So to play it safe, we reefed the main and after nightfall, took
3 hour shifts at the helm, keeping a good eye out for tankers, trawlers and
other travellers of the night. The night, however, proved uneventful until
about 3am when we heard a sea rescue plane asking if any ships were either
at or near Davies Reef. We were to find out the following morning that a
coastal surveillance plane had spotted a 12m catamaran drifting off the
reef, 80NM out to sea with no one on board. You may have read about this
rather unfortunate event in last Saturday's papers - three men lost at sea
in mysterious circumstances. It turns out that they had left Airlie Beach
on the day we departed Hamilton and we probably just missed seeing their boat
as we crossed from Hook to Gloucester Island. Our biggest concern, however,
was contacting our families to let them know that it wasn't us!
Bruce and Michael are fine, if a little shaken. Here's a recent snap of Bruce with lunch (sashimi anyone?)

Barenaked Ladies

Before we go on, I think it necessary to explain my reference to Barenaked Ladies in the previous post.
Here's a clip that says it all really. [Rated G - for parents to enjoy with their children]

You can find out about this fine bunch of Canadians at the BnL Official website. Ahhh, this is pure Martini music. "chin chin". I'm off for a medicinal, right now:

the "medicinal"

  • 3 parts gin (from the freezer)
  • 2 parts dry vermouth (from the fridge)
Pour liberally into an old wine glass, add three olives on a "twizzler", stir with finger, enjoy with television after a hard day blogging.

NRA hiding behind a conservative smokescreen

NRA-ILA :: In The News

I've been keeping an eye on the National Rifle Association's website in an attempt to find some argument from them in the wake of the Virginia Tech killings a week ago. So far nothing. I've mentioned this before and you can trackback to see the history of this post.
This evening I found this (link above) and a couple of others like it on the NRA "news" website. Basically an aggregation of the pro-gun defences and a series of attacks on everyone except the gun-owners.

It doesn't cut it. The NRA has not itself put out any kind of meaningful statement. And the one they did post, essentially saying "no comment" until all the "facts" are known about VT has been taken down.

Instead they're letting the right-wing columnists and bloggers do their dirty work. If I had a gun, I'd...
Well, in the words of the Barenaked Ladies, "there'd be no tomorrow".

I wonder if those bright sparks over at "shoot-em up central" have any idea how ironic and stupid this kind of promotion actually looks now.

Here's one of the NRA's "happy snap" images of what a well-armed college kid might want to carry to their next biology class.

The YouTube Election

Free Times - Columbia's Free Alternative Weekly:

In this week's Free Times, Dan Cook commented on the ways in which YouTube may become an interesting media battle ground in the 2008 US Presidential election. Noting that unauthorised clips of several candidates had made it to the site, he went on:

"It’s looking more and more like a YouTube election season after John McCain made his way to the site in a big way last week with comments he made about Iran. Speaking on April 18 at a VFW hall in Murrells Inlet, S.C., McCain was asked about whether the United States might launch air strikes against Iran. McCain responded making a reference to the song “Barbara Ann” by The Beach Boys, saying, “That old, uh, that old Beach Boys song, ‘Bomb Iran.’” He then sang a mock version of the chorus, “Bomb, bomb, bomb … .” Though the comment was clearly made as a joke — McCain’s position is that bombing should only be used as a last resort — the episode highlighted once again how the democratization of media is throwing scripted presidential campaigns off balance. Previous videos that have made waves this election season include an amateur Barack Obama ad that lampooned Hillary Clinton and a video of Sen. Clinton singing the national anthem off-key."

This is interesting from a media theory point of view and very useful to me. I'm just beginning to write a book about this, hopefully to be published next year in Australia.
It would be even better if Cook were right that this is the "democratization" of the media. My worry is that the YouTube generation don't vote, many of them are perhaps still underage.
If they did mobilise, perhaps McCain would go down, but Hilary and Obama wouldn't be far behind.

There's similar stuff posted on YouTube about Australian Prime Minister John Howard, but the lampooning of the PM hasn't made the news yet "down under".
My favourite SATIRICAL YouTube clip of the PM is this little ditty: "John Howard is an ar$&l1cker" [RATED PG, occasional use of obscene humour]

One of the best and the brightest

David Halberstam dies on way to meet with Y.A. Tittle to talk about football

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam was killed Monday doing what he had done for more than four decades: chasing down a great story.

Halberstam, 73, died in a car wreck just a few miles away from a long-sought interview for a book he was planning about a legendary 1958 football game. Driving the author was a UC Berkeley journalism graduate student drawn by the chance to spend time alone with a living legend.

Menlo Park police are still probing the cause of the fiery three-car accident that injured two others. Halberstam, of New York, was in the front passenger seat of a car that was broadsided as it was making a left turn off the westbound Bayfront Expressway, which connects to the Dumbarton Bridge, onto Willow Road about 10:35 a.m., authorities said.

The car in which Halberstam was riding, an older-model Toyota Camry, was hit by a late-model Infiniti. When paramedics and fire crews arrived, they found Halberstam unresponsive and trapped in his seat, said Harold Schapelhouman, chief of the Menlo Park Fire District.

The engine compartment was on fire, and the passenger side of the car had been crushed, Schapelhouman said.

A rescue crew member was able to pull Halberstam from the car while another doused the flames, the chief said. The author had no pulse and was not breathing when he was freed, and efforts to revive him were unsuccessful, Schapelhouman said. Halberstam was pronounced dead at the scene.

The author appears to have died of massive blunt-force trauma, but an autopsy scheduled for today should confirm the cause of death, said Kristine Gamble, senior deputy coroner for San Mateo County.

Police declined to say who may have been at fault in the crash. Cars turning left at the intersection onto Willow Road may proceed only when they have a green arrow.

The Infiniti driver suffered minor injuries, and the driver of a Nissan coupe that apparently was hit by one of the other cars was unhurt, authorities said.

The Berkeley graduate student driving the Camry, Kevin Jones, suffered a punctured lung and was taken to Stanford Hospital.

"It's just a really hard time for him. He's feeling really sad and freaked out," his wife, Lily Jones, said by telephone from the hospital's emergency room. "It's just a very traumatizing thing to have gone through."

She said she had not discussed the accident with him in detail.

Halberstam was in the Bay Area to deliver a speech at UC Berkeley about what it means to turn reporting into a work of history, said Orville Schell, dean at Berkeley's graduate school of journalism.

Halberstam won the Pulitzer Prize in 1964 at age 30 for his reporting from Vietnam. He later turned to long-form writing and wrote 21 books, including "The Best and the Brightest," about how the United States became involved in Vietnam. His other works covered a wide range of subjects, including civil rights, sports and the auto industry.

But Halberstam's own journalistic career was anything but history, said John Eckhouse, a member of the journalism school's alumni board, which arranged the event this past Saturday.

"He had just finished the galleys on Thursday for his latest book, on the Korean War," Eckhouse said. "He spent Saturday in his room at the faculty club. He said if he could come over to our (afternoon) event he would, but he had some editing to do, some writing to do."

Halberstam's Saturday evening speech was a rousing success, Schell said, with a packed house of journalists and members of the public.

"He was speaking about the need for passion to be a journalist, and the importance of it to the whole healthy functioning of the American political experiment," Schell said. "I think those two things were what made him something of an evangelist to the role of the journalist in our society."

Afterward, Schell said, he and Halberstam dined at Berkeley's Chez Panisse, talking late into the night about the parallels between the wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

Over the years, Halberstam had developed a habit of alternating weighty historical books with sports books, and he planned to follow up his Korean War book with a work about the 1958 NFL championship game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts, often called football's greatest game.

The game, won by the Colts in overtime, is widely regarded as having contributed to pro football's modern popularity.

In his typically careful preparation, Eckhouse said, Halberstam had tracked down former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who did not play in the championship but who had played the Colts two weeks before. Halberstam hoped to gain insights into the play of Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas.

To get to the interview, Schell said, Halberstam approached the journalism school's students, seeking a driver and offering unique compensation, as described in an e-mail from the school to the students: "He said he'll give you a private seminar on the way back. Details are vague, but this could be a really cool opportunity."

Kevin Jones, a student whose resume already included awards from stints as a freelancer and at several small publications, had seized on that chance to have some face time with a journalistic icon, his wife said.

"He just wanted to get a chance to talk to somebody that he thought was interesting," Lily Jones said. "He doesn't have class on Mondays, and he thought this would be great opportunity."

Tittle said he was in his Mountain View insurance office waiting at 11 a.m., when he expected Halberstam would arrive. At 12:30, he said, his secretary came in and said he might as well go to lunch.

"I thought maybe something had come up with his family," a shocked Tittle said Monday evening. "He was only 2 miles away, 3 miles away."

E-mail the writers at jcote@sfchronicle.com and mstannard@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page A - 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle

YOu can read more about David Halberstam in this Poynter Institute memorial

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Leftwing union leaders still don't know how to fight fair

have lifted this straight from crikey, it's an important story and an indication that rank and file journalists who are lefties and unionists need to get together as activists, not rely on the head office honchos. I must add a caveat. I know nothing of Margaretta Pos' politics, but it is the principle of fair and open elections that is important in this case.

Media union hardball and the $10,000 Tassie witch
Margaretta Pos writes:

When is an election not an election? When it's held by the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance. That's right, the champions of a democratic society are not so keen on democracy in the ranks,

So much so, that the hierarchy has spent a staggering $10,000 to stop me becoming a federal vice-president, and Australian Financial Review journalist Mark Phillips from being one of 24 media delegates on the union's federal council. (I am a freelance journalist based in Hobart and the immediate past Tasmania branch president).

Australian Electoral Commission ballot papers were posted on Monday this week -- the same day as a leaflet was posted to 16,361 Alliance members, telling them not to vote for either of us. Our sin? We weren't hand-picked. Meaning there are four candidates for three vice-presidents and 25 candidates for 24 delegates, which means there has to be an election rather than the semblance of one.

The leaflet was signed by Christopher Warren, as federal secretary, and Sydney Morning Herald journalist Ruth Pollard, as federal president, AJA section. It's endorsed by 37 signatories, including the presidents or secretaries from around the country, bar Tasmania.

The leaflet states in small print that it's paid for "by the friends and supporters of the journalism team standing for federal council". Okay, so they paid for the leaflet. But who paid the whopping postage bill? This shady group? The Alliance?

No one contacted me to ask why I was standing or to discuss my candidacy. No one contacted Mark Phillips either. Goodness! Am I such a threat? The wicked witch from Tasmania whose broomstick must be snapped in two?

I'd heard on the grapevine there was going to be a union ticket which excluded me, so I emailed Christopher Warren last week, to ask how the decision was made and who made it. This was his response on Friday (20 April), when the leaflet he'd signed was ready for postage on Monday:

In relation to the election for federal vice-president: Ballot papers are being circulated next week. The Alliance has not -- cannot -- endorse any candidates. I know some officers have indicated their preference as individuals, which is their right as members of the union. However, there will be no official communication to members about any candidates beyond that circulated by the Australian Electoral Commission.

Boris Yeltsin - an obituary that tells the truth

Boris Yeltsin 1931-2007|Socialist Worker

The mainstream media has been hailing the late Boris Yeltsin as the man who helped destroy "communism" in the 1980s with his heroic leadership of the Russian people against a "fascist" coup by disgruntled elements still loyal to the old ways.
They say he was a lovable rascal. Boll!x
This obituary from Socialist Worker (UK) lays it out:

Yeltsin was curiously split. Right wing newspapers couldn’t decide whether to celebrate Yeltsin as “the man who brought down Communism” or lampoon him as a drunken fool who wrecked Russia’s economy.
Yeltsin was a privileged member of the Russian ruling class who dealt with the capitalist institutions of the West - the IMF and so on - in order to secure the ongoing wealth of his friends. The disaster that is Russia today owes a lot to Yeltsin and his cronies, including Putin.

With friends like these

McCain Launches Candidacy With Bush Critique - New York Times

Ah, spring has sproinged in the northern hemisphere and eager-beaver presidential candidates in the USA are ramping up their phony election campaigns before the primaries kick off in fall.
It's heartening to know that even Republican old boots like John McCain are campaigning against George "Dubya" Bush.
Let's just hope it does them no good at all. They're all tarred with the same brush.

When suicide collides with politics

Parents should monitor children's web use: PM - smh.com.au

Australia's outgoing* Prime Minister, John Howard, says parents should monitor their kids' internet use. Ths is the only thing he has to say about the suicide of two teenage girls recently in Australia. Both had posted suicide notes on their MySpace pages.
Howard you are a total hypocrite.
In this case he says that the Government can't do anything because "you start running up against freedom of speech". But when it comes to censoring other forms of communication over the web, the Howard Government has been in the frontline of increasing censorship, monitoring and surveillance.
This is a more accurate statement of the Coalition's real sentiments:

Although he was always on the lookout for ways to tighten laws in the public interest, it was a difficult task because governments could not trample on people's freedom of expression.
That's right, the sedition laws, tightening adult content provisions for free-to-air broadcasters and on the internet and cracking down on Islamic preachers. Howard and his cronies have been vigilant in looking out for opportunities to tighten the laws in these areas. But is not, it seems, willing to do anything to prevent tragic suicides.

*There's an election later in 2007 and I'm hoping Howard will go

Newspapers and blogs: Closer than we think?

Newspapers and blogs: Closer than we think?

Just how close are the mainstream and the social media? This study by David Vaina at USC Annenberg School of Journalism seems to indicate they're closer than you might think. This study reports on how blogs and the mainstream media have been covering Iraq. I'm not sure how exactly you can measure this if you consider how many blogs there are out there. There's a further link to the fuller report from this site.

Monetizing the Social Media clickstream

Social Media Club - Monetizing Widgets

Widgets are those little bits of code that you see all over blogsites, I've got a couple - a link to technocrati for example.
I've often talked about how the "clickstream" is being "monetized", cookies, ad-sense, all these things are built to give someone access to data that they can then turn into money.
Now it seems that there's a widget war going on between several Social Media sites - MySpace, Facebook, etc.
It's about real estate - well, virtual real estate at least - and who gets to hang out their hoardings, who pays and who collects.
So much for the old utopian vision of a free internet.

The Wall Street Journal is today reporting that MySpace is hooking up with the producer of the Survivor series, Mark Burnett, to create a new reality TV show called "Independent", in which people will compete for a million dollars to launch their own political campaign.
Another blow against democracy and in favour of consumerism. These guys have no morals. If there's pennies to be had, they've got their hands out.
Mr Burnett, politics is not a game show, there's enough reality out there without you having to create some more. I'd put my hand up to be a contestant - I've got a MySpace page - but I think my ultra-Trot politics would rule me out, at least according to their rules.
The revolution will not be televised, but it's coming soon to a reality show near you.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

The End of Journalism?

Journalism & Media Discussion Forum: The End of Journalism?
Adrian Monck is the head of journalism at City University London, the link here is to his recent post on "the end of journalism" blogsite.
Is there a link between journalism and democracy? In theory "yes", but it needs to be much more carefully unpacked and analysed.
Most of the world has some resemblance to "democracy", but usually of a limited, restricted parliamentary sort. In some parts of the world the values of democracy are already under threat.
The fourth estate model of journalism is discredited and news workers are generally seen as lacking in ethics and credibility.
The key paradox for me is in the duality of the news commodity. Journalism is, as Monck says, both an information source and a watchdog. But this is fatally flawed by the commercial imperative of the market system. The ethical imperative of journalism - to support democracy - is undermined by the cash imperative of capitalism.

Livingstone urges Johnston's release

Livingstone urges Johnston's release: MediaGuardian.co.uk

The mayor of London, "Red" Ken Livingstone provided the latest call for the release of Alan Johnston when speaking on the Arabic-language al Hiwar television network.

There is still no word on Johnston's fate since a previously nknown group callling itself Tahweed and Jihad brigade said they had killed him a week ago.

Social Networks making news

Press Gazette: How should journalists use social media material?

It's interesting this discussion is starting now. I told my students in a lecture yesterday that there's going to be more of this - using MySpace, Facebook, etc as news sources. Reporters are now routinely checking MySpace pages for personal information about people who are in the news.
I think we should all be careful about what kind of trails we leave in cyberspace, nothing is really private anymore.
Martin Stabe's blog (above) gives more details on a recent British case and of course it has become a staple of the Virginia Tech coverage.

Meanwhile, MySpace is also launching a news aggregation service. Of course its links with the Murdoch empire - MySpace is owned by Fox Interactive - will mean it is never short of a good story, particularly if it favours Mr Murdoch's viewpoints. Is this a sneaky way of turning young Americans into Republicans, and the rest of the world is just collateral damage?

Drink made a liar of me, again

After deciding to go home and nurse my cold with paracetamol, I got waylaid (of my own volition) and went back to the Brooklyn Bar. Wayne, Gillian, Katherine and Helen were there. I was going to have one martini, it turned into several and then dinner at Tanuki's Cave. What fun.
I met Alex and Yvonne at the Brooky, I noticed they were drinking martinis too. I'd never seen that before in this bar, so I had to interview them for Ethical Martini.
Yvonne said that the first martini they were served was a) not cold enough and b) had way too much vermouth in it. But their disappointment turned to joy when Shaun offered to remake them.
Apparently the second round was much better.
Yvonne was drinking vodka martinis made on Absolut. She said that her view of "dry" is the same as Winston Churchill's: "take the top of the vermouth bottle and bow in the direction of France."
Yvonne was very pleased with the service in the Brooklyn Bar, so am I. The voluble and expressive Ms Sissons dropped two martinis with her waving elbows, right into my lap and Wayne's. Not only did Shaun clean it up, he made two fresh drinks. That's dedication to bar tendering. Thanks, mate.

Getting back to "dry", I can't really see the point of not putting a liberal amount of vermouth into a martini. Afterall, if you want to drink gin or vodka with an olive chaser, do that, just don't call it a martini.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

No Martinis this week

I have come down with a nasty flu bug that requires antibiotics. Damn! No more martinis this week.
I did have one in the Brooklyn yesterday evening with Helen, it was excellent, not too cold, nice and dry and two olives. Your standard gin/vermouth model. It hit the spot, but now I can't have another until I'm feeling better.
Here's a picture of my next Martini:

Blue Martini

White Space


1 Part(s) Sky Vodka
1 Part(s) Blue Curacao
1 Part(s) Sour Mix
1 Garnish Lemon Twist


3/4 oz vodka, 3/4 oz blue curacao, 3/4 oz sour, shake well and lightly mist, serve up, preferably in a double martini glass, garnish with a lemon twist.

NRA lost voice?

NRA news website
The National Rifle Association has still not broken its silence on the Blacksburg killings. But perhaps we can distill something about what it might be saying from these media releases and commentary from "gun-owners"
Here's the Gun-Owners of America Executive Director, the well-monikered Larry Pratt:

"The latest school shooting demands an immediate end to the gun-free zone law which leaves the nation's schools at the mercy of madmen. It is irresponsibly dangerous to tell citizens that they may not have guns at schools. The Virginia Tech shooting shows that killers have no concern about a gun ban when murder is in their hearts."
Pratt's comments were picked up by Ed Isler who blogs at The Conservative Voice.
I can only assume that the NRA is happy to let these politically aligned individuals speak on their behalf.

Let's explore this "guns at school" argument. Pratt cites and Isler repeats a story about either the Application School of Law (Pratt) or the Appalachian School of Law (Isler) where a "madman" was stopped by students who fetched their own guns from cars and subdued the suspect.
We can put this scenario to the test and we end up with...32 dead.
Person A goes into a dorm and shoots two people. Person B, hearing the gunshots, pulls out their concealed weapon and runs in the direction of the gunfire. B sees A running down the stairs and cracks off a couple of shots, but misses. Persons C & D, hearing these retorts, grab their own pistols and run in search of the action.
A runs outside, pursued by B. They crouch in defensive positions and open fire on each other. C comes around the corner and can see B firing at A. C opens up at B, thinking that B is the shooter. D comes round the other side and can see A firing at B. D opens up at A. We now have four guns in operation with confusing cross-fire.
E, F, G (you can add as many more as you like because in this upside down world if you don't carry a gun you're in real danger from those who do). Pretty soon you've got a wild west "OK corral" type situation going on. A friend of mine likened it to a bar brawl where, once the first punch is thrown everyone kicks in and no one can figure out who started it or where "fault" might lie.
In the emotional and adrenalin fueled atmosphere of a campus gun battle who knows where it might end. No one apart from A and B know what went down in the first instance and they're too busy firing back (or more likely already dead). Any newcomers into the scene are likely to shoot first and ask questions later, if they survive.
This way real madness lies, but not according to the distorted logic of the gun lobby. These are the last people in the world who should be allowed to have guns.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Don't these right-wingers get enough air time?

Shock-jock Melanie Morgan: Media Matters like Virginia Tech gunman

I'm sick and tired of right-wing shock-jocks like KSFO's (San Fancisco) Melanie Morgan complaining about attempts by ordinary people, activists and concerned journalists to add a little left-wing ballast to the rightward drifting daily media flagship the SS "Tub-o-lies".
These highly-paid, emotionally-crippled, talking chimps get paid buckets of cash to rant and rave about their favourite topics, day after day. They are not the organ-grinders, but they have a nasty bite when irritated. Yet when one small organisation, in this case MediaMatters for America, takes them on and argues against their neo-con whining, they spit the dummy and call us names.
Get over it, you're winning (for now).
The reason why people like me (and fellow bloggers) give up our precious spare time is because, unlike the mouthpiece machines, we don't get paid to have our own soapbox. We do it for love (and political commitment).
Here's a grab of what Ms Morgan thinks of democratic advocates of media change:

Like that mentally unbalanced and angry gunman at Virginia Tech, they'll methodically march through the domiciles of the conservative movement, targeting the movement's leaders for career elimination -- until and unless we stand up and fight back against their campaign of mayhem against conservative leaders and causes.

If you can't play nicely with the other kids Melanie: "GET OUT OF THE SANDBOX!" When you actually analyse (in a sober way) what caused Cho Seung-Hui to kill 32 fellow Americans, it was not the nice, soft left-liberal side of America, but the gun-totin', Bush votin' rednecks who dogwhistlers like Morgan appeal too with her well-supported conservative opinions. The stuff that's now emerging is of a disturbed young man who was bullied and hounded. I'm not excusing what he did, but hey Melanie, take a cold shower in the reality stalls.
Oh, if only the tide would turn and the SS "Tub-o-lies" would founder on the reefs of sanity and sensibility.
And finally, speaking of "career elimination", who exactly was Joseph McCarthy?

The Image as News - Virginia Tech Media Coverage

In the aftermath of the massacre at Virginia Tech the media has a duty to think carefully about how it presents the on-going news story in ways that fulfils its role of informing citizens, but also minimizes harm and trauma. The stories of the 15 injured survivors are now featuring in the news, later will come the coronial inquests, official inquiries and other newsworthy stories in the aftermath of the massacre. And then on 16th April each year for many years to come news organizations, particularly in the US, will revive the story of the Virginia Tech massacre and this coverage will re-traumatize its citizens, particularly those most closely affected by the event. All of these stories will need to be told, the news media has a duty to inform the public about the aftermath of the massacre. However, the images the news media choose to publish in their coverage of the aftermath will have a substantial impact on how well the media manages that fine line in trauma reportage between fulfilling its duty to inform while minimising the harm to the public.
In the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania in 1996 (when gunman Martin Bryant killed 35 people at a historic former penal settlement on the Tasman Peninsula) the media coverage that most divided the Tasmanian community has been the continued use of what has become the iconic image of the massacre – a photo of a blonde-haired, wild-eyed young man staring out at the world. The continual replication of this image has created an ongoing hostility towards the Tasmanian media. Those affected by its replication claim that it re-traumatizes them while providing nothing new to the public discourse.
Visual images are a powerful medium. Photographs, as Peter Stepan says in the forward to Photos that Changed the World (Prestel, 2006), photographic images can “shake us, disquiet, and distress us so deeply that they are etched in our memories forever.” In disasters, conflicts and significant human tragedies one image often becomes the defining image through its mass media coverage. Nick Ut’s 1972 photo of Kim Phuc, naked and burned by napalm, running down a road surrounded by other terrified children is for many the iconic image of the Vietnam war, while John Paul Filo’s photo of Mary Ann Vecchio’s kneeling lament before the body of a dead student at Kent Sate University on 4 May 1970, is the iconic image of that tragedy.

In the case of the Port Arthur massacre the iconic image of Australia’s worst mass murder is not a photo from the massacre scene, but rather a personal family snapshot of Bryant which was initially published in a shocking full-page layout on the front-page of Hobart’s daily newspaper, the Murdoch owned Mercury, with the headline: “This Is the Man.” (There have been claims about the digital manipulation of the eyes in this photo to give Bryant a more demonic appearance, but that is the topic of another ethical discussion.) In the 11 years since the Port Arthur massacre this image has become the stock image used in news stories about Bryant in the Australian media, particularly in the local Mercury where stories appear not infrequently ranging from unconfirmed reports that he has self-harmed; that he is living like a “zombie”; or that he is gaining extra privileges in prison. Each time this photo is published many in the Tasmanian community, and particularly those who were most closely affected by the tragedy, complain about the harm and distress its publication causes in forcing them to relive the horror.
Aside from the ethical debate about the issue as to whether NBC (and later other news networks) should have broadcast the video produced by the Virginia Tech murderer, Cho Seung-Hui, there is also the question of the replication of the image which is already becoming the defining image of the massacre,

Cho Seung-Hui’s portrait of himself dressed in military clothing, brandishing the weapons he used to kill 32 people while he stares menacingly into the camera—and forever at the viewer.

As in the case of Martin Bryant (while Bryant did not personally hand over his framed family photo to the media, the image reflects the way he wished to be seen by others) the media is again allowing the perpetrator of a heinous crime to choose how they are to be seen by the world. By publishing, and republishing and rebroadcasting, Cho Seung-Hui’s portrait of himself, the media is allowing him, from the grave, to choose the images which will forever define the Virginia Tech massacre. The editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, Phil Bronstein, was one editor who was mindful of the power of Cho's image when deciding what pictures to publish. Bronstein agreed that the most shocking image was of Cho, dressed in the “Rambo-style” outfit and pointing his guns at the viewer seemed “a step too far”: “To me, that is so manufactured. It’s real in the sense that he used the guns in a horrible way, but those particular images of him with guns are such manipulation… they reflected the image that he wanted to have live on, so we made the decision consciously not to reflect that image”. The other image most widely broadcast and published of Cho Seung-Hui is an undated mugshot from the Virginia police (and therefore not an image of Cho’s choosing) which at first appears less confronting in that it depicts nothing more than the rather sulky face of a young man, but in other ways is, like Bryant’s image, this innocuous image is even more confronting for its disconcerting normalcy.
To the families of the victims of Port Arthur and the wider Tasmanian community, the replication of the Bryant image has continued to compound the trauma of that event. While Cho Seung-Hui will forever stare menacingly out at those who view his image, at what stage will its news values cease to override the risk of harm? News editors will need to think carefully, like Phil Bronstein, before they allow this image to become the “stock” vision of the Virginia Tech massacre.
It has been heartening to see the response of the Virginian newspaper the Roanoke Times to the massacre. In an unprecedented decision the team of editors, headed by Managing Editor Carole Tarrant, chose to publish five of NBC’s images of Cho Seung-Hui on pages two and three and ran a memorial picture on the front page

At the same time Tarrant acknowledged the importance of the NBC photos, arguing that they gave readers a glimpse of the killer’s mind-set and that the pictures helped to tell the story, but that the community was “still too raw to put a picture of a gun-toting Cho on the front.” Roanoke Times columnist Shanna Flowers says, “geography and proximity are other important ingredients in a decision like this one.”
Bob Steele from the Poynter Institute in Florida acknowledges that in such situations the media cannot prevent all harm, and that it is a balancing act between truth and harm. But the ethical breach comes when the news media continues to replay the footage, or republish the still images, when the news imperative to inform is no longer valid. When the image is being published or broadcast to attract an audience, to drive ratings, there is a clear ethical breach. The impact of visual images is immediate and undoable. Unlike the written word, visual images often rob the individual of the right to choose. We have a choice as to whether we read a news account of a story. However, visual images, particularly if they are displayed on the front page of newspapers, on billboards, or used unannounced in news broadcast, are consumed before the viewer has been given the opportunity to make a choice, and for many this lack of choice compounds their sense of affront and further reduces their respect for the news media.
Scott North, reporter and assistant city editor for the Herald (Everett, Wash) in his advice to journalists covering the aftermath of the massacre, wrote in his posting on the DART Centre for Journalism and Trauma web site.
In the race to get it first, don’t forget the long view. It often helps to think less about gathering fact and more about creating relationships. Some of the best stories won’t be told for days, weeks, months or, in some cases, years.
“People in grief have long memories. You will want to be able to return to these people when they are ready to tell you what they’ve learned, not just what they know. The golden rule can’t hurt you here. Approach people the way you’d want to be approached. Give them the respect and space you’d expect in the same situation.

In advising news directors, picture editors, news editors and sub-editors who are making choices about republishing or rebroadcasting the images of Cho Seung-Hui, I would advise them to not forget the long view, to think about building relationships with their audience, and to be proactive in assisting the community to heal in the aftermath by acknowledging the positive stories to come out of the tragedy. I would also advise gatekeepers to be mindful of the impact of visual imagery and to make the choice to republish judiciously.
The media’s coverage of the Port Arthur massacre provides several important lessons. In 2006 the University of Tasmania, in conjunction with DART International and the Australian Press Council, held a public seminar in Hobart on the media coverage of Port Arthur. The audience hostility towards the media, ten years on, was at times palpable and the overwhelming message from the public members to the media representatives and media educators present was—report the positive stories, stop re-traumatizing us by glorifying Bryant by gratuitously publishing his photo. There is a lesson here for those reporting on the aftermath of Cho Seung-Hui’s murderous actions.
In Tasmania, April is an autumnal time of still, clear crisp days—in Virginia it is a time of verdant spring. In both corners of the world April is now defined for many as a month of sad reflection. It is beholden on those who uphold the ideals of the fourth estate in these communities to reflect the events which have marked the lives of their people with a sensitivity and dignity which fosters healing and provides a way forward.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

All journalists and citizens need to worry about this

Press Gazette - Citizen Journalists in France threatened with arrest

This is a very alarming development, I suppose the law has been in place for a while (since March 3 2007), but its use against journalists, or anyone recording an event of public interest as opposed to just capturing a "happy slapping" moment is alarming.

Here's a grab of the blog report linked to above:

I was present at the riot. I Twittered a series of eight live messages. I took photos. At one point, a police officer asked me to hand him my camera. I showed him my press card and I carried on taking photographs. An hour later, I uploaded the images to the photosharing site Flickr. And a day later, I noticed a comment by Mo, a fellow Flickr member, below one of the 24 images. He wrote: "I got all the photos and videos I took yesterday on my cameraphone deleted by a policeman, who told me he would arrest [me] if he ever saw me doing [it] again. I don't know if he had the right to erase the photos. I should see about that."
I've never been one to favour laws against journalism, or any kind of government regulation. This is why.
I hope to post more on why I don't support the outdated notion of the "Fourth Estate", but it's ironic that it was really a product of the French revolution.
The bottom line is that was a bourgeois revolution and now that the bourgeoisie is the ruling class and its global dominance is complete, it doesn't need freedom of the press, not even in the nation that gave us the classic slogan of liberation: liberte, egalite, [humanite]. Of course the original was 'fraternite', brotherhood in other words. I've updated it on behalf of (not really, more in support of) the sisterhood.

Kuwait Times carries story on Blacksburg video backlash

Cho pics spark debate, backlash on TV, print » Kuwait Times Website

Well, this is interesting, in a nation that has no real free press and where women wear the burqa, the "Cho" video is getting some news time. OK, so it's only agency copy, but it's a start.

Storm in a G-string?

The May 2007 edition of Dolly magazine in New Zealand has been recalled by its publisher, Australian Consolidated Press, because an image of a model strutting the catwalk sans g-string as her skirt billows open was deemed too offensive for the publication's "tweenies" audience.
I've included a small-ish version here, but it has been doctored, if you're offended, close your eyes before reading the rest of this post. If you want to see a bigger version of this image, it's here at this interesting blogspot for Today's Apathetic Youth.
Was it an accident?
ACP is claiming that the "little spot" they used during page makeup to cover the model's (let's call it what it is) vagina "fell off". Just exactly how this can happen using digital image management in a program like PhotoShop or InDesign escapes my thinking processes.

According to a New Zealand Herald report, a spokesperson for ACP said the picture was the result of a printing error and the new, censored editions of the magazine would be distributed shortly.
But what about this?
The picture had an arrow pointing to the girl's crutch with the caption: "Umm ... we think you forgot something."
Some accident...the subs put a caption on the photo with an arrow pointing to the model's crutch, but then they were going to cover it up? OK, I'll buy that.

What I really want to comment on is the poor state of our society when such a harmless image can cause such a fuss. Most readers of Dolly actually have the body part in question and so wouldn't be too surprised that a female model has one too. They might even see the humour in the sub-editor's little joke.
Where's the offence in this?
I can't see why it had to be censored. Unless of course ACP feared a backlash from those odiously hypocritical "family first"* types who want to continue belting their kids as a way of "teaching them a lesson", but who don't want their children to grow up with a healthy attitude towards vaginas, penises, anuses and breasts. In short, the very same uptight and twisted parents and deluded religious "do-gooders" who want to shut down any discussion of healthy sexuality, in favour of some made up taboos that effectively destroy young minds and reproduce the same repressed mentality that they suffer from.
"Get your hands off our bodies," we used to chant. And off our magazines.
And while we're at it, keep your bloody hands off our (and your) children too, you sadistic perverts.

* My apologies - this link leads to perversion and may rot young minds, parental guidance required. However, I make no apologies for linking to Richard Dawkins talking about the "God delusion". In fact I encourage young (and old) minds to go there and listen to his podcasts.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Reporters sans Frontieres calls for Johnston release

The global media watchdog group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the Palestinian Authority to pressure those holding BBC reporter Alan Johnston to provide evidence that he is still alive.
A few days ago the previously unknown group, the Tawhid and Jihad Brigades, said they had killed Alan, but later Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said he had evidence that Johnston was still alive.

On the 40th day since BBC correspondent Alan Johnston’s abduction in Gaza, Reporters Without Borders today called on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to urge his kidnappers to produce evidence that he is still alive.

“We continue to be worried about Johnston’s fate and we call on President Abbas and Prime Minister Haniyeh to coordinate their efforts to obtain his release as soon as possible,” the press freedom organisation said.

NRA silence still deafening

I have been keeping an eye on the National Rifle Association's reaction to the Blacksburg shootings. Over the past few days I've been regularly visiting the NRA website expecting that the organisation that claims to speak for America's gun-owners would have some measured response to the murder of 32 people by a deranged shooter with several powerful handguns and a sh!tload of ammo.
Here's the statement that they first posted four days ago.

The National Rifle Association joins the entire country in expressing our deepest condolences to the families of Virginia Tech and everyone else affected by this horrible tragedy.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families.

We will not have further comment until all the facts are known.

Excuse me, but we know the facts. A mentally-ill young man armed with legally purchased weapons killed 32 people and then shot himself. What have the powerful representative's of America's gun-owning public got to say about this. It seems, to use an Antipodean colloquialism "Bugger All!"
Hiding behind "until all the facts are known" is cowardice in the extreme. As of today the NRA's ridiculous non-statement has not been updated in any way.
These bloodthirsty nutters should shut themselves down and apologise to the world for their despicable silence.
Guns don't kill people, gun-owners do!
My challenge to NRA President Sandra S. Froman is for her to use her President's Column to respond to this incident in the measured tones she's so apparently fond of. This is a small grab from what's live on Froman's column at the NRA site as of today (Saturday 21 April 2007):
The challenge is getting the message out. The mainstream media doesn’t give us a fair shake, and it costs a great deal of money to go on television or radio. Every dollar we spend on those media outlets is one less dollar available for our members’ shooting, hunting and gun safety programs. NRA has always been able to do a lot with a little and wise use of our resources is always part of the equation.
How can she say that the mainstream media isn't interested in the NRA's views, what crap. The whole world wants to know what you think about this Sandra. Hell, you can come here and have a whole page to yourself, uncensored. For the sake of the victims, say something.
And I really like the priorities expressed here:
shooting, hunting and gun safety
Nice one Prez! Not!!

Blacksburg Massacre - the techno-legal time gap and new media

In an interesting article by Joe Garofoli at SFGate we are beginning to see a discussion about the many ethical and lego-technical dilemmas thrown up by the way that NBC chose to use the Cho Seung-Hui suicide video.
The basic question is should the news media use everything it can get - such as the "eyewitness" cameraphone footage and the Cho tape, just because it can? There are also issues of verification, authority and authenticity around this. Not to mention the traditional ethical issues, such as grief intrusion, the coverage of violent crimes and suicide and the rights of victims.
I have written (see link to my books below) about what I call the ethico-legal paradox (that there is a contradiction sometimes between the law and ethics in media decision-making) and the techno-legal time gap (that there is a disconnect between what the technology can be used for and any form of legitimate regulatory regime to govern its use).
We see both of these issues being played out in the raging debate about the use of the Cho video in NBC (and other) newscasts and on the web.
Garofoli wrote that in the Blacksburg situation we see the visible interdependence between old and new media for the first time. Well not quite. I have written and lectured on this over the past year to my colleagues and students. I call this phenomenon "Journalism in the Age of YouTube".
It first came to my notice in July 2005 during the London bombings. The BBC and other media were running loads of amateur footage shot on cameraphones and many stills of the underground explosions. But the real tragedy of this was the shooting of Brazilian tourist, Jean Charles de Menezes by the police a couple of days later. Eyewitnesses told the BBC that they had seen "wires" poking out of his jacket when police tackled him to the ground and shot him between five and seven times in the head. The news that Mr de Menezes was a "terrorist" led the frontpage news the next day. It took the British police more than 24 hours to correct the wrong information from eyewitnesses. This is the real danger in this unmediated and uncorroborated fast-media world.
The second time I noticed this, and what sparked my interest even more was inNovember 2006 when a student at UC-Berkeley was tazered by over-zealous security guards. With in hours footage shot by eyewitness cameraphone was posted on YouTube and within 48 hours it was a big international story. I saw it for the first time on a commercial network bulletin in Perth, Australia.
What was interesting about this event was that it set up a referential feedback loop between YouTube and the mass media. YouTube hosted the phone footage, then it was picked up by the campus student press, then by local (San Francisco) news organisations, then it made it onto CNN and Fox and went global. But almost immediately, YouTubers were cross-posting the Fox and CNN clips back into their networks. When I last checked on 21 April 2007 there had been over one million hits on one version of the phone video, but there are several others that have similar hit rates.
I agree that there is a growing interconnection between traditional media and the digital natives, such as YouTubers. My interest in pursuing this is to know how far it's going and where it might lead.
I am currently writing a book about this and would love to hear from EM readers about their own experiences, thoughts and incidents. If you come across more writing on this, pls let me know about it.
Here's another thoughtful news report that really nails some of the ethical issues. The AP television writer, David Bauder, had this to say, and it's a comment I agree with:

The pictures alone _ 11 showed a gun pointed at a camera lens _ were repulsive. Many who saw them viewed it as a second attack, an invitation to copycats and a fulfillment of Cho's demented wish for attention.
There's also some good coverage over at the UK Press Gazette blog.
Meanwhile, this is what the good burgher's of Blacksburg have had to put up with. Would you like to have dinner with this sh!t blaring away from the widescreen TV over the bar?

Networks react to public anger over Cho video. Do we have the first copycat?

Now that NBC and MSNBC have made their point - "we're first", etc, they've pulled back from large scale use of the Cho Seung-Hui suicide video.
I think this is a victory for commonsense (maybe) over commercial imperatives. No doubt NBC has made a lot of money from this video - their stories on it have been syndicated globally. But there's been a strong public reaction against it from academics, grief counsellors and from news consumers.
But, on the downside, have we seen the first directly-linked copycat event at the Johnston Space Center. Thankfully, only one "victim" and the "shooter" were killed here. I don't think any link has been confirmed yet, but the suspicion must be there. [My apologies for linking to Fox News on this]
I certainly thought we'd get some reaction like this as soon as I saw the way NBC had treated the Cho Blacksburg tape.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Welcome Nicola Goc

My colleague Nicola Goc has joined Ethical Martini, as a contributor. I'm looking forward to some interesting posts from Nicola, who teaches in the journalism program at the University of Tasmania.

Blacksburg Massacre footage - should it be shown

On Thursday night I saw some of the footage of Cho Seung-Hui's gruesome death video. It had been aired by the NBC network in the USA and, of course, picked up and screened right around the world.
There was not any type of warning on the network news I saw and it was right in the middle of so-called "family viewing" time. Was it necessary to air so much of the tape in which Cho makes it clear he's going to do something violent, reads his crazed prose and poetry and poses with the handguns he'd recently purchased.
The language of the reporter covering the story was just as violent, it's what I have begun to call "forensic pornography". It's the type of stuff you see in the fictional cop shows, particularly those that feature sexual violence against women as the "crime" that's being "solved".
This is exactly how NBC and its affiliated website , MSNBC is covering the story. Here's an image from their cover piece on the tape and the massacre, a profile of the killer that glorifies what he did in a very sick way.
There are nine clips and a "slide show" of still images from the video uploaded onto the MSNBC website.
This is making Cho out to be some kind of psychopathic hero.
Where's the empathy for the victims, families and friends. Do they need to have this grisly reminder and "trophy" gloat tape pushed in their faces?
What were the ethical thinking and decision-making principles in the NBC newsroom that led them to think it was a good idea to use this tape in this way?
Perhaps some of the comments posted on the MSNBC viewer/reader pages are an indication.
The overwhelming line is that banning hand guns won't work, the old "guns don't kill people, people do" line and some weird religious shit about the fact that "God" won't tolerate this -"the end is nigh" doomsdayism. So perhaps the audience isn't very capable of discerning judgment and NBC is pandering to some awful voyeuristic tendencies in its key market demographic.

Interestingly NBC has defended its decision in a statement sent to the Poynter Institute, which is also hosting an extended discussion of this topic: to show or not show the footage. One TV network, affiliated to NBC decided to not show the footage or stills from the tape, or to play the audio.
In my view there are ways to deal with this story that do not involve glorifying a mass murderer who was obviously psychotic. I'm very worried that there could be possible copycat killers out there who are getting off on this material and could become just as unstable.
I also think that in terms of grief reporting that it is just adding to the pain of the survivors, friends and families of the deceased.

Johnston still alive

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says BBC journalist Alan Johnston is still alive.
The Guardian is reporting that Abbas told journalists that Palestinian intelligence sources believe the correspondent is alive.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Is this man right for the job

This is Anthony Flannery, the new head of news and current affairs at TVNZ. He's from Channel Nine Australia and has worked on tabloid television current affairs shows for some time.
It's interesting that this is a top news story in New Zealand at the moment - see my earlier post on job cuts at TVNZ.
For more on Mr Flannery, here's a link to this morning's New Zealand Herald online story. More on this later, I'm off to judge some magazine awards and will be out of the office for most of the morning.
One thing though, check out the ABC (Australia) Media Watch files on A Current Affair's past ethical history. Here's one from 2003, but there's more and the Media Watch archive is searchable.
Is this the future of "charter" television in New Zealand?

NRA still silent

The National Rifle Association has still not updated its response to the Virginia Tech massacre.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Media in crisis - New Zealand journalists angry

The New Zealand journalists' union issued the following media release, more on this story later.

April 17, 2007

Media in crisis, say NZ journalists

Journalists from news organisations across the country have condemned proposals to cut editorial staff at TVNZ and APN at an industry meeting in Wellington.

The meeting also called for a major summit this year to address the growing crisis in the New Zealand media.

The resolution was passed unanimously by representatives of more than 5000 print and media workers at the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union's Print & Media Industry Council, which has been meeting yesterday and today to discuss the union's strategy to fight the cuts.

Simon Collins, an EPMU delegate at the New Zealand Herald, says journalists are alarmed at the growing crisis in the New Zealand media.

"New Zealand journalists are alarmed at the decline in quality reporting that's being driven by commercial pressures.

– "We see the proposed cuts at TVNZ and APN as a fundamental attack on news quality that will lead to less in-depth coverage, less accuracy, and more important stories left untold."

Collins says good journalism is crucial to the functioning of our democracy.

"As journalists we feel a responsibility to speak out in the interests of the New Zealand public and demand media companies invest in good journalism so we can fulfil our proper democratic function."

The EPMU-sponsored summit will be open to anybody with an interest in the media and will include international speakers, news professionals and academics, and community leaders.


Resolution of the Print & Media Industry Council, 16-17 April 2007

That this council condemns the decline in journalistic standards that has resulted from the over-commercialisation of New Zealand's media.

The council endorses measures to halt the decline in truth and quality reporting in print and electronic media.

We demand appropriate staffing levels, training and promotion of professional standards and ethics.

We condemn and express alarm at the likely loss of freedom of expression, quality journalism, and range of voices that will result from proposed cuts to TVNZ and APN newspapers.

We reaffirm our journalistic commitment to providing news and information to serve all citizens and our democracy regardless of commercial pressures.


CNN alrady in the "firing line"

Well, it didn't take long! CNN is now hosting 'eye witness' footage and audio on its website. Apparently taken on a cell phone by Virginia Tech student Jamal Albarghouti. Here's a report about it from Digital Spy.
How does this sit with the Poynter's advice about using eye witness reports?

Eyewitnesses verify identities of those who contact you to talk about what they saw or heard. Dont get snookered by someone who pretends to have been there. Verify the authenticity and legitimacy of eyewitness accounts before you use them.

Video/Pictures/Sound from Eyewitnesses This content is NOT being gathered by journalists. They are eyewitnesses or participants in the story. The content they offer may be authentic, but journalists have an obligation to verify that authenticity before using it online, on the air or in the paper.

Virginia Tech shootings - the coverage and the aftermath

One of the worst mass shootings in the US, the death of more than 30 students and staff at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg Virginia on 16th April, is likely to be a big story for months. The funerals of the victims are likely to attract massive global media attention and no doubt we'll see some ugly scenes in the coming weeks as various outlets jostle to "own" the story and to shut out their opposition.

This is a reality in the commercial media world, even when there's tragedy on such a mass scale.
The Poynter Institute has been quick to upload some tips for reporters and media covering this story. Particularly in dealing with eye witnesses, managing the footage of victims, dealing with rumours and managing posts onto blogs and commentary on news sites. All sound advice.

Ethical Martini will be monitoring the coverage carefully, and posting on any issues that arise.

Recent experience in Australia, particularly coverage of the worst mass shooting in Australian history, the Port Arthur "massacre" on 28 April 1996 (35 killed) is a salient case study, as is the Columbine school shootings of 29 April 1999.

Unfortunately, Martin Bryant, the man convicted of the Port Arthur killings has become a hero of th weird consipiracy theory movement, but The Age newspaper (Melbourne) ran a good commemorative piece in April 2006.

It will also be interesting to see how the political debate about gun control (or the obvious lack of it in the USA) is played out. The National Rifle Association is a powerful minority lobby group well out of step with mainstream American opinion, but rich enough to subborn the democratic process through liberal (illiberal) applications of cash to the right Washington pockets. The NRA's mealy-mouthed statement in response the Blacksburg shootings is enough said about this lunatic fringe organisation.

Let's hope Dubya's staunch backing of the gun lobby is another nail is the Republican's presidential hopes for 2008.

It's sad that the deaths of more than 30 young, bright future American leaders has to happen to shake the US out of its complaceny. My sympathies to all who feel a loss at this time.

Still no confirmation of Alan Johnston's fate

There is still no confirmation of the fate of Alan Johnston despite Sunday's announcement by a previously unknown group that it had killed the British journalist.
The BBC continues to report on the situtation, saying his family is very worried by the lack of firm news. Journalists and supporters have rallied around the world calling for Alan's release. The BBC itself organised rallies across the UK

I can't help wondering why, with all the sophisticated surveillance technologies at their disposal why the Israeli secret service or the CIA, or MI5 have not been able to locate Alan or his kidnappers.

Why would an Islamic or Palestinian group want to kidnap a BBC journalist? I'm worried that this story doesn't make sense, but I have nothing to support my unease.

I'm going to keep looking.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Do bloggers have ethics

For some reason the debate about bloggers' ethics has risen again this week. It's not a new debate, but it's become newsworthy when blogger Tim O'Reilly mentioned it at his O'Reilly Radar site. O'Reilly's suggestion is for bloggers to put one of these two symbols on their page:

There's interesting stuff about anonymity and "feeding the trolls", but in the end, it's the choice of the blogger/host to impose the rules that they are comfortable with.

There's one reasonable code of blogger ethics here at Cyberjournalist.
My view is that I am willing to let people comment here without moderation, though I have some experience in dealing with nasties. I won't allow racist, homophobic or sexist comments, but if you want to have a go at my politics, go ahead.

Alan Johnston dead or alive?

The BBC is reporting that a Palestinian group calling itself the Al Tawhid Al Jihad brigade is claiming to have killed Alan Johnston. Johnston, the BBC's Gaza correspondent was abducted on 12 March.
There is no independent confirmation of the statement by the group claiming to have been holding the reporter.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Free Speech and the Fiji Coup

There's a lot of sh*t going down in Fiji right now. The coup led by the military strong man Frank Bainimarama has just disbanded the country's Great Council of Chiefs. No great loss you might think, this is the same body that has backed pretty much every other coup in the Pacific nation going right back to the first one in the late 1980s.

But now Fiji's small and vulnerable free press is under attack. Read more here and here

The (not so) poor old Corbys

Schapelle Corby continues to languish in an Indonesian prison after being convicted of drug-smuggling in a flashy show trial, and her family is being hounded for the proceeds of her book sales. Now there's a new twist, former "second best friends" are fallling out in a case that's set to go before the NSW Supreme Court.
Mercedes Corby is suing her former gal-pal Jodi Power over claims made by Power that the Corby family is involved in drug dealing on a major scale.
Channel Seven's Today Tonight is also named in the writ as the Sydney Morning Herald recently reported.
"Ouch", cat fight ahead!

The difficult middle cat

This is Josie, sunning herself in the garden at Fernbrook

I should mention I like cats too

I'm a cat lover, so I may, from time to time add a post about my three furry kids.

Here's a couple of pictures: Tilly in a box and Lexi on the balcony, to get the fur-ball rolling!

Release Alan Johnston

The BBC's Gaza Correspondent, Alan Johnston, missing presumed kidnapped
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) on Friday [13 April] repeated its call for the immediate and unconditional release of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston who was kidnapped over a month ago in Gaza by a group that has yet to make any public statement about holding him.

On Monday the IFJ will participate in a vigil being held by the BBC in Brussels to urge his captors to free him. IFJ affiliates in Gaza, the West Bank, the UK and elsewhere have been demonstrating for Johnston’s release. “We are extremely worried about Alan and we call on the Palestinian government to do everything in its power to make sure he is released immediately,” said IFJ General Secretary Aidan White. “These types of kidnappings are doing great harm not just to journalism but to the development of the region in general by making it impossible for journalists to work safely and report on developments there.” The IFJ is working with journalists of the BBC and their union based in the UK and Ireland, the National Union of Journalists, in a series of events highlighting the case of Johnston. The IFJ is asking journalists, media workers and supporters in Brussels to come to the demonstration on Monday, which will be held at 3:15 p.m. local time in front of the Berlaymont Building in Brussels. It will mark exactly 5 weeks from the date he was kidnapped by unknown men in Gaza.

This is the media statement from the IFJ, it is a tragic situation when a journalist is kidnapped or killed and it happens all too often in the Middle East. But it also happens in Russia Africa, Latin and South America, China and many other parts of the world.

The IFJ keeps an updated list of disappearances, murders and beatings of journalists.
Don't shoot the messenger!