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!

Monday, 30 July 2007

Coming back to Blogger

A couple of weeks ago I decided to move Ethical Martini over to WordPress. But I really wasn't happy there.
I've thought about it and done a bit more scoping of the options on offer at both places - there are subtle but important differences - and decided, no matter how I feel about the Goolempire, to return to my original home.

Some reading from Columbia Journalism Review

Dear Reader,

For your reading pleasure, as the Bancroft family makes up its collective mind, we offer three recent offerings from
Columbia Journalism Review on the matter of News Corp. and Dow Jones.
Your choice: short, medium, long. We hope you enjoy all three.

The Editors

The Scorpion and the Frog
CJR's editorial on the Murdoch offer

Why the Dow Jones Vote Matters
Dean Starkman on the mission of The Wall Street Journal

Bending to Power
Murdoch historian Bruce Page on how Rupert built his empire, and how he uses it

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Ethical Martni has moved house

Hello, this is my last post here. I've moved house. I'm now living over at WordPress.
I'm sorry Blgospot, but I like the functionality of categories and separate pages.
You were great, but I've out-grown you.

To find Ethical Martini - you know what to do.
Adios, come and see the new place.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Should Parliament be protected from satire

You know it's interesting how politicians are usually the first group to complain when their freedom of speech is attacked. They all like to make motherhood statements that free speech is the cornerstone of a "democratic" system of government, but they don't like it when the media tries to insert some leavening humour into proceedings by poking fun a their stuffed shirt antics.

National Rifle Association - shoot [the polar bear] first, ask no questions

I've followed the US National Rifle Association's antics since the Virginia Tech shootings in April 2007. I couldn't resit alerting Martini lovers to Martha Rosenberg's column today. She's very clever in her critique of the NRA's attempts to get around American gun laws:

Besides being armed to return a library book, the NRA wants the right to bring weapons on public parks and school yards, often in defiance of home rule laws.

And speaking of bravery, the NRA has also found time since the Cho shootings to help Safari Club International (SCI), the group former President George H.W. Bush, former Vice President Dan Quayle and Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. belonged to when they were outed hunting in Africa and asking the Botswana government to keep trophy lion hunts available.

In June it helped SCI defeat an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the House of Representatives that would have banned the import of sport-hunted polar bear trophies from Canada.

Who kills polar bears for fun?

Eight hundred Americans imported polar bear trophies from guided hunts in Arctic Canada since 1997! And SCI offers a "Bears of the World" award, a kind of National Geographic for the bloodthirsty, in which hunters have to kill four of the world's eight bear species which include imperiled polar bears.

The NRA also worked to defeat wolf protection laws and spay and neuter legislation for dogs.

No, Seung-Hui Cho's bullets have not stopped the NRA's fast track agenda--or the politicians in its back pocket: the ultimate concealed weapon.

The not-so-watertight case against Ahmed Zaoui

Over on the Scoop website, Gordon Campbell is carefully dissecting the nebulous Secret Intelligence Service case against asylum-seeker Ahmed Zaoui. It'll be worthwhile following Campbell's analysis over the next few days. Here's a taster:

After all, the SIS case against Zaoui has never alleged him to be a terrorist, or even a potential terrorist threat. The risk security certificate against him was not issued under section 73 of the Immigration Act – which concerns terrorists – but under the far more nebulous section 72, which offers fewer protections to the accused.

For all those reasons, I believe the more likely argument the SIS will try to run is that Zaoui is now, and always has been, a radical hardliner – a man they will allege has been consistently opposed to peace and reconciliation in Algeria. A man who opposed the ‘truce’ offered by the junta in the mid 1990s, just as he has misgivings now about the amnesty promoted by the Bouteflika government in Algeria today.

No matter that those same misgivings are also shared by Amnesty International and by Human Rights watch. To make its case, the SIS has to use its 30 files of general information about pan- Islamic radicalism and then shoe-horn Zaoui into the stereotype.

There are more than 30 "secret" files on Zaoui, but they don't amount to more than a lot of hot air it seems. Why is the New Zealand government so keen to see Mr Zaoui's rights trampled? Despite its "Labour" tag, the Clark government is committed to the "war on terror". Mr Zaoui seems to be the convenient scapegoat. That is, until the SIS "uncovers" some evidence that overseas-born doctors in New Zealand are the latest "threat".

Stop the Big Media Takeover! | Canadians for Democratic Media

Stop the Big Media Takeover! | Canadians for Democratic Media

If you're reading this blog from Canada, please make sure you check out the Stop the Big Media Takeover campaign website. Here's a clip from a promotional video they're circulating.

Media diversity is the cornerstone of democracy. But media ownership is more
highly concentrated in Canada than almost anywhere else in the industrialized world. Almost all private Canadian television stations are owned by national media conglomerates and, because of increasing cross-ownership, most of the daily newspapers we read are owned by the same corporations that own television and radio stations.

This means a handful of Big Media Conglomerates control what Canadians can most readily see, hear and read. It means less local and regional content, more direct control over content by owners and less analysis of the events that shape our lives. It also means less media choice for Canadians and fewer jobs for Canadian media workers.

We must also be wary of the impacts mergers have on the diversity and neutrality of new on-line media. We need to reverse this trend before big media gets even bigger!

Tell the CRTC what you think.

Rules that truly curb media concentration in Canada are long overdue. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) - the body that regulates broadcast and telecommunications systems - is holding a hearing on how to ensure the diversity of media voices in September and the deadline for submissions is July 18, 2007. Unless current policy direction are challenged by the public, Canada could in the long run end up with a vastly more concentrated media and a relaxation of the foreign ownership rules leaving our media susceptible to takeovers by even bigger Foreign-owned media conglomerates. The airwaves belong to the public, and the CRTC needs to hear from you.

Unless the public speaks out, the debate will continue to be dominated by large media corporations. Please forward this message to encourage others to participate in this crucial campaign. Tell your family and friends about this important campaign

Share it on FaceBook:

The New Zealand link is, of course, CanWest, which has a number of media assets in Aotearoa and is a big player here too. CanWest Mediaworks New Zealand owns TV3, C4, and Radioworks.

An intersting defamation case from Australia

'Pervert's mates' win $480,000 from newspaper - National - smh.com.au

An interesting defamation case from Australia.

IN A startling twist to the story of the disgraced public prosecutor Patrick Power, 16 of his influential colleagues and friends have won $480,000 from The Daily Telegraph in settlement of a defamation action.

They were among a group of august legal and business identities, family and friends who wrote references for Power in the course of his criminal prosecution on charges of possessing child pornography.

One of them - the Nudie juice founder Tim Pethick - is married to an executive at News Limited, the paper's publisher.

"Pervert and his 59 mates," read the Telegraph's headline on the day that it reported the names of Power's referees.

A follow-up story in The Sunday Telegraph named a full list of 84 referees, picturing some with the caption "Named and Shamed". The newspapers' website also published a series of readers' comments that were central to the threatened defamation action.

Three cheers for Hone Harawira: "hip hip hooray, Howard IS a racist"

Aussie PM labelled `a racist'` - The Dominion Post

Intervention plan shows Howard 'racist' - Maori MP [SMH]
Thank you Hone Harawira. Thanks for having the courage to say it: John Howard is a racist. His government is racist and his actions in the Northern Territory - purportedly to stop sexual violence against children - is a grab for precious resources, particularly uranium.
One of the men in this image
is a racist bastard,
the other one said so.

The Howard government wants to make Australia a key player in the nu-killer-ization of the planet. Australia has the world's largest reserves of recoverable uranium and global capital wants to get its hands on the stuff.

In order to do this any objections of the traditional owners must be overcome. What better way than to manufacture a moral panic as a national emergency and then militarise the place.

Speaking a couple of days ago on Maori TV, the Maori Party MP Hone Harawira compared Howard's actions to those of the Bush regime in Iraq. Three cheers to Hone Harawira.

What's been interesting is the apologetic way that the media has reacted to this story. It was covered on TV1 on Monday night in tones of shock and outrage: "How dare an uppity politician from the Maori party publicly declare a foreign leader to be racist?"

It's about time and other NZ politicians should do the same as Mr Harawira and call Howard a "racist bastard", because he surely is.

So far Howard has not commented on Mr Harawira's outburst, but New Zealand PM Helen Clark's office saays the comments are "regretable". What's regretable Prime Minister is that you won't say it too.

today the Maori Party issued a media release calling for a special caucus meeting to discuss what Howard is up to. It's a good idea to push this issue, but frankly I'd be surprised if the Clark government has the guts to confront Canberra on this issue. Here's a taster of the Maori Party release, which you can read in full here:
The Maori Party Caucus today called a special caucus meeting to consider the Australian Government's response to the report, describing it as a sledge-hammer approach - a widespread and ill-thought through attack on Aboriginal communities in Northern Territory - rather than focusing on the extremely significant situation of child sexual abuse.
Australia does have a "black history" and there is a lot of institutional racism. Unlike in New Zealand the indigenous "problem" in Australia is largely hidden in remote communities. Most Australians wouldn't have a clue what's really going on in the outback and, unfortunately, their ignorance is maintained by a media that is reluctant to really change Howard on this issue. However, not all Australians are troglodyte head-in-the-sand white supremacists. Here's a song from Australian comedian Eddie Perfect, it's perfect for John Howard.

If you want to know more about the nuclear fuel cycle in Australia (the link above is to a pro-nuclear blog site), try Nuclearfree Australia

Monday, 9 July 2007

What's happening at QUT?

Student blogs at QUT that have been commenting on the suspension of Garry MacLennan and John Hookham have been deleted by the administration.
So the defence of free speech means denying free speech. Phil Castles again puts his head up in this clip. How long before he too is facing disciplinary action?

There's also an update (16 June) from the Courier-Mail newspaper in Brisbane, home of QUT.

The story has also raced around the world, here's a link to The Gimp Parade blogged by Kay Olson of Minnesota, who describes herself as an overeducated, underemployed feminist with a disability.

Sydney Airport Security Whistleblower

A former customs official, Allan Kessing, has received a nine month suspended jail term for actions related to leaking documents on Sydney Airport security. He leaked two classified reports to the Australian newspaper which contained allegations of drug trafficking and other crimes by staff at Sydney Airport . The reports also raised concerns about the effectiveness of anti-terrorism security at Australian airports.

Following the publication of information on the reports, the Federal Government announced an inquiry into crime and security at Australian airports. The inquiry, carried out by Sir John Wheeler, led to significant upgrades of security at airports.

Writing in Crikey on the 24 May this year, Margaret Simons called the prosecution of Kessing a national disgrace. She's right. Here's a grab:
As reported in Crikey previously Kessing should probably be given a medal rather than the prison sentence he now faces after having been convicted of leaking details of breaches of security at Sydney airport.
You can download a transcript of Allan's interview with the ABC's Law Report, it makes for interesting reading. Here's a taster:

Damien Carrick: I spoke to Allan Kessing yesterday. He tells me this is his first broadcast interview. He says he's not looking forward to the prospect of going to jail.

Allan Kessing: Well obviously it's rather shocking; I can't say I'm looking forward to it, and I'm very surprised it would come to this.

Damien Carrick: Now I understand you've always claimed that you're not guilty of disclosing anything. Let's talk a little bit about what the jury did find you guilty of. Some years ago you worked for the Customs airport security unit, and you wrote a report about airport security; what did you find?

Allan Kessing: Well I wrote two reports. One focused on a specific group and the other took a random sample of people in all the areas behind what is called the sterile area, that is, areas to which the public do not have access. I can't actually say what I found, except what was in the papers, because that would constitute another offence; this is how draconian the law is. I can't talk about anything that I learned during my employment as a Customs officer.

Damien Carrick: Well I understand the report talked about the employment of baggage handlers with criminal records; theft of luggage; drug trafficking; a whole range of breaches of security.

Allan Kessing: Yes, this is correct.

Damien Carrick: And what did the Department do? As I understand it, the Department effectively sat on your report. They didn't even show it to the Federal government, is that right?

Allan Kessing: That's correct. In fact it did not get out of Sydney Airport. They didn't even show it to their superiors in Canberra, as was evidenced by the procession of senior managers who came at my trial. A half a dozen of them all swore on oath that they were unaware of the existence of the reports until the media leaks. You know, 30 months after they were written.

Whsistleblower legislation is supposed to protect people like Allan Kessing, I'd hate to see what might happen if it didn't exist.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Columbia Journalism Review - worth reading

I thought that some of you may not be aware of this excellent online journal, Columbia Journalism Review. The latest issue looks great. Check it out and consider subscribing (free).

Dear reader,
Greetings from Columbia Journalism Review.
Our July issue is in the mail, with many articles that we hope you find significant and interesting. For example:
Cover Story: Prisoner 345
Rachel Morris explores Gitmo and the case of the only journalist imprisoned there. What happened to Sami al Haj
Damage Report
Craig Flournoy and Tracy Everbach find that most of the journalists who left The Dallas Morning News landed on their feet. Those who stayed are not so sure
Bending to Power
Bruce Page traces the sorry history of News Corp. (Web Only)
Julia Klein spots pigs with wings at The Philadelphia Inquirer
The editors tell the fable of the scorpion and The Wall Street Journal
Stephen Totilo finds real journalism in the unreal world of Second Life
Jim Wooten remembers his friend David Halberstam
Douglas McCollam X-rays Norman Pearlstine’s Off the Record
Anthony Marro sheds light on Robert Novak’s Prince of Darkness
Gloria Cooper says goodbye to Darts & Laurels
And much more. We hope you enjoy it.
To SUBSCRIBE, to give CJR as a GIFT, or to check STUDENT RATES, go to www.cjr.org/subscriptions.

More on Ms Mirthala Salinas

The Spanish-language television news anchor, Mirthala Salinsa, who has been outed for a two-year affair with Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, (shown pictured, right) continues to make headlines around the world.

Ms Salinas has been condemned for a serious breach of ethics - basically that reporters don't sleep with sources. I've been around long enough to know that this is not the first, or last time this will happen. Politico-journo marriages and affairs have been a staple of reporters' bar room gossip for hundreds of years. News is sexy; it's exciting and there's always plenty of hormonal "juice" in the air.

However, that's no justification it seems. This is because the other side of journalism is quite nasty. If there's blood in the water, or a sniff of scandal in the air, all bets and confidences are off.

The bottom line though, is that the noise and blather about this case is hypocritical. The unwritten code has always been, "Don't ask, don't tell," but when the rumours are confirmed, like in this story, "move in for the kill."

Unfortunately, the mayor will probably survive - after all he's a bloke who can't keep it in his pants (entirely excusable in the topsy-turvy world of sexual politics). She on the other hand is obviously a sl*t who's an insatiable Latina nymphomaniac and she deserves to be burned at the stake like the obvious witch she is (I'm being sarcastic here, just in case you can't read between the lines).

To follow this story, try these links:

Thursday, 5 July 2007

The Future of Citizen Journalism

AlterNet: MediaCulture: The Future of Citizen Journalism

This is an interesting column from AlterNet on the future of citizen journalism.

I'm collecting this sort of stuff now because I'm writing a book. The working title is Journalism in the Digital Age: Reporters, reportage and the public sphere. I'm interested in commentary as I go along and I've decided on a small experiment: I'm going to blog the book as I write it.

I'm not quite sure what that really means at this point. Perhaps I'll put extracts or ideas up here for you to question and comment on. I suppose this is really the first entry in that process.

Need a job? Spy for your country

I lifted this from Socialist Worker in Australia

Career opportunities for the budding activist "grass"

Posted By web On 18 June 2007 @ 11:55 am In What in the web

The "war on terror" has been a fantastic growth catalyst for Australia's spying industry. ASIO want to double their numbers in 4 years, even taking out Google ads to help achieve their ambitious target. Now with the APEC meeting looming in Sydney in September, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the state's spies are on the lookout for new talent to help them get the dirt on evil activist protest plans. We know you won't be tempted by the dark side, readers, but stop by the Activist Rights site for tips on how to spot those pesky secret service types

WJEC - won't go away

I've decided to find a bit more on the World Journalism Education Congress. There's stuff popping up all over the place.

The Campus Beat #5 » PopMatters | Blogs | Sources Say

Tablet-of-stone Journalism coming to an end [The Hindu 26 June 2007]

UNESCO's model curricula for journalism education launched [The Hindu 27 June 2007]

This last one is interesting. As well as the Declaration of Principles, a model curriculum for global journalism education was unveiled at the congress. I'll have more to say on that once I've had time to digest it more fully.

When you're too close to the story

Here's an ethical dilemma for you. Your boyfriend leaves his wife and you have to cover the story for local TV news. How do you react?

"A hypothetical?" you ask.
"No a real case study," I respond.

Here's how it was covered by Bob Steele at the Poynter Institute (you can read the full account, plus links from here:

As the Times story recounts, "On June 8, Salinas opened Telemundo’s newscast with a report about Villaraigosa confirming that he and his wife were separating. 'The rumors were true,' Salinas said in Spanish. 'Mayor Villaraigosa confirmed today that he is separating from his wife, Corina, after more than 20 years of marriage.'"

It’s important to note that the Daily News story quotes a Telemundo spokesman as saying Salinas "moved off the political beat, which includes coverage of the mayor, about 11 months ago."

What’s not clear, of course, is when Salinas started her personal relationship with the mayor and whether it was going on while she was covering him as a journalist. If that was the case, there are serious concerns to be raised about her ethics and those of her station’s news managers if they were aware of the intersection of professional and personal connections.
"Ouch," we've seen this before. It's not what I'd call a healthy "life-work balance".

Challenging journalism in a Postmodern World

This piece began with me just reposting something I saw on another blogspot recently. But it's developed into something of a manifesto - a call to arms, if you like - for journalists who, in John Pilger's words, "Give a damn".

TV News in a Postmodern World, Part LXVIII:

"To lead with Paris or not, that is the question.

I'm not what you'd call a Paris Hilton 'fan,' but I have been deeply intrigued by her life in the month of June 2007. My interest is in her as a person, not a celebrity, for I'm a student of human nature, and here was a fascinating human nature story: someone from the other side of the tracks having everything taken away, albeit for a short season, and I was most curious about how it impacted her, all judgments about her behavior aside.

It's not every day that a person of such 'position' is stripped of that position and placed in a situation of extreme conflict. I found the whole mess to be a great study in class bias from every conceivable angle, but most of my curiosity was directed at Paris, the woman herself. All that I knew of her was a media creation, but that boyhood curiosity was still there, so I followed the story."

Terry Heaton, the author of the quote above runs a blog called "the pomoblog" and he's fascinated by Paris Hilton 'the person'. Unfortunately, Terry, there are many people every day who are placed in situations of extreme conflict. At the last count I checked, more than 70,000 dead in Iraq since March 2003 and the body count is rising every day. Save your curiosity for them, Paris can look after herself; at least she might, with the help of maids, drivers, stylists, managers, publicists, a rich family, a cellphone, a cock'r'two, Larry King, a good tote bag, a pooch, a gold Amex card, cocaine, marijuana, cigarettes, Percodan and plenty of pricey booze.

I've always had my doubts about postmodernism and postmodernists. I've long considered most of them a bunch of eclectic pseudo-intellectuals who don't know their ar*ehole from a dishwasher. But you know, there's a grain of truth in Heaton's piece. The world of journalism is changing.

Celebrity is now a news value in its own right and many millions of people, most in less fortunate circumstances than the object of their curiosity, take news about Paris Hilton seriously. Here's another take from Heaton that I actually think is worth discussing:
A whole new world of media is springing up around us, people informing themselves and their tribes as a part of the personal media revolution. Traditional professional journalism is really at odds with this, because the ability of groups to do it increasingly shines a light on the shallowness of the all-things-to-all-people paradigm. If I'm interested in the iPhone, I will trust the group that's covering it for themselves. If I'm interested in Paris Hilton, I will trust the group that's covering entertainment in the same way.

The morning news may be able to send a crew to cover the line outside the Apple store, and show producers can stack Paris Hilton "coverage" where they think it ought to be in their shows. But in both cases, the surface is all that can be scratched, and people intuitively know there is so much more. Consider similar treatments for just about everything "in the news," and you begin to understand the source power of the personal media revolution. It isn't at all about amateurs stealing thunder (or jobs) from professionals; it's about the soul of journalism itself — the story.

I disagree slightly. In my eyes the "soul" of journalism has to be about "truth", not just about the story. There's an intellectual core to journalism that is more than just recounting a tale. It is all about selection, priorities and points of view. One of the areas of news that this is most important is in the coverage of "business" and "economics" stories. It is in this area that the unchallenged and mostly unconscious assumptions made by journalists are most in need of exposure, discussion, challenge and change.

To some degree the Hilton story, and all the pages it has consumed, is symptomatic. It's the coverage of a lifestyle steeped in ostentatious wealth and gross displays of conspicuous consumption. It's what my old friend Karl Marx calls "commodity fetishism".
A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. So far as it is a value in use, there is nothing mysterious about it, whether we consider it from the point of view that by its properties it is capable of satisfying human wants, or from the point that those properties are the product of human labour. It is as clear as noon-day, that man, by his industry, changes the forms of the materials furnished by Nature, in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered, by making a table out of it. Yet, for all that, the table continues to be that common, every-day thing, wood. But, so soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground, but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of its wooden brain grotesque ideas, far more wonderful than “table-turning” ever was....
There it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.
Not only do we fetishise news as a commodity -- we fail to see the inherent contradiction between the service of profits and serving the public interest -- we also fetishise symbolic fairytale heroines such as Ms Hilton. She embodies the life that most of us mere wage slaves have no chance of reaching. But capitalism teaches us to be "aspirational". Why not, therefore, aspire to imitate the spiritually empty, but commmodity-filled life of Paris and her drug-addled friends who inhabit the wonderland of the US west coast and all points asunder.

What a wonderful piece of bourgeois ideology the phrase "aspirational" is. A respected Australian political scientist, Hayden Manning, has this to say about it:
‘Aspirational voter’ is another way of saying ‘middle class voter’ with one important difference: many voters’ current middle class status rests on the fragile foundation of high levels of personal and household debt. Economic recessions in the mid-1970s, the early 1980s and early 1990s caused widespread employment insecurity and periods of declining real wages. By the late 1990s the mood shifted markedly as many voters experienced steady improvements in their disposable incomes, home values appreciated and, importantly, banks invited their customers to borrow heavily at a time when interest rates reached a 30 year low (Harding 2005). In this environment Australian middle class affluence was, in a fashion, reborn after being shaken during periodic recessions...
A host of demographic, social and economic factors are bandied around to define the ‘aspirational voter’. Objectively, they are middle income earners, upwardly mobile, and may be employed in either blue or white collar occupations. More speculative is the view that they are vulnerable to interest rate rises due to high levels of personal debt (Hewitt 2004). Pundits describe the aspirational outlook as entrepreneurial and individualistic. Aspirationals have been variously described as the new ‘conservative right’—anti-egalitarian and anti-union, favouring tax cuts, driving new cars, and sending their kids to private schools (Carney 2001; Green 2001; Stephens 2001; Henderson 2001; MacKay 2001; Davidson 2001; Hamilton 2003; Burchell 2003; Glover 2004; Manne 2004).
You can see clearly from this how the term has taken on a whole load of baggage. It is used to describe workers who have been sucked in by the churning propaganda and bad journalism that allows such terms to be abused without question. This is MoR and mainstream political science and it's the fodder of balanced journalism.

Journalists should wake up from their bad dreams, stop worrying about that Hilton girl and start to question some of their own "aspirational" values. If you're a journalist and you're reading this, you could do a lot worse than spend the next 45 minutes here with John Pilger. This is "inspirational" and that's what should be driving journalism today.

If you haven't got 45 minutes to watch this video, perhaps you've got 10 to read Pilger's speech at Columbia University on 14 April 2006.

That's too much for your busy life to take? Then cop this; the short, sharp and sweet conclusion to that speech:

What should journalists do? I mean, journalists who give a damn? They need to act now. Governments fear good journalists. The reason the Pentagon spends millions of dollars on PR, or “perception management” companies that try to bend the news is because it fears truth tellers, just as Stalinist governments feared them. There is no difference. Look back at the great American journalists: Upton Sinclair, Edward R Murrow, Martha Gellhorn, I. F.Stone, Seymour Hersh. All were mavericks. None embraced the corporate world of journalism and its modern supplier: the media college.

It is said the internet is an alternative; and what is wonderful about the rebellious spirits on the World Wide Web is that they often report as journalists should. They are mavericks in the tradition of the great muckrakers: those like the Irish journalist Claud Cockburn, who said: "Never believe anything until it is officially denied." But the internet is still a kind of samidzat, an underground, and most of humanity does not log on; just as most of humanity does not own a cell phone. And the right to know ought to be universal. That other great muckraker, Tom Paine, warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the "Bastille of words". That time is now."

A shot in the arm for journalism education : Mail & Guardian Online

A shot in the arm for journalism education : Mail & Guardian Online

Here's a news report about the World Journalism Education Conference in Singapore in the last week of June. It's from Guy Berger, a journalism educator from South Africa. He has an interesting and positive take on the global principles in the Singapore Declaration.

Guilty or not, Conrad Black points to the sickness in our City

Guardian Unlimited | Comment is free | Guilty or not, Conrad Black points to the sickness in our City

This is a great piece about the trial of former media tycoon and all'round a*hole Conrad Black. It seems that through the vagaries of the bourgeois legal system he might get off scott free with the attempted robbery of shareholders through dodgy sales.

Nick Cohen blogs at the Guardian in London. Here's a taster of his acerbic, but very accurate commentary on the capitalist system of "Justice" for the rich and almighty:

His guilt seemed guaranteed. Here was an arch conservative, who owned the Telegraph group, spoke with orotund self-satisfaction, befriended Henry Kissinger and married Barbara Amiel. Given his record, most of us took a conviction for granted.

Representatives of Black's shareholders in Hollinger Inc reinforced our certainty when they declared that Black and his associate, David Radler, presided over a 'corporate kleptocracy' and had engaged in the 'self-righteous and aggressive looting' of the company 'to the exclusion of all other concerns or interests, and irrespective of whether their actions were remotely fair to shareholders'.

And when, in a curtain-raiser for the main event in the Chicago criminal courts, Judge Leo Strine in the American state of Delaware added in a civil judgment that Black had tried to sell the Telegraph newspapers behind his shareholders' backs 'in a cunning and calculated way', there didn't appear to be anything left to argue about.

As it has turned out, the trial of Conrad Black has not been a morality play in which the forces of justice have humbled the mighty. Rather, it has been a scratchy affair, whose outcome is far from certain. Although I can't see a working-class Chicago jury warming to the tales of private jets and expense account parties, impartial observers aren't putting money on the outcome.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Is the world barking mad for celebrity trash

FOXNews.com - Paris Hilton's Dog Food Can Sells for $305 on eBay; Toothbrush Goes for $305 - Celebrity Gossip | Entertainment News | Arts And Entertainment

What is it with people? Soft-core celebrity Paris Hilton's trash is worth money.
Hey, if you want to buy some relics from my three cats, you're welcome. Tilly, Josie and Lexie consume hundreds of cans of Purr, Dine and Mother's Choice a month. You can have them all for $5.00 plus postage and handling.

Those "dirty" Europeans, MySpace, YouTube, censorship and the Thai Military Junta

I'm always amazed about how hot under the collar some people get when the topic of s*x is mentioned. Haven't prudes got anything better to do than be offended by a bit of nudity and rumpy-pumpy? The latest shock-horror outrage is a fairly harmless little advert produced by the European Commission to promote "art house" films.

According to news reports today, the clip, one of the most viewed on YouTube at the moment, has attracted the unwanted attention of the dirty (on the inside) raincoat brigade.

In the interests of balance - that is offending everyone equally - here it is. Nothing to it really, though it does show gay couples embracing the "beast with two backs" position. Oh, and if you look closely I think the woman in the first shot has a Brazilian - they're everywhere now, so common. Nothing risque anymore in a close and personal shave, a bit like tattoos really. There's someone who looks under 18 (to me anyway) in the audience, mouth agape (as you do in "art house" cinema). And, just by the way, aren't there any non-whites living in Europe these days? It would be far more offensive to the neo-nazis to have black and brown people doing the rhythm thing.
Nothing to see here folks, keep moving!

Perhaps the only sensible thing to do is to take a leaf out of the Thai military junta's playbook and ban bloody YouTube altogether. That way no one can be offended. In May 2007 YouTube agreed to remove four clips from its site that the Thai government said were insulting to the king. YouTube agreed! Why?

Well, advertising revenues might be one answer. The world of "DIY" video-stardom is also expanding. MySpace last week (29 June 2007) launched a rival site, MySpaceTV.

Our obsession with self-celebrity is destructive to say the least. Not to mention making it easier for the forces of Laura Norder to keep a weather eye on the trouble makers.

Alan Johnston free at last

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston is freed by his captors and handed over to Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip after almost four months in captivity. Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 02:26 GMT 03:26 UK

Congratulations to Alan and all of his family, friends and supporters worldwide.
The BBC website is the best place to find out more. There's a very scratchy audio interview with Alan and more pictures.

The information age: George Orwell’s worst fear - Editors Weblog- Analysis

The information age: George Orwell’s worst fear - Editors Weblog- Analysis

This is a review of Paul Moreira's latest book, Les Nouvelles Censures. Moreira is a French investigative journalist and this book discusses overt and covert manipulation of the news media by the spin meisters. I'd love to seen an English-language version. If you know of its existence in English, please let me know.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

A declaration of intent: What are the principles of journalism education?

I'm keen to get some discussion going about this document (I patiently retyped it here, so that's how keen I am).

One of the key reasons I went to Singapore at the end of June, apart from the desire to shop for presents for my beloved, was to be present at this historic event - the FIRST World Journalism Education Congress. I knew that there was going to be a 'declaration of principles', and I wanted to witness this and to find out who exactly was behind such a huge undertaking. I'm a great supporter of principles and I thought I'd like to get in on the design of some basic pointers for world journalism educators. Unfortunately, most of the deliberations and drafting was done behind closed doors among a fairly select group of people. Ethical Martini is not one of those.

Anyway, there was a bit of discussion and a couple of boisterous Australians objected to some of it.
I'm actually seriously reading it for the first time as I key it in, so my comments will be interspersed, I'll use a bold red font, so you know when I'm talking and not my esteemed colleagues on the WJEC steering committee.

Declaration of Princples of Journalism Education
World Journalism Education Congress
Singapore, June 2007
We, the undersigned representatives of professional journalism education associations share a concern and a common understanding about the nature, role, importance and future of journalism education worldwide. We are unanimous that journalism education provides the foundation as theory, research and training for the effective and responsible practice of journalism. Journalism education is defined in different ways. At the core is the study of all types of journalism.
The keywords here are 'professional', 'effective' and 'responsible'
Journalism should serve the public in many important ways, but it can only do so if its practitioners have mastered an increasingly complex body of knowledge and specialized skills. Above all, to be a responsible journalist must involve an informed ethical commitment to the public. This commitment must include an understanding of and a deep appreciation for the role that journalism plays in the formation, enhancement and perpetuation of an informed society.

Nothing about freedom or democracy in this bit...keep reading, you never know. The 'enhancement and perpetuation' of an 'informed society' could easily mean keeping dictators in power.
We are pledged to work together to strengthen journalism education and increase its value to students, employers and the public.

Increase its value to employers? So journalism education is actually the provision of docile, cheap indentured labour?

In doing this we are guided by the following principles:

  1. At the heart of journalism education is a balance of conceptual, philosophical and skills-based content. While it is also interdisciplinary, journalism education is an academic field in its own right with a distinctive body of knowledge and theory.

  2. Journalism is a field appropriate for university study from undergraduate to postgraduate levels. Journalism programs offer a full range of academic degrees including bachelors, masters and Doctor of Philosophy degrees as well as certificate, specialized and mid-career training.

  3. Journalism educators should be a blend of academics and practitioners; it is important that educators have experience working as journalists.

  4. Journalism curriculum includes a variety of skills courses and the study of journalism ethics, history, media structures/institutions at national and international level, critical analysis of media content and journalism as a profession. It includes coursework on the social, political and cultural role of media in society and sometimes includes coursework dealing with media management and economics. In some countries, journalism education includes allied fields like public relations, advertising and broadcast production.

  5. Journalism educators have an important outreach mission to promote media literacy among the public generally and within their academic institutions specifically.

  6. Journalism program graduates should be prepared to work as highly informed, strongly committed practitioners who have high ethical principles and are able to fulfill the public interest obligations that are central to their work.

  7. Most undergraduate and many masters programs in journalism have a strong vocational orientation. In these programs experiential learning, provided by classroom laboratories and on-the-job internships, is a key component.

  8. Journalism educators should maintain strong links to media industries. They should critically reflect on industry practices and offer advice to industry based on this reflection.

  9. Journalism is a technology intensive field. Practitioners will need to master a variety of computer-based tools. Where practical, journalism education provides an orientation to these tools.

  10. Journalism is a global endeavour; journalism students should learn that despite political and cultural differences, they share important values and professional goals with peers in other nations. Where practical, journalism education provides students with first-hand experience of the way journalism is practiced in other nations.

  11. Journalism educators have an obligation to collaborate with colleagues worldwide to provide assistance and support so that journalism education can gain strength as an academic discipline and play a more effective role in helping journalism to reach its full potential.
This is a fairly bland and, IMHO, an unsatisfying and uninspiring list of fairly bog-standard descriptors. It doesn't really read like the foundation principles of something I'd like to do for a living.

If journalism is about afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted surely the principles informing the training and education of practitioners and the scholarship of the field should contain some lofty ideals of freedom, liberty and equality. If we're to play an 'effective role' in helping journalism educators globally to reach their full potential then don't we have an obligation to stand for universal human rights, not to kowtow before the various demands of national difference?

I'm going to have a go at drafting my own set of principles and I'd love some advice. Any suggestions or comments?

Let's start with "responsibility". To whom are journalists responsible. What is the "balance" in the dialectic between responsibility and freedom. This is an age-old debate (well at least since John C Merrill's The Dialectic in Journalism (1989) reviewed here).

Then we might move on to the contradictions between the commercial imperative (serving media employers' quest for profits) and the ethical imperative (the real public interest)...and so on. You can read all about these issues in the second edition of Journalism Ethics: Arguments and Cases (Hirst & Patching 2007, OUP).

An alternative view of journalism education, and one that I have some sympathy with, is provided by Eduardo Meditsch in this piece:

Journalism as a way of knowledge: a Brazilian pedagogical experience

Here are a couple of excerpts that sum up for me a better way of approaching the question of journalism education and scholarship. An approach not based on 'professionalism', but more on the role of journalists as 'public intellectuals'. In fact journalists are the 'quotidian intellectuals' -- the thinkers of the 'everyday':

Journalism, as a way of knowing, is conditioned by its industrial production as a commodity, by the ideological values of its producers, by the authoritarianism of its shapes, by the arbitrariness of its choices, by the false categories that its tradition and technique have built.

The possibility of the emergence of the new, given by the way of knowing of Journalism, creates a fundamental contradiction in its practice, seldom perceived by theory: because it is, formally, so positivistic as the most positivistic of the sciences, Journalism is always loaded with negativity.

The difficulty to perceive this paradox lies in that it isn’t apparent neither in the analysis of a journalistic product, nor in the analysis of the manuals that define it, both traditionally subject to the critics of the theorists. This paradox is only perceivable from the viewpoint of its very production, from the process and its movement, its periodicity, in the aphorism that “there is nothing older than yesterday’s newspaper”. The contradiction between a periodical and its periodicity is the same as between the synchronic and the diachronic in the comprehension of Historical movement.

The movement of Journalism is the same false movement of the sciences, a succession of immobilized pictures. But the speed of this movement in Journalism is so much faster that there is a qualitative change in the result. It reinforces its crystallization in the singular and destroys any lasting possibility of systematizing the produced knowledge.

In this process, the velocity of the emergence of the new does not allow the stability and the regularity of the positive order.
A second aspect to be considered in this velocity, one that has once lead Journalism to be called “point-blank written history”, is the peculiar way in which its statements participate in the social dialogue. Given the nearness to the facts, to its agents and to the ones hit by them, the subjectivity of the news is hardly hidden by its formal objectivity. It is this critical potential relating to the hermetic concepts that distinguishes and makes Journalism necessary as a social form of knowing.
This is the materialist dialectic in journalism -- the push and pull (flux) of social forces and unequal power (hegemony) -- not the tamed and tired idealistic version of Merrill. There is no resolution of the dialectic in the term "responsible freedom", it's an oxymoron. Freedom, by definition, means the freedom to be irresponsible. It also means the freedom to challenge orthodoxy and normative rules of behaviour.

We could do a lot worse than begin establishing a new, more vigorous, set of principles for journalism education based on Meditch's pedagogy of journalism as a form of social knowledge. We also have to recognise that this is constrained by the commodity form (what I have called in my PhD thesis, Grey Collar Journalism: The social relations of news production (2003), the 'duality of the news commodity'.

The current set of principles are based on a normative standard that assumes the commodity form - journalism within a never-changing social framework of global capitalism and nation-states. It also signals a defensive "circling of the wagons" to fend of the non-traditional, non-professionals who are "invading" 'our' patch. We can do better.

I also recently found this paper by Kaarle Nordenstreng, from
the first JourNet international conference on Professional Education for the Media, held in Newcastle Australia in 2004, which looks at journalism education globally. There are some other interesting and useful presentations on this website - a good jumping off point for our discussions.

Monday, 2 July 2007

Singapore Slings and Arrows

I was in Singapore last week for the first World Journalism Education Congress. It was a bit weird, being in a nation where press freedom is an oxymoron to talk about, well, press freedom among other things. You also don't discuss politics, religion or race and certainly you don't say anything against the government.

On the first morning a former government minister and a senior member of the Singapore Press Holdings' board of directors was speaking. I didn't get to here this keynote address. Once the guy was in the conference venue it was locked down. I, and hundreds of other delegates were locked out. One poor Australian guy left to take a pre-talk leak and couldn't get back in. This inauspicious start set a pretty good standard for the rest of the week.

Don't misunderstand, there was plenty of good stuff too. The presentations on digital convergence and the journalism curriculum were mostly excellent. The after-session sessions were also lively. One key topic was the very future and nature of journalism and journalists. Does convergence mean that everyone's a journalist and therefore no one is?

The arguments were endless and so was the expensive booze. A beer in most Singapore hotels cost around $17.50 (plus service tax and GST), while in the backstreets a half-litre of Tiger could be easily drunk for only $5.80.

The tourist traps though are very pricey. The famous "Raffles" bar in downtown Singapore serves up a sugary Singapore Sling for $20-something (plus taxes that take it to nearly $30).

And don't get me started on the Martinis. They were expensive and fairly ordinary, except for the one I had with a lychee in it.

Most of the non-Singapore delegates were fascinated by the only local English-language daily, The Straits Times. It really is no more than a mouthpiece for the government, which is, incidentally, the biggest shareholder.

Everything in Singapore, it seems, is really only part of Singapore Inc. I was out one night in a local food market, eating chili crab (another tip for the new traveller, if it's being sold by the 100g weight rule, make sure you watch it being weighed), and got into a conversation with a couple of locals (an Austrian married to an Indian). They were eager to chat, saying they were normally starved of intellectual conversation.

Singapore, a great place to shop, but who'd want to live there!

A couple of interesting stories during the week of the conference - a woman's body found floating in the Singapore river, and an employer fined for keeping his foreign workers in a public toilet block.

In that story there was plenty of official comment from government ministers and bureaucrats, but the poor workers were not interviewed. More intriguing, who was that woman in the river. I saw the news as a crawler along the bottom of the local 24 hour news channel, but nothing at all in the Straits Times. You'd think a body in the river would be newsworthy, but not here.

This story is even more interesting in the light of my recent checks. In the 2 July edition online there was a story about the murder of a man and a woman, even a picture of the body in one item. The bodies were found in different parts of the city, but could the deaths be linked?

It seems that it was a sad love story. The man's wife and a 16 year-old youth were arrested and charged with murder.

But there's also a huge difference between accounts in the Times and what was reported on Channel NewsAsia. It seems that the murders were not linked. The woman may have been the victim of her husband; the man perhaps killed by his wife and the youth.

Who was that woman in the river? I've tried to find out, but the only references on the web are to the original NewsAsia story, which is only a few pars and gives no details, except that she was Malay, in her mid-20s and very dead.

Howard's Indigenous plan "selective, cynical and racist"

Socialist Worker (Australia) Howard's Indigenous plan "selective, cynical and racist"

This is a view of the Howard government that's missing from the mainstream Australian media.

The latest digital table - more practical than an iPhone?

Would you like one of these new digital devices?
This is a great little advert for the new "digital table", see how practical, functional and cheap it is!

I think this is the original ad that's been ripped:

Still not convinced? Here's the Microsoft version, starring Bill Gates.

'It might be porn, but it's news' - CyberJournalist.net - Online News Association - News

'It might be porn, but it's news' - CyberJournalist.net - Online News Association - News

Where do you draw the line with online video? For the Associated Press, at least, it was strippers at a golf course. The AP declined to transmit amateur video posted on the Pocono Record newspaper's web site to illustrate a story about scantily clad women giving lap dances at Cherry Valley Golf Course -- the controversy being that they were visible from a nearby public road. "I didn't see it as offering a lot toward the story other than blurry images of a girl in a bikini and a guy sitting in a chair with golfers playing through," Kevin Roach, executive producer for online video at AP, told The Morning Call newspaper. "Our concerns were primarily for our customers. I have to be the gatekeeper for them.''

Pocono Record executive director Bill Watson defended his paper's decision to post the video: "'It's news. It might be porn, but it's news," he said.

Watson said no readers had complained and that the Web story had received a record 140,000 hits by Tuesday night.

''I think the Web is not the print newspaper,'' he said. ''We wouldn't put takeouts from the video in the print paper. It's a different animal. On the Web, you have the choice of looking at a story.''

No Comment

Celeb agent for shooting victim

Celeb agent for shooting victim | The Courier-Mail

A Melbourne woman who was wounded recently in a shooting that claimed the life of a bystander who intervened, has signed up with celebrity spruiker Harry M. Miller. Watch this space, I'm sure this will turn into a great saga of chequebook journalism.

Packer wanted to 'bone' son

Packer wanted to 'bone' son | The Courier-Mail

This is actually quite funny. A new book by former Channel Nine staffers makes some explosive claims about how the place is managed. In this excerpt, the late patriarch, Kerry Packer, is talking about his Scientologist son, James:

We need to keep James and (PBL executive John) Alexander out of the place. They're going to f--k the joint," Mr Packer is alleged to have said.
I'm sure this book, , will do well, but the publisher, Pan MacMillan has taken a softly-softly approach to the launch:

Despite an unprecedented 100,000 copy print run, the book was released without fanfare in a huge overnight operation to plant it in stores yesterday without warning.

The publishing house had been legally advised to have a soft launch, Pan Macmillan publisher Tom Gilliatt said.

"For legal reasons we've released the book without the normal pre-publicity," he said.

I can't wait to read it!