Friday, September 3, 2010

New News 2010: Reflections on Day 1

A reflection on Day 1 of New News 2010 conference at the Melbourne Writers Festival:

Updated 5.30 PM Sat. September 4, 2010

There were frequent references to and much discussion about the role of the media in the recent election campaign. The mainstream media reps were mostly on the defensive blaming the political parties for the shallowness of the coverage and the poor analysis of the policies and issues. It was the bus (code for the control by party apparatchicks), the debate format, the Tony Abbott’s small target strategy; the extraordinary circumstances.

The critiques by Grog’s Gamut and other online analysts were dismissed in the main as "beard-stroking" to use Mark Scott's term from his keynote conference address 'The Quest for Truth: Quality Journalism and a 21st Century ABC'. Lots of self-praise. We readers and consumers of the MSM got it wrong again. In fact the audience was also to blame as we were turned off. Strangely we avidly gobbled/googled up alternative online sources of information and debate.

We had no serious coverage of the Afghanistan war because there was bi-partisan support. When the leaders suspended campaigning to attend the funerals of soldiers killed in that conflict, the MSM colluded by helping us to suspend disbelief. Those who wanted some debate such as the Greens were largely ignored. Few questions were asked of the leaders.

I was in Malaysia for the last week of the campaign but I did not notice any questioning of Gillard’s claim of 1 Gigabit speeds for the National Broadband Network. Yesterday there was some acknowledgment that organisations such as Fairfax and the ABC should have employed teams of economic “experts” to monitor costings of promises and provide some independent analysis of the drier side of the election financial equations. Instead we are left the fiasco of independent politicians making their own ill-informed judgments. Bob Katter as de facto Treasurer is not what the voters wanted.

Speaking of a hung parliament, a couple of Lateline interviews of independents at the death knell is hardly meaningful analysis or discussion. Australia waits for better political coverage by the media giants.

In his apologia Mark Scott spends some time on the new media and the effects on the way MSM are doing their political job:
One of the questions of this campaign is whether we took advantage of the increased capacity to create and deliver content using digital media to provide the breadth and depth of coverage that was possible. And if we did - whether we really helped interested voters to find it.
His response:
At the ABC, we identified that the dynamic political news was crowding out proper reporting of policy initiatives in some news bulletins – and that we needed to allocate more time to reporting some of these issues properly. We adjusted our strategy as we listened to critics, our audiences - and critiqued our own coverage. Politics and policy are not binary choices. We need to do both.
Read the speech and make your own judgments. It was hard to find people at New News 2010 who did not echo Grog's analysis and dissatisfaction.

The ABC's so-called online interaction such as the Drum/Unleashed seems like a one-way street. The increased range and number of voices and viewpoints is encouraging. However, it works like old media - articles and letters. Fast but somehow still static. Comments often close early. There are few replies from authors. Links are not allowed, prohibiting readers access to the commenters, their detailed ideas and their sources.

More later.

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