How should we rate the quality of our political journalists?

Bell-shaped (Gaussian) curves abound in nature and human endeavour, no less among political journalists.  They are scattered along a normal distribution curve in more ways than one.  Their political orientation varies from the extremes of conservatism on the one hand, to extremes of socialism on the other.  The vast majority lie between these extremes.   In terms of quality, they vary from the excellent, several standard deviations above the mean, to the bulk that could be described as ordinary or maybe even mediocre, to the shabby, several standard deviations below the mean. 

In his 1974 book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – An Inquiry into Values, in which he explores the metaphysics of quality, Robert Pirsig asserts that quality is indefinable, but goes on to say   "But even though Quality cannot be defined, you know what Quality is!".  Put another way, you recognize quality as soon as you see it.  In the area of rhetoric Pirsig singled out aspects of quality such as unity, vividness, authority, economy, sensitivity, clarity, emphasis, flow, suspense, brilliance, precision, proportion, depth and so on, but found them too difficult to define.  Pirsig also reminds us that the Greeks equated quality with truth, a notion that might help us to discern quality among journalists.

This piece confines itself to journalists who focus mainly on politics. [more]

Readers of this piece will have their own idea of what constitutes quality.  Assuming that no one should be in journalism unless they can write decent English, of all the markers of quality among political journalists, I would place at the top ‘balance’ the capacity to give equal or appropriate weight to conflicting arguments or positions before drawing conclusions.  Next, would be the related ‘lack of bias’, if bias is defined as an inclination or prejudice in favour of a particular person, thing or viewpoint.  Truthfulness and accuracy in representing the facts would follow, along with preparedness to clearly separate truth, that is the facts, from opinion.  By truth, I mean all the facts, not a set selected to underpin an argument while omitting countervailing facts.  A little humour when appropriate, and a creative turn of phrase would be lesser markers, but nonetheless important.

Next, consider what might influence journalists, whatever their quality, to write what they do, apart from reporting the facts, drawing conclusions, and offering opinions or comments.  In June of last year I asserted on Possum Box in a piece Is the media in Australia suffering from groupthink? that groupthink was a potent force that influenced political journalists.  Only the mavericks prefer to be the odd man out, so what is buzzing around press circles is likely to be picked up and promulgated.  Sometimes this is simply consensus, but it can be just the blind leading the blind.  At times such as the budget week, there is another factor that assumes greater than usual importance: the urge to be different from the others – with a catchy headline, or a unique angle, or a breaking story, or exclusive intelligence. 

Imagine all the journalists confined in the Budget lockup, scores of them, all given the same information, trying to outdo each other in catching public attention.  It is a hothouse that fosters searching analysis, odd angles, dredging up a killer headline, seeing something someone else misses.  But sometimes they revert to plain old groupthink. We’ve seen examples all this week. 

How many times have you heard on radio and TV, and read in the press that Wayne Swan did not mention the actual deficit figure in his speech.  This has been said to be highly unusual and significant, and played as his being too ashamed to admit it.  There’s much speculation about why this occurred, as if this omission is more important that the thousands of words he uttered about the budget, and detail in the budget papers.  The most plausible guess is that the Government wanted to deprive the Coalition of a telling grab for their election campaign.  But how significant was it?  Very significant, if one can judge from the coverage it received.

How many times have you heard that the budget was not tough enough, or not matching the tough pre-budget rhetoric?  This was an almost universal theme immediately after Budget night.  Was this groupthink?  Now journalists are doing a bit more thinking and realize that there are plenty of tough measures there, some not to come into play until later, but tough nevertheless.  The Government has been given little recognition of the importance of its timing of these tough measures, designed to effect structural changes in the budget to get it into better shape in future budgets when conditions have improved, but delayed to avoid setting the economy back when it’s in recession.  The quick-to-jump-to-conclusions journalists are having second thoughts.  On ABC TV’s Insiders this morning, George Megalogenis drew attention to the difference in response to the ‘tough’ measures in the broadsheet and tabloid press.  The former emphasized the budget was not tough enough; the tabloids featured how tough the measures were, headlining, for example, having to work to age 67 before being eligible for the age pension.

A few examples will illustrate some of the attempts to grab an unusual headline, to find a unique angle, and to one-up fellow journalists.

For digging out something others had not noticed take a look at Neil Mitchell’s We can be trusted, PM in The Herald Sun “There are always hidden gems in a federal Budget and the instructive little bauble this year is confirmation that, while the rest of the world is doing it tough, Kevin Rudd's own department is hiring 65 new people and boosting its spending by 10.5 per cent.  Why? Funny you should ask, because the Prime Minister is not very good at explaining that, or anything else for that matter.”  In case you missed Mitchell’s political orientation, at least in this article, he continues: “For that reason let's hope the new staff is not made up entirely of butlers, shoe-shiners and people who carry emergency hair dryers.”  He goes on in that vein, lambasting the PM for not admitting to ‘broken promises’.  Kevin Rudd said he was “unable to fulfil some of these policy commitments" and for that he would take "full responsibility".   But that was not enough for Mitchell, he wanted Rudd to say the words “I have broken a promise” and apologize.  He was looking for a gotcha moment.

Examples of the search for catchy headlines can be seen from a selection of some that appeared in the press the day after the budget.  The following were extracted from an admirable new website OneStopPolitics, which is a valuable source of references to the political stories of the day.

Take the right out of debate and what's left? - Peter Costello
Fighting strategy may need miracle - Paul Kelly
Here comes hard Labor - Michelle Grattan
Rudd's surely itching for early poll - Paul Williams
Tough decisions still required - Michael Stutchbury
Rudd and Swan's risky management - Malcolm Farr
Putting on a brave face, but never mentioning the war - Tony Wright
Cuts neither deep, nor too unkind - George Megalogenis
Deep pockets hamper grand ideas - Stepehn McMahon
Unpopular decisions can wound, but are not necessarily fatal - Michelle Grattan
Hang onto the pennies - Lenore Taylor
It's manana from Kevin - Andrew Bolt
Plan depends on a fast turnaround - Jennifer Hewett
Rudd and Swan's risky management - Sue Dunlevy
Optimist Swan tips rapid return to boom times - Stephen Long
Labor tackles its own climate change - Shaun Carney
Middle class takes its medicine - Steve Lewis
Dangerous twist in dark arts of spin - Janet Albrechtsen
The ugly side of the Budget - David Penberthy
Budget fails to match tough talk - Michael Brissenden
Rudd has lost his boldness and roar - Peter Hartcher
Left behind on building bridges - Nick Dyrenfurth and Philip Mendes
Axeman has to settle for a scalpel - Annabel Crabb
Rich lose but poor don't win - Susie O'Brien
Fairest gift may be to do nothing - Greg Melleuish
Horizon is pink and red - Terry McCrann
The first careful steps on the long road to recovery - Phillip Coorey
Infrastructure spend only start - Adele Ferguson
Swan is the bogeyman of this fiscal fairytale - Piers Akerman
Labor fails to uphold its values for society's most needy - Adele Horin
New unemployed need more than this - Mike Steketee
Planning the clean-up before the storm has even arrived - Ross Gittins
Change needed if targets to be met - Peter Walters
Wayne channels Evita in Budget - Tim Blair
A decade of debt until we're free - Phillip Coorey
Roxon a Robin Hood? No way - Adam Cresswell
No reward for effort in a time of crisis - Andrew Bolt

Just a glance at the headlines and a quick read of a selection gives a feeling for the diversity of opinion expressed in the media, the consistencies (often a manifestation of groupthink), the inconsistencies, the balanced, the biased, the outrageous and the pathetic.  Our journalists are indeed stretched across the bell-shaped curve – the good, the ordinary, the mediocre, the bad, and the ugly.

What do you think?

In the next in this two-part series, titled How do you rate our political journalists? the expertise or lack of it, that individual journalists bring to their work, will be appraised.  The influence they have on public thinking should at least be matched by the quality of their journalism.  Sadly that is often not so.

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Just Me

17/05/2009I think George Megalogenis and Mike Steketee are the most consistent and fair journos in the daily national press, that I am aware of.

Lyn

17/05/2009We know our public sphere is not everything we could wish, and that's true for consumers from both sides of the political spectrum. Megalogenis is often named, again by both sides, as an ideal journalist. So it seems reasonable to assume that people value neutrality in the media. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who whine about their side being under represented. Regardless of whether the media is left or right leaning, or good or bad quality, this begs the question, is the media there to represent diverse views, or to report and let people make up their own minds? It seems to me there's an expectation that media should present pre-packaged views for various literacy levels. If that's what the public wants, then it's already getting it. My point is that if we think diversity of opinion is good for democracy, then we already have the high/low, left/right ideal. Everyone has something to complain about. But that only works if we think media is there to reflect opinion, as well as report facts. I would be asking whether we need commentary, analysis, opinion, or whatever else you want to call it, at all. So I wouldn't be asking whether our media meets some kind of quality standard, but why we think it's normal, natural, or desirable for media to be doing the job of the population, which is to express opinion. I'd also question whether media is as influential as is commonly believed, but that's another issue.

Ad astra reply

17/05/2009Just Me, I agree that George Megalogenis and Mike Steketee are top journalists. These will be featured in the next in this series. Lyn, When the media expresses the opinion of various sections of the community, which is a democratic right, I would hope that they reflect that accurately, and that the facts would be represented correctly and fairly. No matter what the motivation, I feel that there is no substitute for factual accuracy, logical reasoning and valid conclusions. Whether commentary, analysis or opinion is needed from journalists is a moot point. Sometimes I would prefer to reach my own conclusions from the facts, properly represented, but I find the opinion of respected journalists interesting and informative. The media ought not to be a conduit for the transmission of prejudice, discrimination, or political bias via the opinions or comments of journalists, but often that is what transpires. I feel quality in journalism is important as it denotes what is worth reading among a great deal of dross.

Bushfire Bill

17/05/2009My first is not a particularly sophisticated point, but I couldn't help smiling when I saw Rudd and Swan depicted as X-Men, Wolverines or whatever (sorry not up on the nomenclature) on the front page of the [i]Daily Telegraph[/i]. I can remember thinking to myself that despite what the "quality" journalists were sayiong about how Swan had wimped out on the "tough" measures, the [i]Tele[/i] was going gangusters on the "Labor Robs You... Again" line. For a while there I'd worried that the Budget would be a fizzer and that the hard-nosed out there in the community would be pooh-poohing these fiscal cowards, Rudd and Swan. But when Wolverine and his pal made their appearance, all was well with the world. In trying to depict the government as mean, stingy and dishonest (liars who had broken promises) the [i]Tele[/i] reinforced in, I think, enough of the public's mind that the Budget was indeed a "horror" one, but that by some miracle, the individual reader had been spared the worst excesses of Labor's destructive (for it's own sake, apparently) excess. So we had a Horror Budget and at the same time a benign one: perfect for the many [i]Tele[/i]-reading wowsers out there who revel in the misfortunes of others and the - moral or otherwise - happiness of their own. Thanks [i]The Tele[/i]. You rescued Wolverine and his lupine mate from their own looming misery. We got a Horror Budget without the horror. All boxes ticked. Meanwhile, speaking of Bell Curves (or perhaps Bell Bulges) Pies Akerman has brought up Heiner again today in the [i]Tele[/i], although not on Barrie Cassidy's show, from which the Large One was blessedly missing. If there is a God, thanks for the free kick mate. Gorgeous George Megalogenis seems destined to rise in stellar dimension if only he can avoid the trap of becoming the Celebrity Journo. Many promising scribes (Saint Paul Kelly, Dennis shanahan and even, for all I know, Pies himself) have seemed destined for greatness, only to fall victim to their own publicity. Let us pray that Gorgeous doesn't step on the same landmine as his older and, it turns out, far less wise, predecessors have done.

Bushfire Bill

17/05/2009Oops.. I may have spoken too soon. Turned to the [i]Tele[/i] to re-read Pies' homourous piece on Heiner and saw: [b]Smokers may pay for pollies' perks[/b]. http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,25494255-5001021,00.html This brilliant piece of journalism, juxtaposed with parhaps one fo the most ridiculous headlines that has even been printed, manages to lambast the Rudd government for overseas junketing to the tune of $1.8 million, deride them, I guess, as "weak" for actually agreeing with Turnbull that smoking should be taxed higher, and then joins the two at the hip by suggesting that increasing the tax on ciggies should just about pay for the free trips at the taxpayers expense. Hmmm... how much should be added to the cost of a cigarette to balance $1,8 million ([i]million[/i], not billion). If Malcolms 3c per fag (incidentally a tax "hike" for which he gets off scot free) would raise billions, then you'd think that to offset just under $2 [i]million[/i] perhaps a figure of, oh, I dunno, 0.00002 cents per cancer stick should be enough. Nicotine Addicts beware: the [i]Tele[/i] will have you paying a quarter of a cent morwe per pack to pay for your disgusting habit. You have been warned.

charles

17/05/2009The internet gives you such easy access to a range of views and shock horror, some primary sources. It really doesn't matter anymore. It's disappointing to see the Age following the Australian down the nonsense path. We still have the financial review, I think that will probable remain sane for a while, if your spending money you are looking for a paper that deals in real news. Blogs like this one give you access to alternate points of view, with may I say, well written and argued pieces. Who cares if Janet Albrechtsen truly is a dark soul, Andrew Bolt belongs in the 1700 and Dennis Shanahan can't read an opinion poll ( by the way what has happened to Dennis , he just seemed to fade away)..

Ad astra reply

18/05/2009BB, Your comments highlight the appalling standard of some of our journalists, contrasting starkly with the quality of the likes of George Megalogenis. Like you, I hope he maintains his lofty standards. The [i]Tele[/i] must be close to the worst tabloid rag in Australia, although a race for that accolade with the Melbourne’s [i]Herald Sun[/i] would be a close run thing. The headline is so grotesque that it’s hardly worth elaborating upon. The only point I would make is that $1.8 million seems a modest amount for 251 days of overseas travel by ten ministers and their staff to a dozen countries. I note that there is no appraisal of the value for money of these trips; the reader is left to assume that the cost was too high and that therefore there was a waste of money. Nor does the accompanying editorial [i]Ministers go that extra mile to hide the facts[/i] http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,25492949-5001030,00.html make any mention of value for money, in fact it points out that ministers need to travel. It focuses on a supposed cover-up of the travel details as they were released on the first day of sitting, the usual procedure, which happened to be budget day. So the editorial asks: [quote]“Why Tuesday? Because the Government was hoping to avoid any publicity for these particular trips.”[/quote] Q.E.D. No debate necessary. Editorials are a particular problem in appraising quality in journalism. When there is a named author it is possible to compare any particular piece with others by the same person; with editorials, the author is unknown and often changes. They hide behind the paper’s banner, yet their words are meant to reflect the paper’s stance. The [i]Tele[/i] was awful under David Penberthy’s editorship; it’s no better now. A paper that persists with Piers Akerman year after year must be suspect. The fact that they couldn’t even get their sums right in the [i]Smokers may pay for pollies' perks[/i] article is a metaphor for the Tele’s quality. charles, Thank you for your complimentary remarks about [i]The Political Sword[/i]. Fairfax papers are in financial trouble and have sacked many journalists. I have observed the decline in standards in [i]The Age[/i], almost to the point of my not buying the weekend edition. In contrast, [i]The Australian[/i] has improved the quality of its journalism and now seems to be leader in political discourse. Dennis Shanahan must be on holidays; haven’t seen him in print recently. The next is this two-part series addresses individual journalists.

Ad astra reply

18/05/2009BB, You'll be interested in the editorial in [i]Crikey[/i] today: [quote]"The poor quality of political debate in Australia was perfectly demonstrated on the weekend by another outbreak -- semi-regular in nature -- of attacks on international travel by Government ministers. The staggering sum of $1.8m was spent on what Malcolm Turnbull (who alone spent $110,000 in the six months to June 2007 when Environment Minister travelling overseas) called "Whitlamesque" extravagance. Putting aside for a moment the peculiarity of criticising Stephen Smith and Simon Crean for travelling overseas (since, as Foreign and Trade Ministers, respectively, extensive overseas travel is in the job description and almost certainly not particularly enjoyable for either), on what basis does the mainstream media believe overseas travel by Ministers should be assessed? Australia is a middle-ranking power several hours’ flying time from major regional capitals and a day’s flight to world centres of influence. Unless the alternative is North Korean-level insularity, Government Ministers and particularly senior ministers should be encouraged to spend time overseas, pushing the Government’s agenda, trying to influence outcomes in major fora and prosecuting the interests of Australia. And doing so in the middle of a global financial crisis is even more imperative. For $1.8m, that’s a bargain. The media likes to have it both ways, though. If Peter Garrett had failed to travel to a Whaling Commission meeting in South America, one can only assume he would have draw criticism for giving up on Our Whales. Kate Ellis’s absence from Beijing would have been a sell-out of Our Olympic Athletes. And one can only wonder at what calumnies would be heaped on the Prime Minister and Joel Fitzgibbon if they did not visit Australia’s forces in Afghanistan (Our Brave Lads). Surely we can do better than this."[/quote]

Sir Ian Crisp

18/05/2009It is an acknowledged fact that journalistic standards run the full gamut of the good, the bad, and, the ugly. Some journos are known to be in thrall to a particular political party or ideology. Mentally we make adjustments as we read their print columns or opinion pieces. Taken at face value, some of the opinion pieces and commentary are designed to provoke the reader. The responses generated by some opinion pieces bear that out. Being forced to ‘read between the lines’ is something we should relish because it keeps our minds from venturing into an atrophic phase. It doesn’t matter if it’s The Australian’s Janet singing the praises of Howard, or Uncle Phil from the same newspaper persisting with his campaign to get Keating beatified; we can all recognize unadulterated spin. Occasionally just enough light enters the darkened room where journos reside and some illuminated facts emerge. Only occasionally mind you. Our gracious and much loved Ad Astra is right to point out how The Banker has become a vacillator because he fails to commit to some seemingly sensible positions and his lack of policy formulation. Mind you, in opposition you aren’t required to come up with a full suite of policies on demand but this luxury can only continue for a limited amount of time. Ever helpful as usual, Ad Astra took time out from writing ALP press releases to give us his definition of the word disingenuousness: insincere, dissembling, duplicitous. That helps us to understand The Banker’s psyche and we are forever in Ad Astra’s debt. Then Ad Astra allows his non-functioning neurosis concerning detail to undo all his good work. A story about insincere, dissembling and duplicitous behavior by Kevin Rude is reported in the Tierra del Fuego Tribune – for heaven’s sake – but missed by Ad Astra. Kevin and his dummy Penny Wrong performed a back-flip with pike when they canceled the end of the world and instead penciled it in to coincide with Shrove Tuesday, 2010. Maybe Ad Astra slept in on that day. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. And what is it with journos anyway. In spite of Ad Astra’s hectoring, nasty stories continue to flow from journos’ pens. Since February Ad Astra has offered the following pieces on journos and their vile thoughts and words: The media scum Silly questions What makes good online journalism Mummy, I’m bored The arrogance of the media Devine, van Onselen and Shanahan sit in judgement Why did Janet Albrechtsen write “Who is the real Rudd?” I have a dream – no, I have a hope When will journalists get the message? I think a referendum on capital can’t be far away. The following was shamefully reported by Australian journalists: Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s Address To The UN Bali Conference On Climate Change Dec 12, 2007 […] But it is not enough just to have targets. We have to be prepared to back them with sustained action – because targets must be, must be translated into reality. […] The community of nations must reach agreement. There is no Plan B. There is no other planet that we can escape to. We only have this one. And none of us can do it alone. So let’s get it right. The generations of the future will judge us harshly if we fail. But I am optimistic that with clarity of purpose, clear-sightedness, courage and commitment we can prevail in this great task of working together to save our common planet. Kevin Rudd. Maybe the last word does belong to Robert Pirsig: You are never dedicated to something you have complete confidence in. No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it's going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it's always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.

Just Me

18/05/2009My goodness, the standard of the conservative propaganda foot soldier is really falling. I mean "Kevin Rude", "Penny Wrong", "ALP press releases",.... Is that the best ya got? You twee toffee-nosed twit. And I gotta ask, what the hell is a 'non-functioning neurosis'? A personality disorder with no actual discernible indicators or effects? I seriously doubt that it can be found in any standard psych text. Indeed, I can only find a single reference to that phrase, on a debate forum, as used by one Rumpole QC. Are Sir Ian Crisp and Rumpole QC the same person? Or do they just read the same forums? What is the probability of that very odd and distinct (and meaningless) phrase being independently conjured up by two different people? Vanishingly small, you would have to say. So, either Sir Ian is just making shit up, or worse, plagiarising somebody else's made up shit. Which is, Sir Ian? http://www.debaterelate.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=4001&sid=0cd5454ce91353c5ca488efd22f4a6e5&start=90

Bilko

18/05/2009When the Coalition was dumped from office I sadly commented on another Blog that Labor would be faced with a hostile media for the duration. I think it was GG or Bushfire Bill who confirmed my fears now even the ABC gets in on the act. I just wish the labor media savvy people would remember they are in Government and start dishing it out. The song from Porgy and Bess "Stand up and Fight" should become their theme song.

Ad astra reply

18/05/2009Sir Ian, I read your first paragraph with interest and then as I read [i]“Our gracious and much loved Ad Astra...”[/i] a ‘warm-fuzzy’ came over me, only to change to a ‘cold-prickly’ when I saw sarcasm entering your comment. Then curiosity followed when I read your description of my mental state as a ‘non-functioning neurosis’, a diagnostic label with which I am not familiar. ‘Neurosis’ I understand; ‘non-functioning neurosis’ is a mystery. Do you have a reference? What does DSM IV say? From your past offerings to [i]The Political Sword[/i] I can see that you are passionate about climate change, and annoyed at what you see as a Rudd/Wong back-flip that threatens the planet. I read your reference to the article in [i]The Taipei Times[/i] but can’t find your reference to the [i]Tierra del Fuego Tribune[/i]. You have very comprehensive resources. Please send me the link. Google doesn’t seem to know about that paper. I think you’re having me on. Everyone who accepts the reality of anthropogenic global warming wants action; taking appropriate steps to counter it is doubly difficult during a global downturn. I don’t pretend to know the correct approach. I hope the Government does. You compliment me by being so familiar with my pieces on the media. It was the behaviour of the media that most prompted me to begin [i]The Political Sword[/i]. I don’t kid myself that the media take any notice, but it does give me a chance to expose what I see as poor journalism. If enough do the same, change might be possible Finally thank you for the Pirsig quote. He really is a wise man. Just Me, Thank you for your always-helpful comments. Bilko, I agree. I keep hoping the Government media advisers would come out with some powerful rebuttals of the Coalition’s mendacious denial of the devastating effects of the GFC on revenue, and its deficit-debt mantra. But with a few welcome exceptions, there’s not much hope of the media helping out.

Sir Ian Crisp

18/05/2009Ad Astra, not wishing to intrude into another's bailiwick I leave the explanation of 'non-functioning neurosis' to The Political Sword's resident amateur psychologist. I'll reply in more detail tomorrow. For now I am just cleaning the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II before I tuck myself into bed with a copy of Mein Kampf, Human Events, and The Conservative while sticking pins into an Obama doll. Apparently....these are a few of my favourite things (thank you Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp kiddies).

Just Me

19/05/2009"Ad Astra, not wishing to intrude into another's bailiwick I leave the explanation of 'non-functioning neurosis' to The Political Sword's resident amateur psychologist. " Haven't got the courage to justify your nonsense, hmm? I see a pattern emerging here. AA, Sir Ian is clearly just a troll. I'm done with him. My advice is don't waste your time on him either.

Sir Ian Crisp

19/05/2009Ad Astra, of course my reference to the Tierra del Fuego was a bit of humour (remember humour?) What I was trying to convey was the fact that the Rude/Wrong back-flip had been widely reported but somehow you missed it. As I said, you probably overslept when Mr Rude’s back-flip had been announced. Is it ironic to you that you seem to be troubled about The Banker’s lack of commitment to certain policy positions; troubled enough to write a few topics on the matter. Yet when another alleged politician demonstrates that same lack of commitment we get treated to a topic on The Banker and his speech to the Balmain and District Knitting Club*. I visited the State Library the other day and read the papers dated November/December 2007. It seems we elected Kevin Rude as PM. Should we concern ourselves with what he and his janissaries do or don’t do rather than what The Banker and his party of fools are up to? Your aim of improving journalists’ standards is laudable. Who will improve bloggers’ standards? *joke…but I think you get my drift.

Ad astra reply

19/05/2009Bilko, If you saw Kevin Rudd on [i]Lateline[/i] last night, I think you would have been impressed with his feistiness and his unwillingness to be verballed by Tony Jones. Jones is the master of the ‘gotcha’ game and more than anything else wanted Rudd to say that the peak debt would be $300 billion. Rudd knew what he was up to and so insisted on spelling out how that figure was reached. Jones impatiently indicated that was not what he wanted; he just wanted to hear $300 billion come from Rudd’s mouth. So the game went on and on until Rudd uttered ‘300’ but without the ‘billion’ suffix. Rudd also mildly admonished him for ‘one down the leg side’ when clearly Jones was building up to a gotcha moment. They ended the interview with mutual smiles and another crack from Rudd about ‘one down the leg side’. Christian Kerr in his [i]House Rules Blog[/i] in [i]The Australian[/i] today said Rudd was ‘stroppy’. I agree he was in the face of Jones’ badgering, and I was glad to see him stand up to him. Politicians have a lot to put up with from the likes of Jones, Kerry O’Brien and Neil Mitchell; I don’t blame any of them from telling them where to get off. Of course Coalition supporters and some commentators would have been angered by last night’s interview. They find Rudd ‘robotic’ and repetitive. I find him articulate and easy to understand, and accept his repetitiveness as a communications technique to ensure that those who have little time for watching political debates on TV and catch only fragments, at least have a chance of hearing the message he wants to transmit, which last night was firstly that the peak debt was composed of several elements the largest of which by far was the loss of revenue because of the GFC, and secondly that the debt would be virtually the same if the Coalition ‘plan’ was followed. Jones on the other hand had one prime objective – to get Rudd to say $300 billion. So the two parried like duelling sword fighters. People will be divided about who won, but at least Rudd put Jones back in his box, something he should do more often. Just Me, I still don’t know to whom Sir Ian’s accolade [i]The Political Sword's resident amateur psychologist[/i] applies. I don’t think it’s me. Sir Ian, I’m still wondering what you believe I should have done about the Rudd/Wong so-called back-flip on the ETS. I didn’t miss it, but saw it as a response to the pressure applied by industry to slow down the process in the face of the GFC. There are those who believe to do so will be disastrous for the planet, while others, like Barnaby Joyce think the whole climate change thing is a beat-up and wants to do nothing at all. I see in the AFR this morning a piece [i]Garnaut pleased with Rudd's climate action[/i] I agree that we need to demand the elected Government perform well and keep its commitments, provided that is consistent with the prevailing conditions. The old adage applies “Circumstances alter cases”. There’s an informative discussion of that philosophical matter in a recent issue of the [i]Tierra del Fuego Tribune[/i]. Equally, I believe the Opposition deserves scrutiny, especially when it proclaims that the Government is incompetent and reckless, but claims to have all the answers. The standard of blogging is even more variable than that of journalism. The really ugly stuff is beyond redemption, but at least those of us that value good writing, accurate analysis of verifiable facts, and the separation of opinion from fact, can do our bit, and keep each other on our toes, while all the time treating each other courteously.

Bilko

19/05/2009Ad Astra I belatedly watch Q&A with Tanner and Hockey,and it confirmed other bloggers comments re the performance of said persons but in my view the gent on the left of Hockey was tops his best line "who cares", re where the loans are coming from,spoke the most sense. The big LIE is a worry and needs prompt squashing before it gains traction. I kept asking a close political insider prior to the election where is the old Costello debt truck re(private dept)concerns which should be a road train by then and expected to see it appear, sad to say it did not but labor fortunately still won.

Ebenezer

19/05/2009Ad, I think you will find Crispy is referring to BB. Still I could be wr--wr--wrong.

Sir Ian Crisp

19/05/2009“I’m still wondering what you believe I should have done about the Rudd/Wong so-called back-flip on the ETS”. A good starting point might have been for you to throw it into the mix for examination. Instead you gave us another episode of that dreadful sitcom “Malcolm in the middle.” The show is a turkey. Mr Garnaut is pleased with Rude’s climate action you say. I think you'll find Mr Garnaut is protecting his pay packet. Out of the vault and just for Ebenezer… I don't agree with you Ad astra that SIC is 'having us on'. I think he is a person who sees himself as perfection personnified and judges others to be beneath him. He is 'SIR Ian Crisp' but he is possibly also 'Mr Rude' and a 'lackwit' himself. No Ebenezer, it wasn’t BB.

Ebenezer

19/05/2009Thanks Sir Crispy. I will go through the posts to find who it is. Cheers Eb.

janice

20/05/2009So, it seems I am 'the resident psychologist' LOL - I must have hit a raw nerve. Wonder why this talent of mine is only pointed out to me when I've reached my dotage and not when I could have made a good career out of it.

janice

20/05/2009Bilko, it has always been that the tactic of 'stand up and fight' (as this applies to Labor) cannot, and will not, work but that is only my opinion. With a hostile media and their penchant for pouncing on anything they can beat up into a scandalous story, Labor can only do what it is doing and try to remain calm and inform the public of the facts and the reasons behind their decisions. To get down into the gutter with the Coalition using mis-information, innuendo and scaremongering will only tar Labor with the same dirty brush. Over the years I have noticed that Labor has always fought cleaner and kept out of the gutter. When they have had cause to highlight a scandal they have always stopped short of destroying characters and careers. To me, this is one of Labor's strengths. The same cannot be said for the Coalition who, with the help of a media in love with juicy stories, have left a trail of destroyed characters and careers behind them without one thought as to whether their victims deserved the treatment or not. I like this soft spot in Labor's character and don't wish to see it hardened to the extent that people are expendable in the interests of gaining power or staying in power. It is unfortunate that there are fewer and fewer journalists willing to report accurately and honestly. Too many of them find it necessary to twist facts and figures to suit their own opinion or that of the political party they support.

Ebenezer

20/05/2009Here is an article from Peter Martin. I always find his writings pretty fair. Makes the Lib's claims seem pretty silly. http://www.theage.com.au/national/recovery-this-year-says-rba-20090519-be9d.html?page=1

Rx

20/05/2009I'm consuming less and less mainstream media these days (print and electronic), but do seem to remember that Malcolm Farr and Paul Kelly, though working for the conservative Murdoch organisation, were often fairly balanced. Working in such a hothouse it would have been all too easy for them to fall into lockstep with numerous of their colleagues marching to the beat of Liberal Howardism, so they earned my respect for a healthy, perhaps at times courageous, degree of independent thought and analysis. Jack The Insider is one cool guy too. His blog follows your approach, Ad Astra, that of genial blogger replies to, and interaction with, commenters. I think his aim is to make them feel *part of* the blog, as opposed to mere contributors whose pieces are baldly published, sort of like, I guess, a caller to a talkback show might feel as they interact with an amiable host. I know you know Jack's blog, AA, 'cos I've seen your comments there. Worst in the media? Hmmm, don't get me started on that one; I'd have to go into how it's bias, on a degree from the flirting, barely discernible, to outright outrageous partisanship, that is largely responsible for my cynicism about most all the mainstream fodder these days...

Bilko

20/05/2009Janice They need to keep their jobs so NOT upsetting their masters, Murdoch et al, comes ahead of unbiased reporting. We need an "online" independent paper like the same name journal in the UK which was created after Murdoch had his battle with the UK printing unions and moved everything to a new location consequently showing how easy it was. On the nice guys note the intra labor party battles do not observe the M of Queensberry rules like "Coward of the County" some times you have to fight to be a man but I agree we never go down to their level. In a democracy we change Governments at the ballot box not by blocking supply and crawling to the GG for back door assistance

Ad astra reply

20/05/2009Bilko, The trouble with politics is that the ‘big lie’ is often believed. The Deficit and Debt mantra seems to be gaining traction if one can judge from the fall in Rudd’s popularity in the latest opinion polls, but as yet is not having an effect on voting intentions. The Goebbels principal applies. The ‘Labor debt truck’ is bound to come out again although we know most of the debt is due to revenue loss. Truthfulness is irrelevant for politicians seeking political power. Ebenezer, janice, I don’t know who Sir Ian thinks is [i]The Political Sword’s[/i] resident psychologist. Perhaps one day he’ll reveal that to us. Sir Ian, Next time the ETS comes up I’ll have a go at writing something if I can find enough authoritative information to make that worthwhile. janice, What I find as annoying as the ‘dirty fight’ that the Coalition is stirring up, is the childish game of 'gotcha' the media play. At present it is over uttering the word ‘billions’; tomorrow it will be some other childish pursuit. They create the conditions that make all politicians from both sides watch their every word in case an unwatchful utterance comes back to bite them. Sometimes journalists pursue issues for no apparent purpose. Tonight on the [i]7.30 Report[/i] Kerry O’Brien was harassing the ever-calm Lindsay Tanner about the accuracy of the budget projections, yet although Tanner conceded that the projections are problematic and may be wrong, as is always the case, O’Brien pressed on as if he had uncovered a stunning truth previously unknown to man, that budget projections may be wrong. To which I say, so what? Has anyone got any better projections? I haven’t heard them. Ebenezer, Peter Martin is one of the most balanced journalists around and more literate on economics than most. Rx, Thank you for your kind words. I believe interaction is the essence of blogging. I too like Jack the Insider. He is probably the best at interacting with his bloggers. In contrast, I’ve never seen Dennis Shanahan interact. I hope by tomorrow to have part two of this series ready. It appraises individual journalists.

BH

21/05/2009Ad Adstra - thanks for putting into words so succinctly my reactions to most of the present crop of media. Watching Sky political people is both painful and hilarious because they are so desperate for their guests to portray the Lib line. Likewise Trioli on ABC Breakfast. I have noticed that when there is good news for Labor she wears her glum face. She nearly always has the sneaky, nasty little aside after they have been interviewed. When there is bad news for the Libs she is glum. But watch her when she thinks the Libs or she have had a 'gotcha' moment against Labor. The smile is a million miles wide and she bounces around in her seat. 'Look, look, how bad Labor are' you can almost hear her saying. And we are paying her!! I want fair, factual reporting and comment for all.

Ad astra reply

21/05/2009BH, Thank you for your kind remarks and your comments about some of our news outlets, with which I agree. I've just posted the follow-up to this piece [i]How do you rate our political journalists?[/i]

Paul

18/07/2009Keep working ,great job!

jack

18/07/2009great stuff.. beautiful �
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?