Cracker by Damian Christie

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Cracker: How Media Made me a Bad Person.

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  • Sacha,

    If media editors tolerate repeated unprofessional work from their staff and contributors, I'll call them on it. If they want to give up the protections that come with the label 'journalism' then they're most welcome to merrily make shit up til the cows come home.

    Those protections were established in exchange for the civic role media plays in our society. Industry and regulatory changes mean 'inform' has long lagged behind to 'entertain'. Eroding professional and ethical standards accelerate that.

    So long as I treat the 'news' as non-factual storytelling, I'm OK. But I'm not happy at all when others rely on it to figure out what's going on in the world where they too have a vote and a voice.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Sacha,

    If media editors tolerate repeated unprofessional work from their staff and contributors, I'll call them on it. If they want to give up the protections that come with the label 'journalism' then they're most welcome to merrily make shit up til the cows come home.

    Those protections were established in exchange for the civic role media plays in our society. Industry and regulatory changes mean 'inform' has long lagged behind to 'entertain'. Eroding professional and ethical standards accelerate that.

    So long as I treat the 'news' as non-factual storytelling, I'm OK. But I'm not happy at all when others rely on it to figure out what's going on in the world where they too have a vote and a voice.

    I'd say the malaise that Damian writes about is symptomatic of a wider issue: the cartelisation of mass media and free speech.

    Bringing commercial media under the watch of the Commerce Commission would be a start. That way, it would make it a financial issue instead of a free speech one, since bare-faced censorship isn't going to achieve much.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe,

    Damian, that's a great piece. It's why, after two decades of working in the media, I was thrilled to be in a position where I could exit my career with barely a backward glance. I didn't like who I became at work either.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report Reply

  • Kevin McCready,

    Thanks Damian
    I think you're too kind about the 'behaviour' of Duncan Garner. His ranting reading of a letter denouncing trotskyist greens and the same for an attack on Metiria were firmly in the mold of the sadly sick Cameron Slater. That's the demographic he's appealing to and that's his form of 'journalism'.

    Auckland • Since Jun 2013 • 119 posts Report Reply

  • Naomi Mahon,

    I have to agree that there is a certain amount of personal responsibility here. Call me an idealist, but journalism is essentially about telling the story, it shouldn't be about the journalist. This line is often crossed in the desperate scramble to get on air. In saying that, having Programme Edited news at TVNZ, CNN and now Al Jazeera, the New Zealand media is the most brutal, perhaps a symptom of it's inward looking nature.

    Doha • Since Feb 2014 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Naomi Mahon,

    I have to agree that there is a certain amount of personal responsibility here. Call me an idealist, but journalism is essentially about telling the story, it shouldn't be about the journalist. This line is often crossed in the desperate scramble to get on air. In saying that, having Programme Edited news at TVNZ, CNN and now Al Jazeera, the New Zealand media is the most brutal, perhaps a symptom of its inward looking nature.

    Doha • Since Feb 2014 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Greetings, Naomi. This is a good place for a debate and I hope this one continues. Similar discussions sometimes pop up on the Kiwi Journalist FB group but people there tend to get easily offended by criticism and several leading journos have flounced off recently.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2560 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to Danielle,

    But… it IS sort of an awful paper in many respects. I mean, I’m not trying to be a dick.

    If it's all the same with you (and everyone else here), there are plenty of places, blogs, other PAS threads where you can discuss what you don't like about the NZ media. To do so on this thread is kinda missing the point.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to Kevin McCready,

    I think you’re too kind about the ‘behaviour’ of Duncan Garner.

    I was referring to something nice Duncan did for me this week. I'm not defending (or attacking) his behaviour in general. And again, this aint the place to do so.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Damian Christie,

    If it’s all the same with you (and everyone else here), there are plenty of places, blogs, other PAS threads where you can discuss what you don’t like about the NZ media. To do so on this thread is kinda missing the point.

    Uh, noted? I'm not sure where you expect this to go then, since the post seems designed to head the discussion precisely in that direction.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Greg Jackson of the South, in reply to Naomi Mahon,

    Naomi, do you think you could expand on the "New Zealand media is the most brutal" angle? I'm genuinely interested in that take on things tho my forays into working with the Gallery folk at times led me to think they were incredibly pack like and somewhat akin to hairdressers at their worst with the insanely shallow take on things.
    In the broader debate I've been appalled as an antique hack long gone to the dark side at how vicious and nasty public discourse has got in recent years.
    But, and this is a huge but, when you see what passes for "news" on social media sites the role of accurate news providers has never been more vital and needed.Solutions anyone?

    Christchurch • Since Sep 2013 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe,

    Thinking more about Damian's piece, I have a few points: there is no excuse -- no matter where I worked -- behaving like "the bitch from hell" as my beloved sweetly pointed out one day.

    The everyday life and work interactions of journalists in a brutal culture inform their thinking and analysis of what is "normal" everyday behaviour and help with the disconnect between their reality and that of the world they supposedly reflect and serve. That allows a harsh black-and-white, good/bad with no shades of grey style of output to seem perfectly reasonable to them while the targets and the public cringe at the bullying and hectoring.

    Having said that, good -- and wonderful -- people in the media are many and talented and often don't get the high profile of the knuckle-crackers.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    It can turn you nasty, basically.

    Maybe, somehow, you start to believe your survival depends on this kind of thinking...maybe, I dont know. Hope theres only a few figurative blood noses in your war stories, no actual... naaah!

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to Danielle,

    Uh, noted? I’m not sure where you expect this to go then, since the post seems designed to head the discussion precisely in that direction.

    It's been interesting picking up on various comments (not just here, but to me personally too) that many outside the media read this as "the media are bad people towards the public" (simplifying), many of those inside read it as "the public are bad people towards the media". I'm saying it's a bit of column A and a bit of column B, and they're related.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Danielle,

    I'm not sure where you expect this to go then, since the post seems designed to head the discussion precisely in that direction.

    My take is that Damian is ruminating on the personal contradictions inherent in working in a seductive and toxic system and culture (the media) with which every sentient (not all are) participant has a love/hate thing going on. The discussion about the media's output being 50 shades of vile is another topic entirely.

    I guess this is a media worker's story in a way: Damian is putting it out there how hard it can be to do our best, stay true to a basic ethical base (personally and professionally), and keep an income in a brutally competitive machine. I worked in comms for politicians after journalism, and I was suprised at how civilised and courtly that world is in comparison.

    PS: Not every media workplace is toxic, obviously. I have worked in great, monstrous and vanilla settings.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    It was a timely point Damian – I was just about to have a rant about some “journalism” today. But your point leaves me a bit uncomfortable. Clearly we are allowed to, and should, criticise the media and the behaviour of some individuals within it. How do we do that while at the same time allowing any individual journalist the same right to bad days that the rest of us enjoy?
    So, in today’s case, what do I do? Do I concern-troll the comments, saying “Maybe you’re tired this week, but for a column debating current affairs, surely you can do better than getting sucked into the diversion flag debate?” Do I blame the employer “The Herald sinks to new lows; their choice of headline unwittingly highlights everything that’s wrong with “current affairs” – bread and circuses rather than discussing things that matter”? Or do I just ignore it, or what?

    Of course mainly I wanted to share the headline because I thought it was so awful it was funny, but now I feel like it would be pointing and laughing, which would be mean. I’ve had the meanness of it called out in advance, so I’ve had the chance to avoid being mean, but I’m still sulking over not being able to share the funnies.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Damian Christie,

    I’m saying it’s a bit of column A and a bit of column B, and they’re related.

    So your point is, to quote Flight of the Conchords, "be more constructive with your feedback"? Or what?

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Hebe, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    do I just ignore it, or what?

    We need another "what I really hated on the news today and why xxx is so wrong" thread for that.

    Christchurch • Since May 2011 • 2899 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to Lucy Telfar Barnard,

    How do we do that while at the same time allowing any individual journalist the same right to bad days that the rest of us enjoy?

    That's the tricky bit isn't it. I dunno, how often do you say "excellent piece of reporting there, such-and-such"? You could argue that such things don't happen all that often I suppose, but I make a point of giving good feedback to people when I see or read something I like.

    I'm not arguing for no media criticism, I'm just partially pointing out the effect it has on journalists. And also, the explosion in blogs, twitter etc now, where everyone is an expert and can instantly publish exactly what they think about a reporter/presenter, and that reporter/presenter instantly gets to read it. There was a good reason why back before all this, management would usually keep the hate mail from ending up on the desk of the reporter bee. You might think your feedback is reasoned and reasonable, but an awful lot of it isn't.

    Everyone can decide what to do, I'm not the criticism monitor (other than on this thread, which I make no apology for, but I'm happy just to turn off comments if it's easier than asking people to be nice) but all I'm asking, and it seems to have worked in your case at least, is for people to assess what they're saying, and maybe whether they'd say it to that person's face, because in effect that's what is happening.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to Hebe,

    We need another “what I really hated on the news today and why xxx is so wrong” thread for that.

    ... I don't think you'll have any problem finding one :)

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Damian, I take your point that journos are easy targets for criticism.

    The thing is, they're writing our history, and they're setting the bar for our culture. I think it's fair enough that both those things are contestable. They belong to all of us.

    I know print journalists are often upset by commenters on their own paper's website. These comment threads seem to attract the bottom-feeders, and are barely moderated. There's a simple solution here: introduce proper moderation, and ban trolls.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Lilith __,

    There’s a simple solution here: introduce proper moderation, and ban trolls.

    Or perhaps better still, expose them ans lay them bare.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5441 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Lilith __,

    I know print journalists are often upset by commenters on their own paper’s website. These comment threads seem to attract the bottom-feeders, and are barely moderated. There’s a simple solution here: introduce proper moderation, and ban trolls.

    The solutions are a bit more complex, surprising, and nice than that. F'r'instance, there's a body of research now confirming something I've noted as anecdata: comments are nicer on threads where the authors of the original piece (journalists, columnists) actively engage with the commenters. Stuff and Herald writers don't tend to do this (some do, but they're exceptions) and of course this can't be done if you're getting all your Life and Style content from the Sydney Morning Herald.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4651 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Totally agree Emma. That "warm body" that Russell talks about.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    This puts me in mind of the whole Smarm vs snark thing. Perhaps the other side of the coin is the relentless empty positivity of the promotional press releases flowing into newsrooms.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

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