Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Tired and emotional, for reals

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  • Alastair Thompson,

    Since this is such a civilized conversation I will repost my remarks on this controversy (posted on the KJA Facebook page where they have sunk like a stone – the denizens of NZ’s media establishment are not really as keen to debate the state of the media as they appear to be at first glance) here:

    “Firstly Scoop is not really a blog it is a news website with breaking raw news and a cast of hundreds of contributors. Scoop was launched before blogging really existed and doesn’t (yet) have comments activated on the main site – though we do encourage conversations about stories on our subsites like this one of Gordon’s (see below).

    Secondly Gordon Campbell is not really a blogger though he has become happy to be considered such – which says volumes about the supposed sanctity claimed by some of the “real” media. Gordon is Scoop’s political editor, has been in the Press Gallery longer than John Armstrong and has been a professional journalist for over 40 years as far as I know.

    While I may seem tetchy about this I am really quite pleased that John came out and said the things he did. As Campbell concludes. “Accountability is dying on the vine, and that really is outrageous. Probably, even John Armstrong would agree with me on that one.” I certainly would. And the role and relationship of the “blogger” and the “news” communities is one worth debating.”

    I would further add in response to Stephen Judd that this story is unquestionably being very well read. Our logs show several thousand long reads of Gordon’s story and this post on PA is doing rather well also.

    However it is worth pointing out that the traffic is pretty much one way. Scoop and Public Address and Kiwiblog are referring traffic to each other – but almost no traffic is coming out of the NZ Herald to any of these posts. In the case of Gordon Campbell’s response to Armstrong our logs currently show just 13 Herald referrals.

    It is pretty clear from what Fran has been saying since this issue arose that what she really objects to about Bryce is that he links out to the blogosphere and in the process brings the blogs into the debate at the NZ Herald. In doing so he has been doing the Herald a great favour, and Toby Manhire is doing a great job of achieving the same thing over at the Listener.

    Meanwhile what no doubt incensed Armstrong so much was the “indirect” insult about interviewing typewriters which we can see from Russell’s quote wasn’t actually directed at John in any event. Fran and now Felix Marwick have now elected to focus on this part of Armstrong’s critique probably thinking it is the bit that holds the most water.

    Bottom line. It is about time that the Press Gallery and the media establishment stopped being so precious about the internet and bloggers

    There are no bright lines distinguishing between the two. Journalists are bloggers and vice versa. As Damian Christie so eloquently pointed out this has been the case for years now.

    The fact that John Drinnan, Shayne Currie, Fran O’Sullivan and Tim Murphy are now cutting it up on Twitter is progress in the right direction. And it is abundantly clear that the NZ Herald is miles ahead of Fairfax in adoption of a more “on net” attitude to the news process.

    Lets just hope everybody learns a bit from this experience.

    Unfortunately, knowing how so many of my Press Gallery colleagues often think (or group think), I am not entirely certain that this will be the moment of catharsis just yet.

    We shall see.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

    Jdrinnan sez

    Its his opinion and he stands or falls on it – at least he puts his name to what he says.

    I have to think about things, takes me some moments. So I'll never make a journalist. Wrapped around a very obvious fact this statement occupies that nebulous territory between vacuous claim and vain boast. And depending on your method of propulsion, well, you could be on either planet.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Alastair Thompson,

    And it is abundantly clear that the NZ Herald is miles ahead of Fairfax in adoption of a more “on net” attitude to the news process.

    [citation needed]

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    ... while I love the New Yorker's long-form pieces on principle the magazine's mandarin house style can tip over into self-parody.

    The New Yorker has long practiced its own house style of radical chic by recruiting contributors from the edgier regions of publishing. The limitations of that kind of self-satisfied canned credibility become apparent when a prospective contributor insists on maintaining the edginess that brought them to the magazine's attention in the first place.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    Apparently the APEC gig was pretty shitty, with sleep-deprived journalists left waiting outside meeting rooms for six hours without access to food or water. I can see how irritating it must be to put up with that then read criticism of your work from someone back home, no matter how accurate the criticism might have been. And I could see why Armstrong wanted to hit back, no matter how foolish it made him look. It was really up to his editor to exercise some judgment and refuse to run the piece.

    I guess that didn't happen because John Armstrong is John Armstrong. In the political blogosphere he's a bit of a joke: someone who writes light-weight color-pieces about the House and obsequious praises of whoever happens to be in government (people who allege Armstrong is 'tory' or 'pro-National' should go back and read his cringingly fawning columns about Helen Clark in the early 2000s).

    But in the press gallery he's well liked and hugely respected. He has access to the highest levels of government, and is very influential and well-informed. People were probably a bit taken aback when Campbell and Edwards criticised his reporting, and thrilled when he deigned to retaliate.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 927 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    [citation needed]

    Quite. Not so fast. Fairfax launches new online initiatives, including making money from online interactions.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19735 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    People were probably a bit taken aback

    The tone suggests that, yes.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19735 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    the magazine’s notorious fact-checkers could query every clause of a piece and still miss the point.

    Nice line... but isn't it a little better than out-sourced sub-editors who couldn't style a chicken's hair-do and think a macron is something you eat with cheese?
    Yah gotta love that the NYer is staunchly behind all its journalism because they are bloody confident the facts will back them up.
    Even when they're missing the point :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2110 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Danyl Mclauchlan,

    It was really up to his editor to exercise some judgment and refuse to run the piece.

    Bingo – or, you know, actually do editor-y shit and suggest “you know, you might want to sleep on it (or at least have a cup of tea) and come back with another draft. This, this and this – great stuff. That – no so much. And this here – not on my watch, bubelah.” To be frank, I agree with Russell. Critique Bryce’s work? Fine. But the cheap shot about his previous employment in Parliament? That didn’t reflect well on Armstrong or Tim Murphy; and they’re better than that.

    (people who allege Armstrong is ‘tory’ or ‘pro-National’ should go back and read his cringingly fawning columns about Helen Clark in the early 2000s).

    Which raises a more subtle - and infinitely more interesting - question about the complex symbiosis between journalists and their sources. Politicians need press; and journalists need access. Of course, politicians and their spin things are going to be trying to get the most positive coverage possible. In the current media environment, journalists are all praying they're going to get the next "gone by lunchtime" or Undiegate scoop -- and frankly, I think that can lead to half-arsed "gotcha!" non-stories (Duncan Garner used to be a bipartisan offender on that score) as often as solid reporting.

    Buggered if I know where the balance point is, but it's easy to forget that both politicians and journalists are human beings with human-sized egos. Egos that don't like admitting when they've fucked up. And egos for whom there is no flattery more seductive than "Want to know something nobody else does?"

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Sacha,

    snap. Mark noted the birth of 'Stuff Nation' upthread yesterday.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19735 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Which raises a more subtle - and infinitely more interesting - question about the complex symbiosis between journalists and their sources. Politicians need press; and journalists need access.

    Which Gordon Campbell addressed in his response, as highlighted. Real analysis.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19735 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Sacha,

    Yes, shepherding Stuff Nation out has been consuming most of my energy recently. It will be very interesting to see how Fairfax' editorial team and readers end up using it.

    Further to my snarky reply to Alastair, quite a few Fairfax reporters, columnists and bloggers are "cutting it up" on Twitter too -- more and more in recent months, I note. I don't see an obvious disparity between the two companies' activity online, but I'm interested what Alastair had in mind.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    I don't see an obvious disparity between the two companies' activity online

    same

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19735 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    I don’t see an obvious disparity between the two companies’ activity online, but I’m interested what Alastair had in mind.

    I see what he meant. The two most senior editorial employees at the Herald, editor-in-chief Tim Murphy and editor Shayne Currie, have been active on Twitter, engaging with readers and largely getting the tone right. That's notable.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Steven Price,

    Late on this, but:

    Unlike the mainstream media, the blogs are not subject to accuracy or taste - and sometimes even the law.

    Actually, newspapers aren't subject to standards of taste in the Press Council's Statement of Principles (though the broadcasting codes contain good taste and decency requirements).
    Someone should complain about Armstrong's inaccuracy...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 29 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Steven Price,

    though the broadcasting codes contain good taste and decency requirements

    And yet, somehow, Paul Henry lasted years.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10655 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Russell Brown,

    engaging with readers and largely getting the tone right.

    Yeah most of the Fairfax people I see on Twitter are navigating the personal/official divide in different ways. I don't engage with them too much because my Twitter account is definitely a private venture, and it would be professionally a bit odd for me to do so I think. But if you want senior, is the new editor of The Press enough for you? ( @jojourno )

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    But if you want senior, is the new editor of The Press enough for you? ( @jojourno )

    Turns out she was following me already. She clearly has excellent taste.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Jdrinnan, in reply to andin,

    Not sure what you're on ... but I'll have some.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2012 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Alastair Thompson,

    I would add Toby Manhire, Ana Samways and dear old Zagzigger whose recent but wily adoption of the twitter "tone" is to be commended.

    Most important of all in my mind is the deliberate adoption of an open approach to public self criticism and letting writers have a relatively long rope.

    In this case possibly a little too long.

    To my mind Fairfax seems to be operating a little too much on #planetfairfax.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    My favourite young journalist, Alex Tarrant, also went to Vladivostok and Japan. It might have been his first big overseas trip with the PM. It would be interesting to hear his version.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3222 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to Jdrinnan,

    Sorry to disappoint you, I think its in the genes. Oh, and a good education helped.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Felix Marwick,

    Meanwhile what no doubt incensed Armstrong so much was the “indirect” insult about interviewing typewriters which we can see from Russell’s quote wasn’t actually directed at John in any event. Fran and now Felix Marwick have now elected to focus on this part of Armstrong’s critique probably thinking it is the bit that holds the most water.

    Actually not so much.

    My view is that John is perfectly entitled to make criticisms of those who make criticisms of him. People can draw their own conclusions about the merits of the arguments used.

    I did think it was a little unfair to say there’d been scant work done on analysis of the TPP. I’d seen a lot done in most of the main media outlets about it in the build up to APEC. Admittedly the analysis might not have sat well with some, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t done.

    For the record I read both Bryce’s and Gordon’s work on a regular basis and respect their abilities. I certainly don’t regard Gordon as a blogger either.

    As I said on KJA, as a rule of thumb I don’t get drawn into publicly criticising bloggers for much the same reason as I don’t wade into the work of my journalist colleagues. It just encourages ill-feeling and doesn’t achieve a lot. Having said that if bloggers criticise journo’s, it seems only fair if journo’s should be allowed to return the favour if they choose to.

    BTW I’m not anti-blogger. there are quite a few blogs that I read on a daily basis. But its fair to say some do create some frustration. My personal bugbear would be with those who decry the “lamestream media”, yet happily use huge tracts of reporter’s work on their blogs, chuck in one line of comment, and pass it off as insight.

    off topic
    Russell, regarding your earlier point about being surprised that journalists don’t read transcripts. In my case if I have a recording and full notes of an event then there’s little need to get a transcript. The occasions when they are used is where there is ambiguity, poor audio, strong accents, and the potential to misinterpret comments. Generally this doesn’t happen that often.

    When you’re on deadline and you have clean audio and accurate notes transcripts are a secondary concern. They’re damn handy for referencing further down the track (eg 6 months later). If we’re trained properly (and most of us are) our professional abilities should be enough to provide an accurate and balanced version of events. If we can’t keep accurate notes, or competent recordings, then we have no business being a journalist.

    Having said that your get did actually make for an interesting story in and of itself. I’m guessing the State Department’s made some changes as a result.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Felix Marwick,

    Russell, regarding your earlier point about being surprised that journalists don’t read transcripts. I

    I'm more surprised that people in official positions don't read official transcripts. Journalists, especially in radio, not so much. You already have a verbatim record.

    Having said that your get did actually make for an interesting story in and of itself. I’m guessing the State Department’s made some changes as a result.

    I bet. Although I gather it was a little bit of a perfect storm that the problem coincided with a US public holiday.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22843 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene,

    Finally, if you haven’t read Michael Lewis’s magnificent profile of Barack Obama for Vanity Fair, make the time. It’s subtle, insightful and beautifully crafted. Political journalism can be this good.

    It's a lot of fine words, but not one of them was drone. All the Martin Luther King and Gandhi respect looks a little hollow when faced with Obama's embrace of the Bush Doctrine and more.

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 107 posts Report Reply

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