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Rantings, Ravings & Musings

By Janet Wilson October 27th, 2009

Ok, ok, here’s the full Mea Culpa; I realise I haven’t been posting nearly enough recently (Note To Self; Must Try Harder) so here are a few Random Rantings and Musings:

Random Thought #1

There’s a disturbing development emerging in newsrooms across the country.  It’s called the De-Balling of News.  As advertising revenues shrink, so vanishes the one quality each news head must have if they’re to be effective in the job  – courage.  The retreat is full and ongoing.  Several news outlets have instructed their journalists not to annoy powerful people in their realm.  For that read those with the ability to sue.

So by extension does that mean, don’t worry about those who can’t afford it?  What happened to that old mantra that it was the job of journalists to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted?

As advertising revenue shrinks, so do defamation budgets

As advertising revenue shrinks, so do defamation budgets

Stories considered risky or contentious are put on the backburner as defamation budgets shrink to nothing.  At least one broadcaster has been advised to settle all outstanding lawsuits.

So why am I, a so-called traitor to the journalistic cause, someone who has gone to The Dark Side, standing on this particular soap-box?  Because dammit I still believe in a rigorous free press.  Who said, “News is what they don’t want you to hear.  The rest is just advertising?” Let’s abridge that to “News is what the hack receives in a press release. As long as they don’t sue. Advertising is more truthful.”

Random Thought #2

Continuing on with how the public perceive the media as Bill blogged in his last missive.  The Pew Centre for Research for the People & the Press (it’s the kind of mouthful Americans love), has come out with its latest analysis of how the media is viewed in that country.  And the news is all bad.  Sixty-three per cent of Americans believe news stories are inaccurate – the lowest percentage ever.  We still have a way to go to reach that level of cycnism.  Recent UMR research here had 25% of Kiwis believing their news was inaccurate.

But it’s easy to understand the US figures when you look at stories like the Colorado “balloon boy” as breathlessly reported without

any caution or caveats by CNN, Fox News and MSNBC (not to mention Radio New Zealand National’s “Morning Report”).

Falcon Heene, aka Balloon Boy

Falcon Heene, aka Balloon Boy

Of course the kid was hiding, as per Dad’s orders, in the attic. A fact he innocently dropped into a later press conference. Speed and accuracy have always served different masters in the news business, a business that now is slave to the 24/7 news cycle.

Random Thought #3

And from The It Was Only A Matter of Time File…..Labour’s squawking in the House over Finance Minister Bill English’s free unpaid promo for TVNZ7.

They’re absolutely right, of course.  It does look like a party political broadcast and is fantastic self-promotion for English.

Finance Minister, Bill English, the beneficiary of TVNZ's largesse

Finance Minister, Bill English, the beneficiary of TVNZ's largesse

But there’s no doubt they would have taken part in a similar promotion  if they still had the reins of power.

Perhaps the real culprit here is Television New Zealand who has reached unplumbed lengths of toadying.

Labour says it’s hard to believe a credible national broadcaster would come up with the concept itself.  The emphasis here is on the word  credible. As with TVNZ’s involvement with the World Cup rights, so another own goal for the State broadcaster.

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