Friday, 17 April 2009

Just the facts, ma'am [Update 2]

Humphrey Bogart as Philip MarloweDeborah Hill-Cone suggests in today's Business Herald that "bitter bloggers" who lambast the mainstream media for its manifest failings are duty bound to solve old media's problems for them, i.e., to shed some light on "how the [mainstream] media might turn a buck so we [the royal "we"?] can fund quality journalism." Ironically, her column is not online, so her audience have to rely on bloggers to retype it all for her, but here's her main beef, that

"all this old versus new media aggro is just a distraction from the fact that neither [bloggers nor] Rupert Murdoch . . . have an answer for the future of journalism."

Well, it's not like I'm duty bound to solve all the problems for the profession of journalism (there's more than enough problems in my own profession of architecture, thanks very much), but here's a simple enough solution for the old media to adopt -- so simple that even a journalist might understand.  Here it is::

            Recognise the division of labour, boys and girls, and just report the news!

We, the bloggers, can get on with commenting on the news, since that's what we do best; and you get on with finding and reporting the news, since that's what you're supposed to do best. In other words:
  • don't editorialise;
  • don't pontificate;
  • don't ask how people feel, ask instead what they saw;
  • don't report events as if people are outraged, just report the events themselves;
  • dobn't report what everyone knows is transparent science fiction; report real science fact instead;
  • don't report what "celebrities" do as if it matters a damn;
  • don't report puff pieces about actors/musicians/writers as if they're not just puff-pieces for their new film/album/book;
  • don't report what everyone knows is just spin) -- report instead what's being spun, and the news that someone is spinning, and who;
  • don't assume the whole world has the same values as your friends;
  • don't just rewrite press releases as if they were news;
  • and don't create the news yourself.
  • In short, just report the news. All of it. As if the truth actually mattered.
Your role model in this new endeavour should not be Woman's Day, which your front pages and the Six O'Clock News more and more resemble, but the classic private detective whose motto should be hung over your desk in copperplate lettering: "Just the facts, ma'am."

This week offers the perfect example of why people are switching off the mainstream. With 400,000 Americans taking up pro-freedom signs against their government, the mainstream media has either pretended they don't exist -- preferring instead to focus on the tough issues like the new White House dog -- or tried to suggest all the protesters are insane. Meanwhile, the issue of the week in New Zealand, according to every news report every time I switch on the local media, is the latest in the Tony Veitch saga -- giving numb-nut so-called journalists the opportunity to interview each other over how well they did (or didn't) handle the story, and Mark Sainsbury and John Campbell the chance to wring their hands over the courage/bravery/pluckiness [delete one] of the two protagonists.

No wonder no one can take mainstream journalism seriously any more. Instead of Philip Marlowe, we have to endure endless re-runs of Barbara Cartland.

UPDATE 1: Why do so many journalists blog, despite their apparent opposition to the concept? Simple, says one journalist cum blogger: "there’s a part of me that loves blogging because you’re allowed to break the journalism rules."

So read on here, journalists, for the top 10 journalism rules you should go right ahead and break on your blog. Do it, it's okay.

UPDATE 2:  Deborah Hill-Cone's blog column is now online.


  1. I have a view of the main stream news as reported these days:

    1. A news item or report is made up of 50% FACT and 50% OPINION.

    2. The OPINION part you can take with a Pinch or a Sack of salt.

  2. Sizzling! PC, 1. Columbia School of Journalism, 0.

    - Sam P

  3. In fact Deborah Hill-Cone needs a good bonk. Her writings is all gossips and nonsense. There is nothing informative or intellectual in what she writes.

  4. Perhaps Sergei, you are the one needing a good bonk - on the noggin!

  5. Damn fine piece, PC.

    I was one of those insane people in front of Pelosi's office the other day.

    And all we got were reports that we are neo-Nazi rigt wing extremists or "tea baggers". Makes you want to punch the bastards in the head.

  6. Well said Peter, your've just explained why I have'nt brought a newspaper for years.


  8. very good Peter. Damien Christie told me he apparently got mentioned in the article. I think I know why. Some of these journos who twitter and blog should really do their day job a little better before criticising bloggers. ANMd if they are so good at doing their day jobs and if that carries over into their online work why do few people read their twitter and blogs?


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