02 December 2012

Reframe or die

The Canberra press gallery has a certain "frame" through which they view and report on politics. This week, politics moved outside the frame. The media can change the way they report or they can continue their slide to irrelevance, because there is no way they can keep their frame intact and offer reporting that is in any way valuable.

Anything outside the media's frame is invisible and doesn't get reported. In the days when the mainstream media was more powerful than it is, what didn't get reported went unnoticed by voters; which meant that political activity has increasingly been geared around what happens within the media frame.

The perfect example of the issue built by politicians for the media frame was the attack on Julia Gillard regarding the corporate entity set up for for Smokey and the Bandit. It has everything that's compelling to attention-deficient journalists: politics! Sex! Missing loot! Politics!

Michael Gordon described the irrelevance of his own profession perfectly:
THE question came from one of the federal Coalition's less experienced press secretaries when they gathered on Tuesday for an upbeat briefing from Liberal director Brian Loughnane on the state of play. Asked if they had any issues to raise before the meeting broke up, he innocently inquired: "How long are we going to go on with this AWU stuff?"

His point was that people outside the bubble on the hill that is Parliament House were heartily fed up with the Opposition's singular focus on the minute detail of something they have no, or very little, interest in - when there were real issues affecting them that don't even seem to be on the radar.

The question wasn't asked when Coalition MPs gathered for their party room meeting the same day, but the answer was clear. As the MPs sat mute, Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop explained that Julia Gillard's conduct as a lawyer at Slater and Gordon two decades ago went to fundamental questions of credibility and character.

The applause as Bishop sat down was effective endorsement of a political strategy that was about as subtle as an unexpected punch in the nose, but not nearly as clean or conclusive.
Three cheers to you, nameless junior staffer: talk about lions led by donkeys. I've asked questions like that to dickheads like Loughnane. If that had been me I'd be seeking Loughnane out on election night and throwing him from the top of whatever hotel the Liberals will be holding their wake. Then again, I'm not innocent or even "less experienced".

Michael Gordon is even less so. As an editor, he participates in daily meetings at The Age to decide what will or won't be published in that organ the following day. There was nothing stopping Gordon, or one of the other Editors, asking the same question. It would have been fascinating to hear what the answer would have been.
The Gillard repudiation was not, however, in the same league as the misogyny speech that became a global social media phenomenon. Not only did that speech trigger a jump in Gillard's approval ratings, it gave her the confidence that she has Abbott's measure. It smacked of authenticity.
So that's the benchmark, is it - anything less than a global phenomenon is a failure? How do we define this "smacked of authenticity" (more than, say, her speech in favour of the NDIS? Less than her acknowledgment of the retirement of Ricky Ponting? Is this the best we can do from a National Affairs Editor?
To many in the crowded public galleries, or who watched it on TV, this performance would have appeared shrill, even unbecoming. One person I spoke to likened it to witnessing a domestic argument; another saw unflattering parallels with student politics.
"To many"? "One person I spoke to"? Next time journos get all sanctimonious about protecting sources, remember that drivel.

Any journalism student who submitted that would get panned, it is totally unworthy of a National Affairs Editor. Was it Loughnane? Was it your mother? Grow a spine and own your opinions, Gordon. You mightn't be able to explain or justify them in any way, but your opinions are yours. Why is it that the response was the stuff of student politics, while the question somehow has a legitimacy of which the answer was unworthy?
Viewers of Today can be excused for being unaware that this week saw the government introduce legislation to launch the National Disability Insurance Scheme, reform school funding, recognise indigenous Australians, and deliver the Murray Darling Basin water plan - as well as passage of laws on pokie reform.
Readers of The Age are in the same position, thanks to the collusion of their National Affairs and Political Editors and all their other equally dopey editors. Each of those deserved the wall-to-wall coverage that was wasted on the bullshit identified here. While it is a legitimate journalistic exercise to report on debates in parliament, wall-to-wall coverage of inconclusive trivia is not the only other alternative to not reporting it at all.

How is the job of National Affairs Editor different from that of Political Editor (Grattan)? I don't know either, but I bet the answer could be part of Fairfax's cost-reduction strategy.

The mainstream media has two imperatives: first, the high noble fourth-estate duty to let us know what is going on with those who govern us, and second (for all organs outside the ABC and The Australian) to turn a dollar. The wall-to-wall coverage of the AWU scandal fails on both counts. It wasn't more important than overlooked issues such as Murray-Darling, or even Australia's response to Israel-Gaza, or NDIS. Nor was it a story over which readers slavered; people can sometimes profess to disdain smut and sleaze while avidly consuming media that carries it, but this is clearly not happening here.

When it comes to entertainment figures, an interest in their personal lives is an extension of fandom for their work: if you are a fan of someone's movies or music, you may take an interest in their personal lives and consume media that covers this. This doesn't apply to Julia Gillard, however; those who take the most avid interest in her life away from work are not rusted-on Labor types, or even people who admire her guts - but people who would never, ever vote for her.

The market for news about Gillard's personal life is not larger or more lucrative than the market for news about issues of substance such as those that largely passed the media by this past week, thanks to the collusion of people like the National Affairs Editor of The Age. Peter Hartcher, another Fairfax editor, differs about the relative importance of the Gillard-AWU story over other issues - and does so on the basis of 'democracy':
Several people, non-political types, remarked to me this week that it was embarrassing for Australia's political system to be in a frenzy over the long-past personal conduct of its Prime Minister.

But this is a standard part of any democracy. The searching public examination of a leader, exploring evidence and testing character, is routine.
Not to the point where it crowds out issues which are supposedly affected by leadership and character. The Murray-Darling solution affects a vast geographic and demographic swathe of the nation. The NDIS and changes to Medicare (including dental and mental health) affect a high proportion of the population. The issues in Israel-Gaza and Syria are substantial even though the conflicts take place outside Australia; the Gillard-AWU thing took place within Australia, under Australian law, but is much less substantial. The decision to lavish scarce and overextended journalistic resources on the latter was stupid and wrong.
Remember the outrage over John Howard's alleged conflict of interest when his government handed ethanol subsidies to his brother's firm, Manildra? Remember the parliamentary convulsions over Paul Keating's piggery? The accusations were tested in public; the leaders passed the tests.
Yeah, I remember. Howard's brother wasn't involved in Manildra, his was a manufacturing outfit called National Textiles which also received government subsidies.

People need information to engage with the issues of the day. Where a people is starved of the means to engage, politics becomes a passive process which you can observe but not influence (except by howls of inarticulate, uninformed rage from time to time, which mostly can be and is brushed off by decision-makers). If the mainstream media did a better job of bringing people into public debates through informing them us, mainstream media outlets would have a better reputation - and be better off economically - than they are.

As it happens, people can and do get information about the great debates of the day - you just have to go around the MSM to get it - to online sources or social media, or (according to Peter Hartcher) foreign media:
Sure, the delegation of visitors from China who witnessed the stinging public attacks on the Prime Minister in the house this week might have puzzled over how this can happen, but it is more a strength than a weakness of parliamentary democracy.

In China, it took a foreign newspaper, The New York Times, to disclose the accumulation of $2.7 billion in wealth by the family of the outgoing Premier, Wen Jiabao, during his tenure. Wen, after denouncing the American newspaper, has now asked for a formal investigation into himself and his family.
Hartcher seems to be saying that if you want information about impacts on pokie regulations or aquifers in the Barwon Basin, you're going to have to wait until The New York Times or The People's Daily are good and ready to cover it, because The Sydney Morning Herald is bored with covering actual political issues (other than those featuring sex! Stolen loot! etc).
There is also the perfectly reasonable argument that time spent on scrutinising the private affairs of a prime minister in Parliament carries an opportunity cost - time on this means less time to debate big problems of policy and national affairs.

And that's true. But this is how democratic nations test their leaders and purge their systems. Gillard has survived the test. The long-festering rumours have been put into the light of day and been scrutinised. The opposition has had a full opportunity to make its case and to hold her to account. In the absence of serious new evidence against her, the opposition should now move on to debate the big issues.
All political systems, democratic or not, test their leaders and purge their systems. Traditionally, this involved bloodshed. Recent cases of Bo Xilai in China or the imprisonment of the press advisor to the President of Iran by that country's Ayatollahs are examples of leader-testing within political systems very different to ours.

There is no reason why this country's political agenda, and that of its media, should depend so heavily on what the opposition may or may not decide (as Jonathan Green pointed out). The opposition's tactic of blocking or diverting from every positive piece of news must be taken as another feature of our political system deserving of scrutiny, rather than as a given which the press gallery and the voters have no choice but to put up with. Hartcher's assessment that the Prime Minister has merely "survived" her most recent test, rather than passing it, is telling; so too is the absence of even putting the opposition to any test worth the name, rather than a recognition that it failed.

Peter Hartcher has no right to assume, as he does in his final sentence, that the Coalition is even capable of debating big issues. They don't have it in them. Press gallery veterans must know this. Simply insisting that the Coalition must flick the switch to policy substance is a bit like lecturing a broken-down junkie that heroin is, like, really bad, and you should stop doing it, OK? Even if that incorrigible lot did make the switch, the press gallery wouldn't know. They need to pretend the Coalition is more than capable of matching the government to keep them in the frame. To accept reality is to reframe the issue.

It is true that the government employs lots of press secretaries to push its agenda. It is not true, despite Jack Waterford's assertion, that the failure of the nation's editors to distinguish shit from clay when it comes to political coverage can be sheeted home to government press secretaries. Large corporations employ plenty of marketing people, and they have not necessarily failed when you stroll past their products without making a purchase. The question here is the discernment of the customer - and the mainstream media seem to have made a wholesale investment in the opposition's media strategy that the rest of the country is not yet ready to make.

That is why Laurie Oakes can fuck off with this sorry shower of shit. When you dutifully report that the Opposition Leader has accused the Prime Minister or being a criminal, and press gallery journalists get to ask her whatever they like - and don't have the research or the guts to put the question - then your faith in the press gallery is misplaced. So too is the idea that the press gallery holds anyone or anything to account with its insider knowledge - maintaining that insider status causes press gallery journos to pull more punches than they throw.

Look at the questions people ask at Community Cabinet meetings. They're not all parish-pump local issues or silly conspiracy-theory questions. Many are better than the questions asked at press conference by Walkley-winning veterans. If you could ask the Prime Minister of Australia any question you like, almost nobody would ask about her relationship with Larry Loser way back when; yet, MSM throw millions of dollars at journos to do just that.

The Australian media frames political debates as though the government and opposition were equally valid and perfectly balanced, with the mainstream media holding the fulcrum and weighing the balance. The current political debate has disappeared from the frame because the Coalition isn't substantial enough to counterbalance the government. It overreached by accusing the Prime Minister of illegality. For a long time now it has had no effective response to the great issues of the day, which is why the MSM focus away from those issues suits them perfectly.

Together with Abbott's admission that he'll say anything under pressure, this means that the Coalition is losing credibility with everyone - except those who need to believe Labor and the Coalition are equally balanced and cancel one another out, and that the MSM judges who'd make the better government. The Coalition, led by Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop, is fading as a credible alternative government - this is not despite the efforts of Hartcher, Gordon, and other cogs in the MSM, but because of them.

The MSM are fading in relevance because they shirk the big issues and the big debates facing our country. There are no dull topics, only dull journalists and dull editors with dull ways of presenting The News You Need. Peter Hartcher and Michael Gordon are confident of their ability to cover non-issues in Gillard-AWU but not of the much bigger issues raised in legislation this week, not the least of which was those surrounding school funding.

What should happen is that issues should go back into the frame. Let us tolerate no journo-wittering about constrained time or resources, as though that only happens to them (my time is limited too, that's why I need easily-accessible media to tell me what's going on, rather than hunt for it due to their increasing inadequacy). Let us instead look at how the MSM should use existing resources better, if only its editorial ranks consisted of fewer idiots with herd instincts.

There are many very good articles in the mainstream media about all of those important issues overlooked in the past week. Having covered those issues extensively and in depth, the journalists concerned should have been brought to Canberra to follow the legislation through the parliament. Their reports should have judged politicians according to the issues and how well/badly they react to those; the press gallery could cover the same issues from the insider point of view. That would be a better use of existing resources than demarcating issues reporting from politics.

The only alternative is that the MSM continue to cover bullshit non-issues, shun their audience, lose credibility with politicians, and spiral into oblivion.

In Britain the declining media and an unpopular government have gone into cahoots over media regulation - if the Cameron government loses office the Conservatives are stuffed and so is the media which supports them so cloyingly. The UK media have staked everything on the survival of the current government, which is unfortunate.

In Australia, the media is in decline and the government is unpopular. The government is not regulating to prop up papers but it is warming to a Levenson-style solution; it is bringing in an NBN that will force media companies to get innovative, fast (which will be more than their current leadership will bear). The current Opposition Leader grabbed an inaccurate story on Friday Thursday morning from what used to be a respected newspaper, and now faces libel action as a result of relying on it too heavily. Like Cameron, a former press sec who thought putting out releases was all there was to politics and governing, and as a result got way ahead of himself. Abbott still thinks there are votes against global warming, which means the Home Tories rightly regard him as a pissant.

If the current government retains office (as has always been maintained here at this superior organ of record), it will be proof that the newspapers have lost all influence. This time next year we will start to see the complacency of Gordon, Hartcher et al have real impacts on the companies that have indulged their whims and witterings for far too long. Suddenly discovering that a much-derided PM actually has some positive qualities, as Hartcher and Gordon have, won't cut it.

The MSM need to help us into those complex debates, and help us decide who's doing well or badly. This isn't the same as telling us and framing stories accordingly; the MSM need the respect of an audience that doesn't agree with them, which they don't have. This time next year it will be too late. There are lots of Summer Bumper Specials coming up where you can write intelligent discussions for intelligent readers about hitherto neglected issues; let's see all those dime-a-dozen editors earn their money. Let's see what, if anything, all that journo-experience is really worth.


  1. Swing Required2/12/12 10:08 pm

    One of the problems faced by political journalists now is that there will always be someone in social media who is either an expert on the topic at hand, or experienced in dealing with it. The point of the AWU thing (I can't call it a 'scandal'), is that any solicitor or accountant immediately knew the difference betwen a bank account (slush fund, in this case, if you like) and incorporating a new entity. They also knew that solicitors aren't responsible for what their clients do with that entity after incorporation.

    The media obviously didn't and still persist in saying the PM 'set up a slush fund'. When the PM said this was defamatory, they report it as being a minor legal point. It's not, it's central to the whole issue and the media have shown they just don't understand what's happened here.

    Hence the PM saying it's all nonsense and the media carrying on with 100 times more examination than they ever did with taking the country to war on a lie, or 'children overboard'. So much for impartiality or judgement as to what's important. The alternative is that they're hopelessly biased. In many cases, it's both bias and ignorance.

    That's why trust in the media is abysmally low. There are some good political journalists, but they stand out in a sea of mediocrity and often feel obliged to join the mob screaming at the gates.

    On top of this, we have the 'work experience' reporters who ask questions such as Tony Windsor just had to roll the eyes at the other morning and it's all rounded off with the army of 'shock jocks' rattling their heads in furious agreement with any anti-Government guest.

    We won't even go into Leveson, etc.

    The political media?

    Fail, big, big fail.

  2. Another great post . . .

    "The current Opposition Leader grabbed an inaccurate story on Friday morning"

    I think it was Thursday morning

    1. Thanks, fixed - but I wouldn't put it past him ...

    2. Surely he has staff to lay them out for his grabbing convenience.

    3. 1) They're staff he chose, not policy-detail people; and 2) he's his own press secretary.

  3. andrew when you mentioned the community cabinets the first thing that came to mind
    was that, us ordinary folk live in different
    universe to the press, what we want out of daily life is good policies, simple as that

  4. Bushfire Bill3/12/12 12:33 am

    What I can't understand is why mugs like Hartcher piss off half their readership by telling them

    (a) they are fools for thinking that other issues besides Slatergate are important and

    (b) for simply preferring Labor to the Coalition.

    You can only be told you're an idiot so many times before you stop reading the idiot who's telling you that.

    Hartcher et al are shitting in their own nests.

    They've already wrecked the jobs and lives of hundreds of their colleagues by pursuing their Nihilist, post-apocalyptic doom scenarios concerning government and governance.

    They're also trashing the shareholders who hung onto their stock, only to see it now at penny junk prices. Literally not worth a stamp.

    Lastly, they're demolishing their own companies by inducing enough punters to believe that there's no hope for us. These readers (the ones left, that is) sew up their wallets and don't bother getting out of bed in the mornings to go and shop. The advertisers, facing reduced business, can't afford to advertise in newspapers.

    The paradigm this year, 2012, has been almost real time visible shrinkage of circulations and revenue. Like one of those timelapse shots David Attenborough does of a plant sprouting from a shoot to a tree, we are witnessing the death of newspapers, caused by the cynics who were too scared to take the package.

    Pretty soon we won't need the trick photography. It'll happen before our eye.

    Property writers always find something to spruik about property. It's either a buyer's or a seller's market.

    To a sports writer "sport is always the winner".

    Science writers talk up the latest stunning medical breakthrough.

    But political writers alone seem to take contrarian pleasure in talking governance and government DOWN.

    They write love letters to each other, interview each other, joke with each other and even on public forums like twitter block outsiders in favour of tweeting to other hacks exclusively. And it's all bad.

    It's the time servers who have stayed. The ones who couldn't get a job outside the sheltered workshops they've become accustomed to. Instead of sacking the productive people - editors, reporters and so on - and keeping the hacks, they should have sacked the hacks and given some new blood a chance. Can't be too hard.

    That it is too late is undeniable. The circulation and ratings do not lie. The sackings aren't for no reason at all.

    There is no saving the Old Media. In any other industry, such wilful destruction of a once profitable business by sheer, bloody-minded arrogance and self-indulgence of its senior staff and managers would come before ICAC, or be investigated by ASIC.

    But they've even got that covered. The slightest hint of some kind of perusal of the way the media works is met with howls of rage, renting of garments and dire threats of The Death Of Freedom Of Speech. Plus a whole bunch of negative articles and columns about whomever is stupid enough to suggest that something might be wrong.

    Their offices are pits of despair, empty, with every second desk covered by a tarpaulin. Their editions remain on supermarket, unread. It's no wonder they view the word through the lens of misery and doom.

    But what really irks me is that they want EVERYONE to share in their gloom. They're not content to go down quietly. They want to take the whole nation with them in a last pathetic attempt to prove they were right about how rotten things are.

    For that they should never be forgiven.

    1. As soon as they sacked the wrong journos I knew Fairfax was stuffed. The current situation is a bit like Cobb & Co employees whinging about motor vehicles, or cheering on Phar Lap in the hope he might turn things around for horses, horsey people, and horse-drawn tradition.

  5. Lachlan Ridge3/12/12 3:47 am

    I saw that howler from Hartcher when he conflated Howard's brother with Dick Honan. The man is an idiot.

    I don't think we should waste our defenestration on the Loughnanes of this world (after all, he acknowledged the Your Rights At Work campaign after the 2007 election more than the ALP did!), instead it should be employed against those journalists craven enough to continue tapping out talking points that no one is talking about, while ignoring those many issues that have a real impact on their diminishing readership's day-to-day lives.

    The mainstream media bring nothing to the table but an aching sense of entitlement that is ill deserved in an age when we can get source information directly.

    Stick a fork in their ass and turn them over, they're done" - Lou Reed

    1. The re-election of Gillard will reveal the consequences of that disconnect.

  6. Thanks Andrew. The comment about memory was telling (though I admit I missed that Gordon had conflated Manildra and Howard's brother's travails): On the weekend there was a bit of a kerfuffle on Twitter about Abbott's "slush fund" after some recollections by Margot Kingston; a lot of people missed the point. It wasn't that "they had one too, so there!" it was more about why, if anyone with a reasonable memory can remember this, and it's relevant in the context of the argument about "character" and "fitness for office", why couldn't even ONE professional mainstream political journalist recall it.

    Michelle Grattan grudgingly wrote an "oh yeah, I seem to remember that.." article yesterday but even then she couldn't bring herself to call the deceptions "lies", preferring "untruth"

    Similarly, the goldfish press gallery seem to have forgotten all about Noel Ashby, Kathy Jackson, etc etc.

    If it wasn't for Bloggers like you, I'd be starting to think it was my memory that was failing!

  7. Bushfire Bill beat me to it, I was going to say since when was insulting and pissing off at least half of your audience a good business model? It's not just technological change that is destroying old media, it is also that they are being boycotted on a large scale and those doing the boycotting quickly discover a range of more credible information sources and will never return.

  8. Simon Musgrave3/12/12 9:47 am

    Yet another example of the ongoing failure:
    Michelle Grattan gets a story by picking up Margo Kingston's work from years back, rebroadcast via Independent Australia.
    (And she can't bring herself to reproduce Kingston's crucial point, that this is a case where there is documentary evidence that could support an accusation of breaking the law.)

    1. I think she was ripping off Mick Seccombe's article in the Global Mail on the Friday before. It was very similar but much more shittily written.


    2. Grattan's originality disappeared a long long time ago.

  9. Bushfire Bill3/12/12 10:39 am

    "The man is an idiot."

    I have this fantasy about Hartcher. No it's not man-love.

    One day I fantasise that I'll get into a cab and Hartcher will be the driver after being sacked for participating in the wrecking of Fairfax.

    I tell him to just keep driving around the block, indefinitely. I don't mind paying the extra for the opportunity to unload on him for all the misery he and his ilk have caused and spread with their bullshit analysis and "context".

    I don't intend to leave a tip, either.

  10. Really the majority of the MSM are as thick as two planks. One obvious one is Sid Maher from the Australian at the Prime Minister's Press Conference last week . The PM in reply to a question he asked told him that he had completely misunderstood what she had said and that was the problem with all the bullshit being reported. Then the idiot was put in his place when the PM told him not to "hector" her. Priceless but that did not stop all the other idiot MSM from going on and on and on with answers she has given literally thousands of times. As I said they are as thick as two planks.

  11. Bushfire Bill3/12/12 1:05 pm

    "... that did not stop all the other idiot MSM from going on and on and on with answers she has given literally thousands of times. As I said they are as thick as two planks."

    Yet then they have the hide to say "We still have more questions that need to be answered."

    The professional ineptitude of these so-called "Senior journalists" is manifest. They are given two unprecedented 1 hour session to ask any question they like and they STILL whinge about unanswered questions.

    In both cases the Gallery was answered to a standstill. Asked by Gillard "Are there any more?" the reply was silence from the gallery. BOTH times!

    Then the next day, "She hasn't answered all the questions."

    If press conferences were a court of law, they'd get one shot at it. They wouldn't be permitted to go away, confect new "controversies", or find "new evidence" (mostly just different takes on evidence 20 years old), call everyone back into court and have another go at the witness.

    What Gillard has been put through amounts to moral double jeopardy.

    The dopey Press Gang haven't got the wits to figure out the questions they want her to answer, to put them in a succinct way and get a result. So they put the blame on GILLARD for not figuring out what they SHOULD have asked, and then blame HER for not answering these imaginary, fantasy questions.

    Every time you hear or read "She has more questions to answer" it's the Press Gallery throwing in the towel and admitting they haven't got a clue what their job is, except to spread the negativity they find in their newsrooms to the whole of society.

    No other industry would be indulged in their incompetence as much as they are. And the only reason they are given this indulgence is because if you ignore them they become even more vicious.

    The price of a postage stamp is 60-cents. This is about 10-cents more than the price of a Fairfax share. Fairfax shares, not long ago, were $5. They are running their own industry into the ground.

    Sadly - for the businesses that depend on confidence, for their readers who require information and for their shareholders who need a return on their investment - they are running a nation into the ground as well.

    The sooner the newspapers breathe their last, the better. Then we might have some chance of getting out from underneath their cloak of self pity.

  12. The excellence of Andrew's article is matched by the comments here.


    1. Peter Warrington4/12/12 5:50 pm

      DITTO. my favourite thread. love the clinical analysis of media operations - reminds me of Todd Gitlin's The Whole World is Watching, where he talked about framing. as someone who used to work in an NGO "needing" media attention, it made me realise who was the organ grinder etc. what a pity there isn't a Design Rules type of show about media theory and practice, rather than the jism of Media Watch : (

  13. BushfireBill3/12/12 2:47 pm

    It just occurred to me that if the Press Gallery was able to get together, instead of relying on the silly idea of each newspaper having its own representative, then Gillard wouldn't be able to "divide and conquer" them by spreading the questions around.

    If they got together and united, nominated a select few experts on the case to ask detailed questions, instead of the piecemeal efforts we so regularly see, then their questions might put her on the spot a little more (or might NOT, as the case may be).

    In part its the antiquated nature of the Press Gallery organization, were every Murdoch/Fairfax/Rural-Press newspaper has its own rep asking different questions to the rep from another title from the same stable standing right next to him that slows them down.

    On the other hand, if they organized and collaborated, then they couldn't say afterwards, "There are STILL more questions to answer". That'd be "it" for the Press Gallery.

    Every time Gillard has answered questions on this matter,Hedley Thomas or somesuch digs a little deeper and "finds" an "exclusive" new question that SHOULD HAVE BEEN asked, but wasn't.

    IT's their own fault for this, not Gillard's.

    Sure, she is being "economical with the truth" answering questions strictly in the terms they are asked, but what else do they want her to do? Why expend more energy than is strictly necessary?

    What should she do?

    Give a speech? Have a parliamentary debate? Stand up day after day and field inquisitions from Mesma?

    She's already done all those things, and, as Nikki "Zombie Cleopatra" Savva told us on Insiders, there are still "Questions that must be answered."

    The format of the Press Conference is flawed because they all want the scoop and find it constitutionally impossible to co-operate with each other in their quest for the eternal gotcha.

    Who's to blame for THAT?

    So, balance it off: you either have the Presser where everyone gets an equal guernsey to ask whatever they like, or a single inquisitorial and collaborative panel where the risk is once the qustions are finished they're REALLY finished.

    I can't see either way working. The only thing Gillard can do is call a halt to it, and (hopefully) sues the next person who calls her a "criminal".

    1. B.B., Clearly, the only solution is for J.G. to anticipate every possible smear that might be leveled at her and provide a preemptive explanation!

      If you think that's silly, Michelle Grattan more or less demanded it in this: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/gillard-now-needs-to-settle-the-dust-20121125-2a1mn.html

    2. Peter Warrington4/12/12 5:52 pm

      yeah i must say watching Insiders was pretty amusing seeing Farr and the dude from Qld (apologies to him for not knowing his name) rip Savva to shreds for her lazy and cycnical, and completely untrue, "analysis".

  14. What I find interesting is that the government is just sidestepping the press gallery when it comes to policy. It is as if the government has said, "well we have given you the chance to ask about Bills and Policies but as you have decided you are not interested, we will do it ourselves"
    Hence, twitter, facebook, community cabinets etc. This is the market that is growing while print declines. 24 hours a day 7 days a week and it is cheap to produce, distribute and receive.
    So it is up to the media they can decide to opt in to the market or be like Oakes and have a cry about thegood old days.

  15. Interesting to review the timeline for the AWU non-story. "The Australian" had been banging on for some time without cutting through.
    Jonathan Holmes (ABC Media Watch) mentioned that "The Australian" was putting pressure on the ABC to increase their news reporting of the saga. The ABC coverage was required to achieve "critical mass" so that the story could gain some legs.
    Two interesting points here:
    1. "The Australian" no longer has much political clout:
    2. Why did the ABC feel the need to comply with pressure from News Ltd.

  16. Considering The Age is about the intellectual equivalent of most student newspapers, I'd say Mr Gordon is well equipped to comment on student politics.

    Just because you don't understand the answer doesn't mean the question hasn't been answered.

  17. Bushfire Bill you are spot on! Oh and of course so are you Andrew, absolutely required reading.

  18. I haven't bought a paper in this country for years but one thing drives me more crazy than most things in this racist hell hole.

    Every pollster asks who is best to handle asylum seekers as if they are something akin to a tax break instead of human beings with legal rights just the same as ours.

    We have Ben Doherty in the AGE again on the weekend wanking on about Sri Lankans not being deterred and putting lives at risk - he did not once mention that it is a legal right to seek asylum no matter how much Australia whinges about it.

    Today the Terror's Gemma Jones is whining on about a failure of policy when seeking asylum is not about policy, it is an enshrined in concrete bedrock human right.

    Michael Gordon once upon a time this year even applauded the idea of trading humans to Malaysia.

    Why do our worthless media find the international legally binding right to seek asylum such a difficult concept.

  19. Once politicians (particularly senior figues) realise they can probably get just as much traction and more credibility by regularly asking genuine questions that are sent to their electoral offices online and posting them to twitter/facebook etc the poor journos will really be in the stink.

  20. The best laugh I have had today has been delivered by a News Ltd article. The article was on the Essential Poll where it was found ' the Coalition may have over-reached its attack on PM Julia Gillard and the AWU slush fund affair'

    The laugh came because the Essential poll also included the media in the question, who were also found to have same negative results as the Coalition.

    Media over-reach? Can't expect them to report that.

  21. The treatment of the Coalition by the MSM must reflect their desperation to avoid regulation. I am sure you have alluded to this before here. This is not to say laziness and stupidity are not rife amongst journalists as you and your readership have pointed out, but this is tolerated first by media owners before anyone else. I'd be surprised if the PM tackles Finkelstein before the next election, but she is not one to shirk a challenge. Abbott on the other hand would behave exactly as Cameron has.

  22. Bushfire Bill4/12/12 8:38 am

    That the assembled "talent" of the Press Gallery had two one-hour Q&A sessions where they could ask anything they wanted to, were "answered" to a standstill both times, and that they STILL reckon "there are questions to to answered", shows how out of practice they have become at gathering facts by the most direct means possible: direct interrogation.

    Far better to sit back in the gallery and have their egos stroked by both sides of politics pathetically playing up to them via the kabuki theatre of Question Time.

    Much easier to pick up the phone from an anonymous "Labor insider", "senior minister", just plain "minister", "caucus member" or mere "Labor source", top and tail their agenda for the day, and put it out as "news".

    Such a doddle to get up in the morning, put the eggs on and, while they're boiling, cook up a theory that cannot be questioned (because "Comments" on the web site won't be enabled) then slap it into 800 words or less.

    By the time the bacon's finished and the second cup of coffee's been swilled down you can deliver a five-course meal of "government's greatest crisis", "nervous backbenchers", "Rudd in the wings", "voters who aren't listening" and "tests" the PM "needs to pass".

    Every now and again you can state the government's position is untenable and call for someone to "fall on their sword"... for the good of the party, of course.

    Then there are the talk shows where you get to have other members of the group-think circle nod and agree with everything you say, as long as you return the favour. Mutual back-scratching is great, especially for those hard-to-get-at places, like the credibility spot.

    What a life!

    I'm a bit jealous. I get up in the morning, do the same thing, but I don't get paid a squillion for it.

    We have had regular predictions of the government's doom, but it has survived and even prospered.

    We have had assurances that we weren't listening to the Prime Minister, but she's gained in respect over the months, and lost none in the past two weeks of intensive bombardment.

    We don't need to listen to the government, so we don't need to know about their policies or achievements. On the other hand, "oppositions are there to oppose", so we can't expect them to reveal any policy work either.

    To sum up: policy ain't important. We can dispense with it.

    Abbott started a trench war two years ago, designed to get rid of the government in a few months. The media went along with it without question... "Home by Christmas!" (or at least "In the Lodge by Christmas!").

    It's now two years later and we are no better informed. There's always One Last Push in the offing. They never come off, but they're fun to write up.

    While the pundits fiddle, their newspapers burn, and the readers roam.

    Helluva a business model, eh?

  23. Peter Hartcher confidently intoned that John Howard would be returned in 2007.

    It's as though the MSM, stung by their irrelevant interpretations of Julia Gillard's misogyny speech have decided to reassert their authority over the AWU non-story. It's backfired badly but no more so than on Fairfax and the ABC.

    They have resorted to quoting 2 nutters-Pickering and Smith and ignoring credible websites like this, crikey and Independent Australia which have been miles ahead of them on this issue and others.

    As to their lecturing to us on what is important : I'm a lefty whose friends are all Tories but not even they have an interest, except in passing to the AWU tale because there is no substance. They are still on about global warming 9if it's true or not) carbon pricing and so on. You know- really important things.

  24. Crikey won a walkely for First Dog on The Moon!!!!!

    That speaks volumes about the current media and their credibility.


    1. It was a cartooning Walkley, and a worthy winner of that. The Walkley people might think they are being terribly generous in acknowledging online-only outlets but I think that's part of their problem.

  25. Andrew

    Just take the Walkley!!

    Dont analyse it mate

  26. I'm comfortable with the Die option. I'm looking forward to watching centralised, big-money journalism go the way of the telegraph and semaphore.

    I firmly believe that the future of journalism is in grass-roots reporting, aided by the internet, backed up by independent analysis on the same media. Analysis no longer shackled to the need to tow the party line of the big media companies and their owners. Analysis that so far has proven to show more intelligence and insight than you will ever find in the so-called mainstream media.

    Speed the day.

  27. I'd like to see some cunning bugger in the govt' backroom with a sense of humour slip in a "lookalike minister" actor impersonating one of the legitimate MP's do a door-stop and have him tear into the assembled media hacks whenever they ask a stupid question like "She has questions still to answer"..give a look of absolute disgust : "You stupid fool!...What sort of dumbarse comment is that?...are you a jerkoff or what!!?...Oh, I see you're a Murdoch boy..that answers it..; you're a jerkoff!"
    Perhaps that's one for the Chaser boys!

  28. Michael Gordon's op ed turned out to be prescient when the 3 polls taken after the last parliamentary week all showed a shift back to the coalition.

    1. No, it turned out to be bullshit because there wasn't an election held last weekend.