Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Mark Day, Media Watch, nit-picking, the reptiles at The Oz and happy birthday

This Thursday night, the 7th May '09, the reptiles of the press will most likely be glued to the celebration on ABC of Media Watch's first twenty years of doing the media slowly over a roasting grill for their many mistakes and follies (and thereby guaranteeing the show a few hundred viewers, along with a hearty dose of lamentation and bile). 

International viewers will wonder which teacup and which storm therein they've just happened to miss, as Jon Stewart regularly roasts the media in America with way better humor and much more ferocity than usually managed by Media Watch in its all too short fifteen minutes a week outing.

Even so, the reptiles housed in sundry press zoos around the country still get regularly hurt and appalled by Media Watch's assaults, none more so than the reptiles captive in the zoo enclosure known as The Australian.

Mark Day, blessed by receiving a press screener, has already launched a pre-emptive strike by seizing on the words of executive producer Joanne Puccini somehere near the end of the one hour special and pinged her for grammatical and logical errors. (20 years of nit-picking coming your way).

Media Watch has always been a nit-picker. It is therefore open to nit-picking. It’s pretty fundamental, actually.

Yep, nothing so agitates a reptile as another reptile pointing out that he has dowdy scales, or even an incisor missing, or perhaps has been feasting on a carcase in an unseemly way.

So let's get nit-picking.

Littlemore (a sometime Media Watch presenter) also condemned the ABC practice of having reporters in foreign bureaux doing a piece to camera so that individual newsreaders in different cities could throw to it as if they were talking live to the correspondent. He described it as a “total deception of the audience”.

So what? Assuming the field report is accurate, who’s hurt by this? Salter claims one of Media Watch’s benefits is to expose “trade craft”, but I fail to see how the audience was deceived over the content of the report, which is surely what matters most. Embracing speed and efficiency in news reporting is not, and should never be, a crime

And there you have it, laid out in an eggshell, exactly why Media Watch has proved handy over the years, especially as an indictment of news as entertainment.

The fact that Day doesn't get it is both amusing and wonderful, and suggests he's primed for a spot on Fox News. A typical example of what Day thinks is okay? Take a pompous gherkin sitting in front of a camera, pretending to be a journalist (when looks and voice and reading ability 'presence' are the only  essential criteria for getting the job), and then he "acts the interview". Which is to say he pretends he's talking live to a pre-recorded prat out on the field, as a way of giving an authentic tang to the report.

Why it was only last night that Media Watch sent up journalists out in the field for draping a decorative mask around their neck as they sent in live reports from the field, thereby risking the art department budget, and their own health by suddenly exposing themselves to the dreaded swine flu, but reminding viewers with their face mask prop that they were surrounded by deadly danger. Gee, they'd have loved to have worn gas masks presenting live from the field in WWI as the mustard gas enveloped them.

Yep, it's just another piece of news as entertainment. It's play-acting, making up stuff, pretending the news presenter is johnny on the spot and taking the feed live, such is our frenetic desire to know what's happening, right now, right in situ. But if you can make this kind of nonsense up, why not make up the rest of it? Talk about this as being speedy and efficient is close to a crime, at least when you should be talking about sloppy, half-baked seconds worthy of kids at drama school, and as it transpires, so easily found out.

Whenever I see a news presenter attempt a 'live' on the spot hard edged hard hitting interview on a crisis situation from the field, I now run screaming from the room. The only fun to be had is when there's a technical stuff up to go with it, and fortunately these days there's plenty of them.

News has stopped being news and become a new kind of acted out digital content. If you want to understand something, anything, avoid commercial television news services.

But then Mark Day exhibits a tad of paranoia in his talk about the show, no doubt because he was once pinged by it, and even now spends an inordinate amount of time in his column still loudly protesting his innocence - at least when he's not worried about the constant ravaging of The Australian. Life's just so unfair.

There is no surprise that much of the program is devoted to The Australian. The newspaper’s editorials make no attempt to hide the fact it has a conservative standpoint, which makes it an easy target for the Left, represented most strikingly by former presenter David Marr, a prominent warrior for the Left in the culture wars.

I see no problem whatsoever with both sides slugging it out. We all love a good stoush and, properly conducted, we may even be stimulated to think and learn from it. But the fundamental need is for accuracy, and each side in this argument will claim the other falls at this hurdle.

There are few certainties in these debates, but here’s one I’ll bet on: As
Media Watch enters its third decade, The Oz will be watching. As they would say about the media generally, someone has to keep ‘em honest.

Oh pooh pooh Mr. Day. It's not always about The Australian, though in fact you could devote a lifetime to the spivs and spruikers and loons that grace The Australian's thinking pages - though it would make for very dull viewing.

Last night was devoted to a dissection of the Four Corners program about the shooting of MP John Newman, for which Vietnamese-Australian businessman Phuong Ngo was pinged (you can see the transcript here), and it did a damn better job than the meanderings of Paul Sheehan in The Sydney Morning Herald the week before when he berated Media Watch for not tackling the story because of in-house loyalties. With a bit of luck, the magic water man was watching and gnashing his teeth.

Indeed, if there's any complaint I have about Media Watch, it's that it spends a little too much time on in-house ABC policing, and not enough time on loons at large in the commercial world, a trend I suspect which has as much to do with budget and resources as anything.

As for the notion that The Australian is somehow a gatekeeper and guardian of quality journalism in this country, dream on. It's a dreary, dull, ill-balanced and ill-considered rag - not nearly as respectable as its close kissing cousin The Daily Telegraph, which at least has the integrity to realize it's a tabloid and act accordingly. It's strange to read a broadsheet which has an intellectual desire to be somewhere to the right of intelligent designers and creationists, and it's even stranger that its current editors think 'printing the controversy' rather than informative articles is the way forward.

Why would you call it an 'easy target' for lefties? Is it because it publishes easily sent up nonsense from a battery of ready to hand loons?

A newspaper that publishes the likes of Christopher Pearson and Greg Melleuish on climate change - fundamentalist Catholic, say hello to Greek tragedy and hubris - has nothing to be proud of, especially when it then has the cheek to publish a rant from Ian Plimer demanding that he be debated on the basis of science, while at the same time calling for a Stalinist-type Truth and Retribution Commission to try him for crimes against established order and politicised science (Hot-air doomsayers).

Well yes, that's a heck of a scientific debating point. And not a whiff of paranoia about it.

Clearly Plimer hasn't read Janet Albrechtsen's demand for politicians breaking policies and promises to be hauled before her very own Stalinist style truth and retribution commission.

The idea that The Australian has the intellectual honesty required to keep others honest is well really ... how can I put this? Just a load of old Hal G. P. Colebatch cobblers.

Thank the lord for Jack the Insider because without him The Australian would be a very dull, or at least very perverse read.

Meantime, tune in to the 20th birthday party celebrations, and check out the cavalcade of loons therein - some making the programs, some contributing to the programs in ways they never expected, via their lax, arrogant, reptilian ways. 

And if the guardians at The Australian are guarding Media Watch, here's hoping that Media Watch redoubles its efforts to guard the guardians guarding The Australian. I know which result will be more fun to watch ... I can hear the reptiles howling and yowling even as I type ...


Nick D said...

I see the ring roads of Canberra didn't blunt the wit. Such a relief.

I suspect the ABC spends so much time doing its own critique out of a ridiculously fair attempt to be balanced. Not sure if it's because it doesn't have the balls to ignore the (ever-so-balanced) loons constantly harping about bias, or because the always-stacked one way or the other Board requires it.

It would be a great day in journalism here if balance stopped meaning 50% air time to opposing sets of loons. That way we could stop conflating journalism with writing press releases.

dorothy parker said...

I see you were in Canberra too, and that we share an interest in desolate spaces in desolate places. http://doorsausage.blogspot.com/2009/05/abandoned-places-any-space-whatevers.html

It's not often I get an urge to do graffiti and tag everything but Canberra brings it about in a primal way.

As for the media, it's a sad day when the likes of Mark Day defends 'play-acting news as entertainment' as a way of attacking Media Watch, but it's really curious when the one 15 minute a week survey of the reptiles regularly brings out rage in the media establishment, as if the reptiles weren't human and deserved a little fun poked at them.

Balance is one of those bizarre notions routinely ignored by the likes of The Australian, and why not, Rupert owns the rag and it can do what he likes - my counter balance is to never buy it, and never to click throughs on their online ads. Free is what they're worth and free is what I pay.

As for the poor old ABC, I'm afraid the 7.30 report is now so emasculated and dull it's virtually unwatchable, and it will take a new shake up in programming (prompting from the board never seems to work, especially this wretched board) before we get back to something interesting. As you say, it's so tiring to see right wing loon pitted against left wing loon, and all that's produced is heat and no light. (The only worse thing is the much loved budget economy method of journalist interviewing journalist about the doings of others).