Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bloggers vs journalists

Not PC mentioned about David Cohen's amusing dig at bloggers in the NBR. David Cohen is one of the few NZ journalists I rate, because he can write well, and he thinks. Indeed, as I have said before there is a difference between journalists and reporters, and sadly far too many in the mainstream media (and TV is significantly worse) are reporters. Their idea of a story is:

- The government announced it would do X today. It said that doing X would solve a long standing problem of Y and Z. The cost of doing X is $A, which Minister B said would be great value. Lobby group C supported the move cautiously saying while a step forward, it wasn't enough. National spokesperson D said it was too little too late.

Cohen put forward a 20 point test that is meant to mean you've moved from being a "mere blogger" to being a journalist. How destroyed is my ego that I haven't passed, (well I got 10) though I'll live as I am lot happier actually doing stuff than just writing about it, and my bank balance is happier too.

After all I am paid for my writing, I think my formal qualifications in law and public policy don't make me cry about having not done journalism, my writing is typically peer reviewed, I know the difference between practice and practise, I've used the OIA (and see how poorly a few journalists use it as they don't know enough to ask the right questions), I've often met deadlines, I've had my work read by Cabinet Ministers and Chief Executives of public and private sector organisations. So on and so on.

Keith Ng has a good set of questions too in response. My favourites from his are:

Do you ever write stories where more than half the content comes from one press release?

Do you ever write a story about a report solely from the press release accompanying the report, without having read the report itself?

Both are far too common, and infantile. Why should people pay to read such drivel when they can go to Scoop and read the press releases as they are?

I have a better set of questions for journalists, to see how smart and honest they are:

Do you make your political and religious affiliations transparent to your readers? Do you declare any political parties you have been a member of or donated to?Do you questions assumptions made in government reports and press releases, as well as opposition ones?

Have you ever asked a politician whether the answer to a problem is for the government to do nothing? Have you ever written an article where you analyse what might happen if the government did less not more in a particular policy area?

Do you ever make an Official Information Act (or LGOIMA) request knowing exactly what it is you need to know to determine what has gone on?

Have you ever written about H2's control on the areas of government policy she has the greatest interest in and which the PM trusts her in? Do you even know what she does?

Could you get a similar level job writing for The Times, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, The Guardian or The Independent (UK not NZ!)? (or even the Economist?)

Do you understand that the value of money declines over time so quoting financial statistics without adjusting for this is not comparing like with like?

Can you accurately name under which Prime Ministers and Finance Ministers the NZ government privatised NZ Rail, privatised Telecom NZ, corporatised the Railways Department and privatised NZ Post? (trick question)

Do you know what onanism is (without going and Googling it now) and have you never had anyone describe your work as such?

Oh and while I'm at it here are some examples of journalism missing a point:

1. This article doesn't mention that Telstra Clear didn't install its own network, it is using Telecom's, so it is competition on unequal terms.

2. This article, didn't include any interviews with any school principals, even though it is about schools.

3. This article, quotes Chris Turver, ignoring that he was once a Wellington Regional Councillor until last year. It also doesn't even note that funding has been approved to extend the electrification of the rail network to Waikanae, so it looks like another problem ignored.

and that's just today.


Anonymous said...

TelstraClear are re-selling air-time one Telecom's mobile network, not Vodafone's

Libertyscott said...

Really? Well I stand corrected - thank you.