Category Archives: Media

Must Read – Jonathan Holmes on Today Tonight

Last Monday night ABC’s Media Watch featured a story from Today Tonight last week which was just unbelievably bad. Now MW host Jonathan Holmes has an article on the Drum about it which is essential reading.

Holmes describes it

I’ve spent four years in the Media Watch chair – and in all that time I have never seen a more mendacious, deceptive and inflammatory piece of ‘journalism’.

Go and read the rest now. (Coincidentally it must be the first time I’ve seen an article on the drum with all the commentors basically in agreement)

It was truly disgraceful as they stirred up anger against refugees based on total misreprentations of the facts. I don’t think there was a political motive, it’s just that stirring up outrage is a good way at getting ratings and you pick some of the most disadvantaged people in our society (a common tactic for so-called current affairs shows as pointed out on Frontline so many years ago) then you can get away with it.They seem to have no regard for journalistic ethics, don’t care what happens to their victims … just as long as they get more viewers than their competitor. We all know that these prime time “current affairs” programs are terrible  but this seems to be a new low even for them.

Holmes concludes with

I hope that anyone who had anything to do with Today Tonight’s tawdry effort feels ashamed of themselves. They should. That includes, of course, the reporter and producers involved. In my view it also includes executive producer Craig McPherson; his boss, the director of news Peter Meakin; his boss, Seven CEO David Leckie; all the way up to the chairman, Kerry Stokes. They are the ones who tolerate and excuse a culture that treats this sort of ‘journalism’ as acceptable.

Hear hear.

If you watch Today Tonight then why not just switch off instead. You’ll be better informed about what’s going on in the world by staring at a blank screen for half an hour than by watching their show which leaves you less well informed than you were in the first place.



The A-Z of Smearing the Greens

In the Age/SMH today Paul Sheehan has a ridiculous piece attacking the Greens. His starting point is that the Greens are a fraud because Adam Bandt’s first bill is about same sex marriage, not the environment. Nevermind that this has always been an issue for the Greens, Sheehan chooses to pretend that the Greens actually never talk about anything apart from the environment (despite the fact that he points out various other issues where he disagrees with the Greens in the rest of the piece). The Greens have a wide range of policies available on their website, advertised in printed materials they produce, written into their charter , and various Greens MPs around the country have worked on a wide variety of issues. Sheehan’s piece only goes downhill after starting with this preposterous straw-man. He continues with an A-Z of why the Greens are a fraud.

Continue reading →

Automatic Pay Rises for State MPs

There was recently a story on Adelaide Now titled “State MPs chasing $40,000 pay rise”. The headline is a little misleading, but clearly did the job in attracting lots of outraged commenters. The gist of it, and the full story below is quite accurate though. The misleading part is “chasing” since the whole point is that they don’t actually have to anything! The pay of SA MPs is indexed to that of federal backbenchers, so there is no need for SA politicians do the ever unpopular “voting themselves a payrise”, they just get it without doing anything. This has been the case for some time, but there’s an extra ingredient now. There’s a plan at the federal level (which is not necessarily certain to be implemented at this stage) to incorporate various allowances directly into the pay for MPs. This means they get a one off, large pay increase, but traded off against the loss of various perks. The problem is that the result for SA would be the big increase but with no corresponding trade off (and none really possible since State MPs don’t have comparable allowances). Now to be fair to the parliament, this has not happened at the federal level, so they may well have decided to do something about this, or they may have kept quiet and taken the pay rise – we don’t know – but I am glad that the local press is onto it. What is disappointing (but not so surprising for the Murdoch press) is that  while they talk about “independents” being against it, and quote Bob Such in particular, they completely fail to acknowledge that Greens MLC Mark Parnell has been trying to do away with the automatic pay rises for years, but his bills have never been supported by the major parties. You can see the bills, and various press on the issue at his website here. The last time it came up, about a year ago, it was reported on the ABC.

John Howard on Fox News

Woke up this morning to hear ABC radio playing an interview John Howard did on Fox News. Can’t find a link for it right now (Update: footage and commentary at Larvatus Prodeo), but the gist of it was that we shouldn’t respond to the current financial crisis by putting constraints on capitalism because it was caused by government regulation in the first place. Sounds like he’s pushing the CRA talking-point – i.e. the attempt by market fundamentalists to cope with current events by blaiming it all on the Community Reinvestment Act. There is a great analysis of why this is a load of rubbish by Daniel Gross at Slate, who sums it up with

Lending money to poor people doesn’t make you poor. Lending money poorly to rich people does.

He also links to this post about it by Barry L. Ritholtz at The Big Picture which is well worth reading

There are too many people who are trying to duck responsibility for the current mess, and seeking to place blame elsewhere. I find this to be terribly important, as we seek to repair the damage amidst an economic crisis. Rather than objectively evaluate the present crisis in an attempt to craft an appropriate response, the partisan hacks are trying to obscure the causes of the current situation. Like burglars trying to destroy the surveillance tape, they are all too aware of their role in the present debacle.

Shame on them for their foolishness or cowardice.

So where is John Howard getting these ideas from? Perhaps this quote from the Slate article can tell us

These arguments are generally made by people who read the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and ignore the rest of the paper—economic know-nothings whose opinions are informed mostly by ideology and, occasionally, by prejudice.

Not the first time I’ve heard something like this about the WSJ. This is what Tim Lambert at Deltoid had to say about them after knocking down one of their regular pieces of stupidity on global warming

Why does the Wall Street Journal combine superb news coverage with absurd nonsense on its editorial pages? My theory is that the editorial pages are just p0rn for right wingers. The readers need accurate information on the news pages for business decisions, but the editorial pages aren’t used that way, so are filled with fantasies to make the readers feel good.

They’re also into the DDT myth and denialism over the “Lancet Study”.

The Original Movember

Despite what some people might tell you, Movember began in Adelaide in 1999. I know this since I’ve been a participant ever since the first one. Channel 7 news were there to document it and now this is available on You Tube

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Watch right to the end for the classic comment that gave us the motto – Joins est Brucingus. Love the file footage of Tom Selleck as well, as a spokesman for an entirely made up association of moustache enthusiasts.

The original Movember crew can be found at 

Festival of Ideas: Recommended Listening

Radio Adelaide have started broadcasting recordings of sessions from the Adelaide Festival of Ideas, and many are now available for download, all of the details are here.

I would like to make some recommendations based on session I attended, or have downloaded and listened to. I will update this as I listen to more of them, though I don’t expect to get through all of them, so don’t read anything into the absence of a session from my list. All broadcasts are on 101.5 FM in Adelaide. Also, all sessions are available on cd from Radio Adelaide. All downloads are in mp3 format.

Updated 12/7

  • High and Dry: John Howard, Climate Change and the Selling of Australia’s future with Guy Pearse. A compelling account of the Howard government’s failure on the issue of climate change from a Liberal party insider. To be broadcast on Wednesday July 18 at 12 noon, or download it (17.0MB).
  • Drought Proofing Australia: Heroic Fantasies and Sobering Realities with Peter Cullen. An account of Australia’s water situation from a top expert who is also an excellent speaker who tells it straight. Download it (15.9MB).
  • The Joy MacLennan Oration – Beyond the Long Age of Forgetting with Simon Longstaff. I managed to completely overlook this one on the weekend so I’m glad it was available for download. Longstaff very eloquently pinpoints the substitution of institutional tradition for ethical thinking as a key problem in our society. Download it (16.6MB).
  • Trading places with John Connell, John Buchanan, Tim Harcourt, Colleen Ryan. This one didn’t leap out at me, in fact I wasn’t entirely clear on what it would be about, but it turned out to be probably my favourite group session which I attended. The reason is that I felt that the speakers all has something different to contribute, but it all fit in well with the overall topic, which was essentially the future of trade. Download it (29.3MB).
  • What to Eat: Personal Responsibility vs Social Responsibility with Marion Nestle. An excellent speaker on a topic which effects us all on a daily basis, giving the insight that comes with being at the forefront of the fight for good nutrition in the USA (listen for how she “hurt sugar’s feelings”). Very entertaining and informative. Download it. (15.8MB)
  • Lifting the lid on whistle-blowing with Julian Morrow, Guy Pearse, Norman Swan, Marian Wilkinson, Paul Chadwick (PC). This one was full and I couldn’t get in but now I’ve had a chance to listen to it. A fascinating, and important topic with an impressive and diverse group of speakers … I probably should have realised that it would be popular. Download it. (31.8MB)
  • Mumbo-Jumbo, Snake Oil and Other Delusions with Francis Wheen. I plan to soon write a post about some of the ideas in this one, which is an amusing summary of the main ideas of the speakers latest book about the resurgence of superstition at the expense of critical thinking. Download it. (16.6MB)
  • Survival of the Fittest, Survival of the Richest or Survival of the Thinnest with Norman Swan. The ABC’s medical expert gives an interesting perspective on the factors affecting life expectancy. This has already been broadcast, so if you want to hear it you have to download it. (16.6MB)
  • Troubling times: Dissent and democracy in Australia with Sarah Maddison. Details the approach of the Howard government to dealing with dissent and the implications for democracy. Recommended for anyone who’s views have been dismissed as those of a “Howard Hater”. To be broadcast on Sunday August 26 at 12 noon. Download it. (14.9MB)

Polar Bear Beat Up

Last night Media Watch had a look at the recent story about animal rights activists wanting to have a polar bear cub put down and found that it originated with a tabloid beat up that completely misrepresented the people in question. It seems that pretty much every week they have a story which has been passed around the world’s media without anyone checking the facts behind it (for example last week there was misrepresentation of the comments of an ADHD expert). Should every news outlet check out the details of every story they come across from the source? Well, can you imagine being the subject of a story that gains attention worldwide and having every newspaper, radio station, tv station, news websites ..etc contacting you for verification? Also it would be a huge burden for these people to check every single story that crosses the news desk by contacting the source, on the other hand they must bear responsibility for anything they present as news. I’m not sure exactly where a reasonable compomise lies, but I suspect that currently we are not there. For a start, if someone gets a story from another news source, perhaps they could at least find out whether that news source obtained it or verified it first hand. At the very least, in a case where the story involves something quite outrageous (like animal activists wanting to kill an animal) then it seems that extra checking should be done.
Media Watch had a particular interest in polar bears last night with another story about the questionable use of a photograph of polar bears. This is an interesting example as the photo illustrates a scenario which is predicted to occur (or possibly already is), but that is not what is actually depicted in the photo. The proper use of this image would have been to say that it was taken in summer, close to the coast, but to point out that under the predictions of climate models that this is a scenario that would be played out far from land, leaving the bears stranded. I note however, that those using the photo were not necessarily aware of this, so I’m not suggesting dishonesty. Essentially it is the same problem as above – something gets passed through enough hands that the origin is forgotten – so there is basically the same solution, given that it is such a striking image some investigation into its origin would have been wise.