Red Alert

Who holds the media accountable #2

Posted by on June 19th, 2010

Further to my post earlier today about media and accountability I came across a piece which takes the issues and the arguments a bit further.

Titled Why can’t journalists handle public criticism it was written by Scott Rosenberg and orignally posted on a site called Mediashift Idea Lab.

It’s worth a read, but I thought this extract was interesting:

Reasonable criticism of news coverage can now be published as easily online as the original reports, and the public expects media outlets to respond. Many editors and reporters understand that a new approach to accountability simply makes sense.

So the institutions have begun, haltingly but significantly, to open up. But many individual journalists find themselves at sea when called upon to explain mistakes, defend choices and engage in discussions with their readers and critics. Nothing in their professional lives has prepared them for this.

In fact, a lot of their professional training explicitly taught them that all of this was dangerous, unprofessional, bad. They grew up thinking — and some still think — that the professional thing to do, when questioned in public, is (a) don’t respond at all; (b) respond with “no comment — we stand by our story”; or if things get really bad © your editor will do the talking.

Because it’s about American media it’s easier  think about and discuss the underlying issues without being accused of sour grapes. Anyone who knows me or has read previous posts will know I care deeply about these issues and having a strong robust, independent media. Public and commerically driven.

I don’t think we’ve got that right now.

Found this on twitter. Sorry can’t hat tip because I’ve forgotten who I got it from.


30 Responses to “Who holds the media accountable #2”

  1. Spud says:

    I support the idea of an independent media, not sure about badgering the journalists. :?

  2. Chris73 says:

    I support the idea of journalists badgerng politicians…from all parties

  3. Ianmac says:

    That’s interesting:”n fact, a lot of their professional training explicitly taught them that all of this was dangerous, unprofessional, bad. They grew up thinking — and some still think — that the professional thing to do, when questioned in public, is (a) don’t respond at all; (b) respond with “no comment — we stand by our story”; or if things get really bad © your editor will do the talking”

    Guess who believes the above. It is a politician. He seldom fronts up for serious interviews. He smiles a lot as he does the above. Answer?

  4. Ianmac says:

    I do sometimes respond by e-mail where available usually for the articles that I agree with. For example Garth George wrote recently on media responses.
    Mostly pretty correct in my eyes – this time.
    “At the same time there has been a revolution in the media, a transfer of emphasis from serious and objective reporting to an obsession with the sick, the sad, the salacious and the sensational.”
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10652328

  5. Loota says:

    All we are missing now is a colloseum and some lions and our news will be top notch.

  6. Spud says:

    @Chris – I meant Joe Public baggering the journalists. Though, I’m more confused than anything. :-(

    I guess any public speaking / role attracts its own flak.
    :-)

  7. Anne says:

    “…journalists can’t handle public criticism”.

    An excellent example: John Campbell and co. after the Speaker, Lockwood Smith’s removal of the media’s Beehive car-parks as punishment for their behaviour re-Chris Carter the previous day. They couldn’t take it out on the Speaker – given his status that would be risky – so they stuck it to Carter instead.

  8. A Mother says:

    I think that the media just like the power and that is why they don’t like being critisised. If someone wants to put their view across then the media has the power as to what is shown and what isn’t.

  9. Loota says:

    The news media think that they are in the business of infotainment these days, not journalism or the fourth estate.

  10. steelykc says:

    @Loota I couldnt agree more, you hit the nail on the head. This is exactly what has happened. It seems as if there are a bunch of current journos who have all ‘come of age’ in the business of political infotainment all at the same time….obviously they all went to the same journalism school or something.

    I am so heartily sick of it that I no longer bother with TV news. I listen to the radio and search internet websites for real news. In order to make them accountable they need to become irrelevant somehow. Any ideas?

  11. Spud says:

    Make a doco on journalism…

  12. steelykc says:

    If someone did, it certainly wouldnt appear on TV1 or TV3, its too local. Maybe Pam Corkery should be getting her act together on this……

  13. Loota says:

    steelykc: its an interesting problem. One of the objectives would be to help get people better informed and to help them understand that they can make that informed voice heard.

    (Red Alert is very cool in this)

    I’m not particularly bothered if they come to a different set of conclusions or opinions than me, as long as they have considered a solid set of information, asked good questions and thought about their position.

    At the moment the idea I have is something like a NZ version of Jon Stewart’s ‘The Daily Show’. Informative, insightful, and bloody funny. Cuts straight through the spin to the substance.

  14. DeepRed says:

    Also, the Press Council was formed in a period before the media conglomerates as we know them emerged. So logically, they should come under the Commerce Act.

    The Jono Project is the closest equivalent we have to Jon Stewart and the Chasers crew, even if it needs work.

  15. Bill Bennett says:

    I’m a journalist and I see two important issues that are NOT referred to in the story quoted above.

    1. Dealing with criticism takes time. Modern journalists have to churn through huge amounts of material each day – far, far more than in the past. Publishers prefer productive journalists. Stopping, back-tracking and dealing with criticism isn’t productive. Ultimately this is about money.

    2. A lot of criticism is petty, oddball or badly thought-out. In my personal experience the overwhelming majority of complaints simply aren’t worthy of a response. Yet I know that sounds arrogant – but we’re back to the time argument. Journalists have to prioritise – it’s not an error if a story misses some minor nuance.

    Having said all that, I’ve always welcomed feedback on my work. Apart from anything else, it’s nice to know people care enough about your writing to bother.

  16. Loota says:

    Hi Bill

    Dealing with criticism takes time. Modern journalists have to churn through huge amounts of material each day – far, far more than in the past.

    Are you talking about publishers trying to get the same amount of output from a much smaller number of journalists? (i.e. cost reduction imperative?)

    What have you observed as some of the impacts of being able to spend only smaller amounts of time and effort per item of material which comes across your desk?

  17. Ianmac says:

    Just so I know where you stand, what do you think of the way that the MSM handled the Carter “story”?

    Do you think the MSM should be be held to account for the way they reported that story or are the concerns just: “A lot of criticism is petty, oddball or badly thought-out. In my personal experience the overwhelming majority of complaints simply aren’t worthy of a response.”

  18. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    The Saville enquiry in the UK has produced documents on how the British Army reacted to negative stories.

    We can also see that the Army actively considered launching an “attack” on the journalists in the papers ( Guardian) Belfast bureau, although it noted that it did not have “enough concrete evidence” against one, who had “covered his tracks very carefully.”
    http://defenceoftherealm.blogspot.com/2010/06/jolly-good-unit.html

    Some weeks earlier the Paras had shot 11 at Ballymurphy, including a priest giving the last rites

  19. A Mother says:

    Thats another side to the media I haven’t heard before. Thanks for that ghostwhowalksnz.

  20. Ianmac says:

    No Right Turn points to another Robert Fisk Story which deals with the duping of the Public perceptions firstly over the recent Saville Report – Ireland Bloody Sunday, then goes on to examine the myths still talked about today, that the “Irish refuelled U-boats.”
    It is of interest how the Media perpetrate these stories and are not held accountable.
    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-german-captains-uboats-and-other-lies-about-ireland-2004816.html

  21. Clare Curran says:

    Interesting discussions.
    @Bill Bennett thanks for commenting. it’s good to have a journalist respond. And I agree generally. It takes time, to respond to complaints and generally when there’s disagreement between a journalist and the subject of a story, there’s always two sides.
    Some complaints about media stories are self interested and vexacious. Some aren’t. And journalists are generally hard working and take their jobs seriously.
    I do think there are issues that need discussion though. The role media does and should play in our society is very important.

  22. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    Of course professional PR people such as employed by Government will call the journalist directly , and or call his editors and even approach the top management or at the board level.
    Bill Bennett sort of skirts around this , referring to the average reader,
    And there is the reverse side of this when the journalist actually uses material provided with maybe a additional quote and puts that out as their own work.
    Yes its all about the output. God forbid that a media conglomerate would have to drop its profit levels below 20% of revenue

  23. Loota says:

    Rupert Murdoch is not in this as a charity after all, gwwnz.

  24. Richard Shaw says:

    Interesting to hear a journalist point, I didn’t really expect it to be any different, summed up the problems that cause poor and ill thought out stories.

    This is a funny one…

    Over last summer both the Herald and the Waikato Times went with a front page Head Line

    “Ice Cream Seller On Cathedral Cove”

    I’m a family friend of the alleged ice cream seller.
    He never sold ice creams, was never contacted by either paper to discuss any details. Running a freezer was impossible on-site.

    I would have thought at least the Head line on the front page might have held some truth.

    Would have annoyed me if I turned up on the beach and wasn’t able to get an ice cream, after that long walk down….it is in the Herald it must be true!

    “A lot of criticism is petty, oddball or badly thought-out”
    That may be the case and arguably the iceream seller may fall into this category. Although it does seem the fact and truth seem to being fudged and stretched to sensationalise.

    It has become more apparent that our MSM has succumb to the

    “My boy friend is an Alien and I’m having twins & Justin Bieber Fever” to fill in the gaps between the adverts.

    It just doesn’t leave to many avenues for reliable information.

  25. ghostwhowalksnz says:

    Even the celebrity/ crime/sports slant for the media here is a very low standard.

    Just look at the UK Daily Mail, the number of photos and depth of the even the fizz is amazing
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/index.html
    And as for media business not being a charity, 20% return ( Fairfax) with ebitda is amazing in the circumstances.

  26. Loota says:

    Looks like there is room for an independent and critical media watchdog to operate.

  27. Loota says:

    Didn’t they used to have a NZ show on the TV “The Fourth Estate” which did this?

    Did it get axed because it didn’t show enough boobs and drunk celebrities?

  28. Nick C says:

    Who holds the media accountable?

    Why, you do Clare! All you have to do is re-brand and capture the language!

  29. peterlepaysan says:

    The media have (largely) become touts for there advertiser.

    All that matters is a headline that keeps the audience caught until the next advertisement hits them.

    Facts? What are those? Sexy headlines are better.

    Relevance? Who cares? Let us have meaningful stories about
    “celebs”.

    Sigh.

  30. Loota says:

    Just found another piece of awful non-journalism from the NZH Online.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10657958

    Motorists crossing Grafton bridge in AKL at the wrong time have been issued $2.5M in fines. It says so in the opening paragraph of the story. Then towards the end of the article AKL transport committee chairman Baguley says that the fines total only “hundreds of thousands of dollars” and that they aren’t a revenue gathering exercise because that sum would have gone into improved warning signs for usage of the bridge. Its awful:

    1) The total amount of fines don’t come close to matching up, the story contradicts itself, and the ‘journalists’ didn’t challenge Baguley on it.

    2) The journalists don’t challenge Baguley on the statement that improved bridge signage cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (seriously?!) and so the fines aren’t a revenue gathering exercise.

    Seriously? Go the New Zealand Herald :roll:

    $150 fine if you cross the Grafton bridge at the wrong time? Talk about draconian. A $30 or $50 fine would have made the point.

    Sux to be living in AKL.