Think tanks: Independent does not mean objective

Thinker1

Somewhere along the way, in the debate of public policy issues, we seem to have forgotten that “independent” does not necessarily mean “objective”. Think tanks in particular are the guiltiest in using this sleight of hand. In stressing that they are independent scholarly organisations, think tanks attempt to lay claim to a higher moral ground that comes from academic objectivity. […]

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The Power Index: peddling influence or impoverished ideas?

US academic Jay Rosen recently described a number of failings he’d identified in modern journalism in an address to the Melbourne Writers Festival. He calls them “impoverished ideas”. One of these motifs is the depiction of politics as an insiders’ game. Rosen says that when journalists define politics as a game played by insiders, it then becomes their job description to find out what the insiders are doing to “win.” Rosen says that in casting light on the inner-workings of politics, the media “positions us as connoisseurs of our own bamboozlement. Or, alternatively, we can feel like insiders ourselves.” Another of the impoverished ideas that Rosen says has contributed to a broken media is what he calls savviness: Savviness is that quality of being shrewd, practical, hyper-informed, perceptive, ironic, “with it,” and unsentimental in all things political. And what is the truest mark of savviness? Winning, of course! Or knowing who the winners are. If indeed these features epitomise the worst in Australian journalism, it will be interesting to see whether a new media venture specifically built upon them will survive. Playing strongly upon the investigative cojones of principal journalist Paul Barry, the web-based The Power Index promises to provide readers with “the secrets, the motivations and the ambitions behind Australia’s most powerful individuals.” Using the tagline, Who really runs Australia?, the website promises to deliver subscribers over 250 profiles of those who wield power in 24 categories, and an […]

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Refuse the election media spoonfeed and make up your own mind!

No eating

I have sympathy for people wanting more substance from the Australian media this federal election. Truly, I do. As I’ve previously explained, some of the political media’s obsession with election frippery is due to them rebelling against being tightly managed during the campaign. However, I’ve noticed an assertion creeping into some commentary that the media should not only be covering […]

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Time to throw out the astroturf and step forward

Green Grass

Astroturfing denotes political, advertising, or public relations campaigns that are formally planned by an organization, but are disguised as spontaneous, popular “grassroots” behavior. The term refers to AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass. Wikipedia.com At any given point in time activists, political parties or business interests are at the forefront of techniques carefully honed […]

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Democracy, by-lines and the cult of celebrity

I have a little theory that needs to be refined.  So I encourage you, dear reader, to comment and correct me. My theory is that the advent of by-lines and the cult of celebrity have irrevocably changed the nature of democracy in Australia. When I moved to chilly Canberra to be a neophyte press secretary in the 80s, not every journalist had a by-line.  That honour was bestowed only upon senior reporters and feature writers.  Most Canberra journalists were reporters in the truest sense.  They were required to succinctly, accurately and anonymously report on newsworthy matters of the day. While most journalists I know have a strong point of view, in those days they were proud of the objectivity they displayed in their work.  Their saw their role as information providers, and had faith in the public reaching their own informed views about the matters that were important to them. My middle-aged memory fails me when I try to pinpoint the turning point – when journalists became participants in, rather than reporters of, the political process.  But I have no doubt that the advent of the by-line was a contributing factor. When you are a Canberra operative you tend to notice these things, such as the infectious “title inflation” that has been going on in the print media.  Back in the 80s and early 90s, political reporters clamoured just to get a by-line.  Earlier this decade there was fierce competition […]

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