Sunday, January 18, 2015

Race in media content - not all media workers are journalists

Hi there – so, on the 20th of June I made a complaint about the composition of the Letters to the Editor section in The Australian. You can judge for yourself:

(Hard to read due to size? Look in the pages sidebar)

Members of the Australian Journalists Association are compelled by a Code of Ethics to present news content in a way that is balanced and not biased.  I think that is a good way to operate, and, that principle should be applied to all newspaper content. Letters to the Editor should present a balanced selection of views, so it doesn't present any newspaper content with a racial or religious bias. To me, that seems like a fair way to treat equal members of a diverse society and indeed, your diverse readership. 

There is a myriad of poor results that stem from biased media material, which could potentially inflame community tensions. It spreads false beliefs, racist myths & misapprehensions, it misinforms the public & emphasizes a particular way of thinking that does not represent the general consensus. 

From the early 1900s people studied the practise of the use of newsmedia for social control and reform. Not long after, that aspect of the world's newsmedia was wielded by powerful interests against minorities and their interests. The Fourth Estate ethos (that is the standard of the Australian mainstream news reporting) refers to 'public interest' - without racial/religious distinctions, however.

The person compiling the Letters to the Editor section, and, in fact, no journalists whatsoever, at any Australian publication, are compelled to be an AJA member. They don’t have to be registered, compliant with a Code of Ethics, nor do they have to even be qualified journalists. Cartoonists, opinion columnists, typesetters, graphics and layout people - even the delivery van driver - you guessed it - none of them have to be AJA members - so they're not compelled to write balanced, unbiased material. 

In the wake of the horrific and animalistic murders of anti-Muslim cartoonists in France, there was quite a bit of confusion in the world's social media last fortnight about the role of opinion columnists, satirists and artists working in the media. The confusion was that some people thought (and others exploited that ignorance) the idea that ALL media workers are journalists – and this is utterly not the case. The media is comprised of large numbers of employees from vastly different fields of expertise.

Another of the problems at the moment, is the evolution of newspapers. There is some pressure to diversify and there is an overly heavy emphasis on opinion in the hope that it might make content more relevant, cheaper and more popular. It can be hard for the readers to distinguish between real news written by real, registered, qualified journalists (actual ones) and just some sundry someone’s twaddle. {One particular TV station has made a niche out of interviewing journalists about topics that aren’t journalism, or, writing-related. So, to that way-too-highly-paid current affairs producer: be brave – leave the studio – find real experts to interview – don’t do all your interviews onsite and leave early for lunch. By the way, that producer also fashioned a new unique style of reporting on terrorism that’s akin to race calling – bad trend}.

I digress.

After receiving the APC’s response (appended, with identifying details removed) I have studied the content of every Thursday’s newspaper over June and July.  While ‘world news’ reporting is clearly best left to overseas correspondents, The Australian’s main competitors as a daily, and, as a national newspaper, did not present the same race/religious-related ethical problems. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by areas such as the ‘world news’, the world-related news, and the Letters to the Editor in both The West Australian and by The Australian Financial Review. It is strange to me that The Australian doesn't pull enough letters to the editor to present a balanced range of views. Maybe you guys could throw in a competition or something.

In the response that I received (also appended below), you can see that The Australian’s response to the Australian Press Council was that the Letters to the Editor editor felt that this selection of letters under the Talking Point presented a balanced representation of all of the readers’ responses received by him. 

The APC’s response to that claim is, as you can see below, ‘okay’. How's that for gutsy, independent scrutiny? Woo-hoo!! Go self-regulation!!! (not)

They misconstrued the complaint that I made, and they didn’t refer back to me for clarification during this process – though they did liaise with the management at The Australian. In fact, I believed that the APC had merely binned my complaint as there was no acknowledgment that they received it at all. Until... I got this response: 

‘these are not the droids you’re looking for…’ i.e. 

‘nothing to see move along, madam’:



Because it’s so itty bitty I have made a page for you to read it, in bigger print :}}

The Australian Press Council is an adjudicating panel largely funded by its members, who are comprised of the major media outlets in Australia. (The West Australian doesn’t happen to be a member as they’ve created their own internal adjudication system. Whilst it was a member, a previous and very right-wing editor – clocked up a number of negative findings – mostly race-related.) The only penalties that the APC can hand out are fairly minor fines. Beyond actions against media workers for defamation, contempt of court, racial vilification, and, a variety of provisions restricting media access to documents and certain sources, that is pretty much the limit of Australia’s system of media regulation.

The Australian is roughly English-tabloid-styled, that is, it isn’t what you would consider an esteemed journal. The content where race & religion are concerned routinely leans towards sensationalism and often, social exclusion. However, that isn’t to say that the journalists (the real ones) who work there aren’t good (in fact there are regularly stories and features that are really excellent), but there is a lot of stuff in The Australian that you wouldn’t want to count on. The op-eds stink –  they are regularly, really odious. (And what on Earth is with The Australian's in-your-face witch hunt against Australian investigative journalism icon, Wendy Bacon?! Not a good look).

In the weeks after my complaint (though I’m sure there were probably heaps of complaints about that issue) the Letters to the Editor swung the other way. Letters featured a range of problematic letter-writers that extolled anti-semitism, anti-refugees sentiment, anti-left wing politics, and general racial and even gender-related bias. BUT, in all those issues, it was not as unbalanced as it had been on June 19th. I am going to look at that content in more detail over the next fortnight. 

There is an Australian 2014 civil litigation case that looks at the re-production of racially-biased material. That Aboriginal plaintiff won the first of two cases against 2 major media outlets, and it has created a precedent whereby republishing the racially or religiously biased content of any party (perhaps even letters), can be subject to litigation. It's a huge precedent that has created a whole new legal ball game for equality in all media content - and not just news, I suspect. I'll try to get hold of that finding for us all to have a read of it.

In regards to #CharlieHebdo:
May those parties who suffered and died, rest in peace. It is not the reasoning of a well individual, that creates the (false) belief that God needs them to kill for Him. 
In the legal/ethical instance of those cartoonists'/artists' (media workers but not journalists) content, there had been repeated attempts to address racially contentious cartoons, previously. It was a huge tragedy that is going to require an extreme amount of honesty and diligent debate. I was shocked & disgusted that the head of the AHRC used these murders as an opportunity to excuse & endorse the ultra right-wing 2014 attempts to scrap Australian society's protections against race-hate.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Not a creature was stirring



Holy cheeses - it's the December holiday already! I have a cold & am just writing briefly tonight to wish all my readers a happy & safe break. Big "cheers" to all the readers (& my uncharacteristically rockin spammers) who have signed up for my twitter feed - hope you're having a great time this long weekend.

I'm planning a New Years Resolutions post - I should be over this rotten cold by then - tis the season to be jolly :{{ hmmph... I've been tucked up in bed, watching George Clooney, Sean Penn & Nicholas Cage movies, & eating junkfood. There is little worse than getting a cold in the hot weather - hard to sleep, hard to breath, etc etc etc.

'Cold' doesn't mean cool - I feel lousy - here's a diagram to illustrate how rotten I feel :{{

Enough with the misery from me, though. I've had some HUGE news recently & there is some big change on the wind, & I'm looking forward to sharing it with you in my NY post. If you have any New Years resolutions - tweet them to me @magnetticism

While posting is sporadic, it would probably be good for readers to sign up to receive updates via email - the link is in the sidebar.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Equality in education post - an exercise in persistence

In 1954 segregation became illegal in the US, although in the South, a region notorious for white supremacist racist terror and the political oppression of African Americans, the government(s) made no effort to implement the changes. The NAACP pushed for reform by nominating children to enter into segregated 'white' schools. This change arrived in 1960 after little Ruby Bridges (6) began attending an all-white school, Franz Elementary, in New Orleans. 

I did wish to host this podcast about Ruby Bridges back in July, but my system was hacked and damaged. {Excuse me for mentioning that again, but I think that it is important for the parties at fault to realize the ramifications of their actions, which affect more people than just me and them, and that it won't be forgotten, and that it may slow me down momentarily, but it certainly won't come close to stopping my writing.}

In the photo that accompanies the podcast, a young Ruby Bridges is seen being shepherded to school by US Federal Marshals.

This is only a tiny abridged version of the post that I was planning, but it's timely, with the Nobel Prize having just been awarded to another brave young girl, Malala Yousefzai.

Malala was shot on her way to school. She lived in a region of the world that is seriously threatened by radical fundamentalism. Things are still not so good for Pakistani girls who want to use & expand their God-given minds and talents & Malala now has to live in England, for her own safety.

When I look at the brave, stoic look on Malala's face, and that image of the timid and tiny Ruby Bridges on her way to school, I am reminded of two tough, clever young women I know. They, and their many courageous, strong female friends contend every day to break through the barriers of gender discrimination. Sadly, they still struggle to get treated equally in tertiary education (and in their workplaces) here, in Australia, where conditions are meant to be fair, but still aren't and have a very long, long way to go.

To all the women and girls who read this post today who battle for their right to speak and be heard, and to enjoy the same opportunities that are available to men, perhaps the story of Ruby Bridges may offer some hope of social justice and societal reform. The hurdles that we overcome today are for the benefit not merely of ourselves & our own quality of life, but for our children and our children's children. That's a pretty motivating factor. 







Monday, October 27, 2014

Please help Julieka Dhu's family - sign their petition

One of the things I have been planning to post is a link to DICWC(WA)'s campaign for an independent inquiry into the death of young Julieka Dhu - there was a national protest on Thursday and there is a petition that you should all sign.

Julieka, 22, was imprisoned for unpaid traffic fines but living in the remote North West of Western Australia getting around is almost impossible without a car, and public access to vehicle licensing centres to pay fines and manage your licence and rego, does not parallel the police's access to drivers, which is both mobile and 24/7.

Subsequently infringements are common. Jail for fines is quite common too, and more so, if a person is Indigenous. It's a problem that numerous governments have known about but have done nothing to fix. Please lend your support to end this madness.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Subscribe by email

There are a few of you who drop by this page regularly to check for updates. I know they've been sorely lacking over the last few months - I had some technical difficulties... :{{

However, if you want to keep up to date without the hassle of visiting just sign up for email notifications (in the right hand side bar) and then new posts will be delivered into your inbox.

It's just an optional widget in my blog set up - I don't have your personal details, I have no list of who is signed up, I can only see the numbers of visitors, and roughly where your IP addresses are located in the world. Nothing private.

I do have a few other things I need to post about this week and I will try to do that this evening, before I get busy with this week's tasks.