Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

On the mainstream media, and the expanding war in Yemen

August 27th, 2010

Safe to say the mainstream media and the blogosphere do not hold particularly positive views of each other. Its like a family affair. In general, the MM treat the blogworld as some wild kid who is all fun and no responsibility, while bloggers treat the MM as a clueless older brother who wouldn’t last five minutes out on the street, but who is forever lecturing the blogosphere on how to behave.

The approach to the blogosphere being taken by the TVNZ current affairs show Q&A is a case in point. What Q&A wants to do is recruit bloggers to provide 30 second webcam spots for the show, and thereby – crucial point – offer contrasting opinions on the issues of the day. Time for two concise points, allegedly. What’s wrong with this idea? Just about everything.

One, it is based on treating an issue via competing soundbites – ie, the old ‘from the right and from the left’ hackery exemplified by CNN’s Crossfire show, which was dead on its feet even before Jon Stewart killed it off with his appearance on the show in 2004. Second, the idea is pretty patronising. It buys into the fuddy dud MM notion that the blogosphere is a self-cancelling forum of all heat, no light. Those crazy kids! Thirty seconds on a webcam.

The same arguments Stewart used in his devastating guest appearance on Crossfire – the transcript is here, and the video is here apply to Q&A’s bright idea. The conflict is bogus, does no service to viewers, and is based on false notions about the blogosphere – which, true enough, does have its share of lunatics fully comparable to the ones who appear daily on the op-ed pages of the Dom-Post and the NZ Herald. But increasingly, bloggers are also doing the news gathering and the analysis that is being overlooked by an under-resourced and – lets face it, bro – oftimes lazy and overpaid MM.

Hey, here’s an idea – why not pit Guyon Espiner against Duncan Garner in a 30 second, soundbite driven war of the webcams slot on Q&A.? Oh right, that’s been done. We get something like it every night on the 6pm network news.


The Rodney & Heather Show

So Rodney Hide and Heather Roy have ended the week singing in harmony.

Not quite what Hide expected at week’s beginning, when Roy’s replacement on the ACT list was doing media interviews and Hide was asking Roy to consider her options. Which she did, and blindsided Hide by announcing on camera that (a) she was back and (b) was ready and willing to work constructively with the ACT leadership – thus leaving an outmanoeuvred Hide to consider HIS options. Initially, he chose to avoid the media but then threw in the towel, conceded she was a lot tougher than he thought, apologised to her and vowed to get on with business. As a case study in politcial mis-management this one should keep the pol science academy in clover for years.


And Now, Yemen

The ever-expanding war against Islam now has a new prime focus : Yemen. In this excellent piece on Salon, Glenn Geenwald sums up the expansion of the war in Yemen, and its relationship to the ever-widening battle against Al Qaeda, which – allegedly – New Zealand troops are in Afghanistan to confront. Even though as Greenwald says, the CIA and most other intelligence agencies have made it clear they believe Al Qaeda no longer has a significant presence in Afghanistan.

So where is Al Qaeda now ? Yemen! This necessitating the usual array of cluster bombs and killer drones with the usual high casualty toll among innocent civilians, a hardening of attitudes against the US and its allies, and the fostering of a climate guaranteed to assist the Al Qaeda receruitment drive.

As Greenwald also noted in a previous column, the anti-Moslem sentiments being displayed in the so called “Ground Zero’ mosque affair in Manhattan also play right into jihadist hands – and serve to undermine General David Petraeus and his forces on the ground as they try to convince Afghans that the US is engaged in a war against terrorism, and is not at war against their religion. But then, the right in America is engaged in a holy war of its own against the socialist in the White House – and if the US military effort in Afghanistan has to be jeopardised for that noble cause, so be it.


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    1. 11 Responses to “On the mainstream media, and the expanding war in Yemen”

    2. By Joe Blow on Aug 27, 2010 | Reply

      Yemen – clarification

      I just first wish to state that I am against any use by any country of cluster bombs generally as in most cases it would amount to a war crime under Article 85 of the Geneva Convention, which states that it is a war crime to launch “an indiscriminate attack affecting the civilian population in the knowledge that such an attack will cause an excessive loss of life or injury to civilians”

      However, that article by Greenwald makes it sound like the US is using cluster bombs in drone attacks in Yemen when the Amnesty International article itself states that the missle they found is launched by warships or submarines:

      Therefore, to clarify, drone attacks using hellfire missiles are not yet generally contrary to international law like cluster bombs are. Though in saying that, if the reports are true, this makes their use by the US in Yemen particularly atrocious as it would likely amount to a war crime.

    3. By Tim Watkin on Aug 27, 2010 | Reply

      Hey Gordon,
      In the interests of full disclosure, you might like to add that you were invited to be one of the bloggers on Q+A and declined, saying “TV is not my medium”.
      From my point of view, your this post says more about your own notions of TV and the blogosphere than mine.
      For a start, how do you define mainstream media, in the age of Slate, Huff Post, paywalls, Wikileaks teaming up with the Guardian and Der Speigel etc? Hasn’t it become meaningless? And how do you justify claiming that “MM” are fat and lazy when newsrooms have been pared to the bone?

      The reason I’ve felt the need to comment on this is that you make assumptions about our motivations that aren’t accurate. Q+A didn’t ask bloggers onto the programme because we think they’re “crazy kids” (I’m a blogger myself, don’t forget) and we’ve never said this was a Crossfire-left/right conflict hackery.
      I think I specifically said to you that we’re looking for bloggers each week with “different points of view on the same topic”. That’s just commonsense, to avoid reptition and expand the views on offer.
      You think we’re just shopping for a lunatic fringe? Again, why assume that? I invited you on, didn’t I? Isn’t it possible we’re looking for bloggers with insight.
      TV often gets criticised for not offering a diverse range of voices, yet here we are trying to get different voices on screen and we’re criticised… TV’s told it’s patronising if it ignores the web and the same if it reaches out…
      The point of this new slot, for me, is recognition that bloggers deserve more attention, that the stories they break and analysis they offer should get heard more widely.
      And before you say, “but it’s only 30 seconds”, you’ve got to understand the medium (30 seconds of TV well used can be as potent as a page in a magazine), the audience, appreciate that things have to start somewhere and ask what you’d take out of the programme if you wanted it longer.
      We’re primarily an interview programme with the longest interviews on screen in NZ – so would you prefer shorter interviews? Should we ignore bloggers altogether? Or should we perhaps make a start?
      In the interests of solidarity, why would you assume the worst about other journalists and put the boot in? There’s a lot of us trying to improve the journalism in this country, y’know.
      (Eg: You raise Yemen and the movement of al Qaeda out of Afghanistan. We asked Defence Minister Wayne Mapp about just that on Q+A a few weeks back. Check it out).

    4. By peter on Aug 27, 2010 | Reply

      Growing up in the 70’s i recall that the Horn of Africa and Yemen were bad news back then..

      Funny how things really don’t really change..

    5. By Reid on Aug 27, 2010 | Reply

      Tim its good to know your intention is purely to improve mainstream media.
      And that your intention was not to try to increase TVNZ Q& A ratings by using bloggers/real journalists in an “Oprah Winfrey meets Michael Laws” sensationalist style piece of conflicting opinion.
      I’m glad its not a way to deal with the public criticism and the accusations of being so one eyed you turn the viewers off.

    6. By Gordon Campbell on Aug 27, 2010 | Reply

      Hi Tim,
      In reply to your comments, ‘It is not my medium’ was shorthand for saying ‘I want to be no part of this.’ Also : I did not say the MM were all fat and lazy. I said they were under-resourced, but that some of them are lazy and overpaid. That seems an unexceptional observation. Yes,I know you blog – which is one reason I expected better.
      You play the victim and claim that mainstream TV can’t win if it ignores the blogosphere and can’t win if it ‘reaches out’ to them. But Tim, you were offering 30 SECONDS on a webcam !! In your own defence, you say that 30 seconds can be worth a page in a magazine. Really – THAT good, huh? Personally, I’m glad to have left behind the world of one-page magazine journalism forever – because one page articles (decked out with pretty graphics, photos and bullet points) are pretty much worthless. So is this webcam idea, as a way of ‘reaching out’ to (aka exploiting) the blogworld.

    7. By Julie on Aug 27, 2010 | Reply

      From Reid: “And that your intention was not to try to increase TVNZ Q& A ratings by using bloggers/real journalists in an “Oprah Winfrey meets Michael Laws” sensationalist style piece of conflicting opinion.”

      Now I’m trying to work out whether I’d be Oprah or Laws in that equation. Tough call. Could it be that some bloggers, who write coherently and succintly, are able to put cogent arguments in the 30 sec format and thus get wider exposure for those arguments? Time will tell I guess.

    8. By Elyse on Aug 29, 2010 | Reply

      You have only to look at the front page of our national newspaper, the focus on death and sex complete with spelling errors, to get a feel for the MSM in New Zealand.
      With the exception of the occasional glimpse of Maori television I no longer watch TV, thanks to the kind of sound bite journalism you refer to.
      Bloggers shouting 30 seconds of opinion, with no opportunity for real discussion, is a bad idea because it trivializes the issues and contributes to the dumbing down of the general discussion. It’s TVNZ trying to look hip. Any blogger who falls for the invitation is desperate for mainstream attention.
      Good on you for turning it down, Gordon.
      Thanks for the link to Jon Stewart on Crossfire. Brilliant. The show wasn’t the only victim of Stewart’s brilliance. Tucker Carlson stopped wearing bow ties.

    9. By Tim Watkin on Aug 29, 2010 | Reply

      Reid, we’re on ad-free and on Sunday mornings… we’re hardly obsessed with ratings! And, assuming you’re being ironic, are you really calling two bits of thinking from, for example, Al Thompson and Bernard Hickey “sensationalist”? Have you even seen what you’re writing about?
      Gordon, so we know you think bloggers shouldn’t have a minute on Q+A; that it’s not a worthy start of some interaction. That’s fine, you don’t have to like it. But I’d be interested in what you would do. What should they have? Ten minutes? Their own programme? What format? Or are the mediums incompatible?
      Is 30 seconds of exposure to 150-200,000 viewers really so terrible for able thinkers who usually write for an audience much, much smaller than that? I mean, “exploiting”? Really?
      Coming back to your point about length… I’d say that the Economist does pretty well, plus the New Statesman, Spectator – lots of magazines in fact – do quite a job with one pagers. That’s taste though, so we can agree to disagree.
      But your blog posts are short – this one’s probably similar in length to a one page piece. So aren’t you kinda arguing against your own format? Or is the length not what bothers you?

    10. By Reid on Aug 29, 2010 | Reply

      “Because here at mainstream media we care about [now rare ]independent news analysis.” ??
      “We love the truth,informed public opinions and rigorous debates on public policy reforms.” ???
      Tim- ruthless obedient drones are big in Yemen.
      It makes those in control of the war ‘program’ feel separate from their actions.An effective robotic guilt free denial system.

      And Andy has already probably told you-Its not about length its about how you USE it.

    11. By Reid on Aug 30, 2010 | Reply

      @Julie It’s irrelevant how many seconds your toolie self gratifying role will be in this tv program.

      The soul of the program is “I don’t want to answer/speculate”.
      It appears the Q&A show should be changed to reflect its content:Q & QE
      Questions and Question Evasions.

    12. By Greg on Aug 30, 2010 | Reply

      I think you hit a nerve with Mr Watkin there, Gordon. At least any blogger TV One employed on their show was bound to be an improvement on TV3’s choice.

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