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Tag Archives: The Fifth Estate

Independent media: the sleeping giant and the MSM’s response

Paul Sheehan’s recent attacks on the hugely popular Facebook site Tony Abbott – Worst PM in Australian History are not isolated incidents of the mainstream media (MSM) publicly airing disdain towards the social media.

Ferocious, and to some, persuasive attacks by the MSM have become rabid from the moment the independent media (the Fifth Estate) and voices in social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter) became even the slightest of threats to their diminishing integrity. And why wouldn’t their integrity be diminishing when the direction we’ve seen in the MSM leans towards, especially in the last few years, are stories that are trivial, narrow, shallow and sensationalist? And often untrue. My recent article, The facts versus Andrew Bolt offered an example of the of the fabricated sensationalism so evident in today’s media.

It was a couple of years ago that I first noticed the MSM unleash an attack on the independent blog sites. A couple that I read from the Murdoch media exhibited a sort of ‘xenophobic’ hatred. Christian Kerr, a political journalist with The Australian, savaged the blogosphere with more zeal than I’ve ever heard him attack incompetent politicians, writing that:

It’s also worth noting that the`blogosphere’ supposedly outraged is the small incestuous clique of self-identified lefties, with readerships composed mostly of themselves, who were more than happy to out other bloggers a few years ago with whom they disagreed.

That last bit, for the uninitiated, is a reference to the modern dull and doctrinaire Crikey and its very own Adrian Mole, barrister-blogger Walter Jeremy Sear, and his role assisting The Sunday Age dissect the corpse of the spectacularly snarky site The Spin Start Here that offended sensibilities for years until it reached its logical conclusion and ripped itself apart. Sear was happy to help with an outing then.

The whole thing smacks of naivety and self-righteousness.

And naivety and self-righteousness seems to define the vast majority of the Australian blogosphere. That and whining conspiracy theories.

Quite remarkably, Christian’s little dummy spit was shadowed by the editorial of another from the Murdoch empire, the Townsville Bulletin, which announced to North Queenslanders that bloggers are cowards:

When reporter James Massola “outed” an anonymous blogger in The Australian newspaper last week, he received death threats and a torrent of personal abuse.

How dare someone in the mainstream media name one of these increasingly puerile bloggers, self-appointed guardians of righteousness and all that is wrong about society and, in particular, newspapers.

Grogs Gamut was named as a Canberra public servant and the reaction from his mates was as predictable as it was boring.

Those who hide under the veil of anonymity, taking cheap shots to satisfy their trendy social agenda, don’t like it when they are thrust into the real world.

The great thing about newspapers is that, love us or hate us, we’re the voice of the people. We represent the community, their views, their aspirations and their hopes. We champion North Queensland’s wins and we commiserate during our losses.

Oh how high and mighty they are, being the acclaimed “voice of the people”. And true to from, jumping in on the act the aforementioned Andrew Bolt screamed that the outed blogger, Greg Jericho, be sacked from his usual job. Indeed, let’s punish this new media.

There is no doubt that all forms of dialogue in the social and independent media have profoundly influenced the nature of modern communication and obviously this doesn’t sit well with the traditional media. The above references are indicative of their opinion that the new media produces public discussion that falls well below their standards. I, however, disagree. News stories these days are nothing more than opinion pieces to which nobody is held to account.

New media is now holding them to account and this sits very uneasily with them.

In a few short years the new media, blogging in particular, has become a global phenomenon and it has reshaped our view of journalism. It is in the political sphere, that the impact of blogging is being nurtured.

In an essay titled The Influence of Political Blog Sites on Democratic Participation, ShariVari wrote that:

A computer-mediated environment may make it easier for citizens to express their feelings about political candidates and allow them to speak more candidly than if they were in a face-to-face situation. The diversity of the internet gives citizens access to a wide variety of opinions and information that they may not have access to otherwise, and this may play a role in changing or shaping an individual’s political views. After disregarding any blog sites that have a corporate financial objective or are engaging in political agenda-setting, political blog site users can begin to discuss their personal view points with peers.

I find this essay to be rather heartening. As a blogger and a social media user who has lost all faith in the MSM it was good to know that we can indeed have an impact, albeit small at this stage.

ShariVari concludes that:

All of the research shows that increased opportunities for participation can only encourage democracy . . . This research means that citizens are increasingly turning to and trusting the Internet for accurate information, using it as a platform for participatory democracy, and becoming more knowledgeable about political information in the process. A Spiral of Silence is less likely to exist where citizens have only each others’ opinions to evaluate in terms of their own civic participation and lack status cues such as gender, race, and socio-economic status. Blog sites definitely are increasing the ways in which citizens can participate in their democracy.

The above article, although American and a couple of years old, aptly describes how independent media is now evolving in Australia.

Independent media are better suited to provide the diversity which is often ignored by traditional journalists. Both independent and social media advances the opportunity to expose doctored or omitted facts from mainstream media and point out the bias by particular reporters who do not provide such opportunity for his/her readership to give voice to alternate opinions.

Independent media also encourages contributors and readers to think objectively and ask the probing questions that might often be avoided by the MSM, particularly if they are working to a different (or hidden) agenda. Further, social media gives people the opportunity to analyse and disseminate the news and opinions thrown at them from the established media and as a consequence social media is awash with a more objective and factual analysis. Where, for example, would you find corrections to false or misleading statements from the current government exposed? Not the MSM. Not the MSM as they operate under a different agenda.

But if the MSM was objective, impartial and committed to providing a quality service then there may not be the thousands of social media groups the MSM are now taking a disliking to.

Had we a balanced and analytical media, there would be blogs and social media groups, certainly, but at the extremes of the political spectrum although their popularity would have been limited to those that simply agreed with them. Now we have people turning to the new media because they know they cannot expect the truth out of the old media. If the MSM did their job better they wouldn’t need to be so capriciously attacking social media because, quite simply, they wouldn’t be competition.

Sheehan’s recent attack, as mentioned earlier, is not an isolated incident. David Donovan of Independent Australia has also been targeted. David innocently tweeted:

Forgive if I recall incorrectly, but didn’t Abbott promise to spend his first week as PM in an Indigenous community?

It was a fair question. If it wasn’t bad enough that this pre-election commitment was washed aside by the MSM, then the insulting attack on David by Samantha Maiden, the national political editor of News Corporation’s Sydney Sunday masthead, the Sunday Telegraph was. The attack was personal. I encourage you to read David’s account of it.

What on earth is wrong with the MSM? Not only is the credibility of their professionalism crumbling but they attack the independent media for introducing the credibility that they themselves lack. Independent media are asking the questions that should be asked. Independent media are exposing the falsehoods that should be exposed. And in doing so, incur the wrath from the MSM who people, traditionally, have looked to for balanced news and opinion.

Margo Kingston – a former journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald and now a leading figure in social media – summed it up rather succinctly in an interview with The AIMN:

It’s scary that the media are not doing their job. Many journalist friends have expressed the same concerns; they don’t feel as though they are traditional journalists anymore, they are simply writing what the powerful want them to write . . . And there are journalists in the traditional media who secretly admit that the new, independent media is the way of the future.

Some, however, are obviously frightened of it. They can persist with their attacks, but like their news stories they are shallow as rossleigh proved when he spoke to the creator of the Tony Abbott – Worst PM in Australian History Facebook group; the one that Paul Sheehan fabricated stories about. It was a glaring example of story being made up to attack the independent media. It’s not a good move. The Fifth Estate is a sleeping giant. It’s starting to wake up and my advice to the old media is not to provoke it. It is going to consume you. We are no longer passive observers. Margo adds:

We need to build a bridge between the new media and journalists who see the corruption within the mainstream media. We need to collaborate and work together. We can do this by luring traditional journalists into the new media and free them of their shackles. If we do this, one day we in the new media will look back and be grateful for the decisions we make today.

That would be ideal, however, even if ‘traditional’ journalists prefer to ignore the freshness that the new media can offer, there has already been an emergence of ‘new’ journalists in the Fifth Estate to fill the void.

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The growing irrelevance of the Murdoch media

For a number of decades the Murdoch media have enjoyed an unbridled run as the major source for news, information and opinion in this country. It is a position, many would suggest, that they’ve protected without ethics or morals. Especially when it comes to opinion. Theirs, and only theirs counts and they’ve recently become fanatical at protecting it.

For example, anyone wishing to have their own ideas and opinions published on their media sites have had to contend with the editorial policies that are generally based on the ideology of the editors (or Murdoch himself, perhaps) and of course, on what is sellable. However, this regime of control over what content is allowed to emerge is now collapsing in today’s world of participatory media.

We have witnessed the internet create an arena where everyone can be a publisher. All a person needs is an opinion. Today’s audience want to be part of the media, rather than passive receivers. Not only do they want to comment on the news, they want to be part of creating it. They no longer rely on the Murdoch media.

Hence the rise of the citizen journalists, better known as the ‘Fifth Estate’ who are better suited to provide the diversity that today’s democracies need, yet which are often ignored by traditional journalists. The Fifth Estate advances the opportunity to expose doctored or omitted facts from mainstream media and point out the bias by particular reporters who do not provide such opportunity for his/her readership to give voice to alternate opinions. Aka Andrew Bolt, for example.

The Fifth Estate also encourages contributors and readers to think objectively and ask the probing questions that have blatantly been avoided by the MM; lending rise to the growing opinion that the Murdoch media is working to a particular political agenda. Their lack of scrutiny to the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, and his empty bag of policies, is typical of this.

Further, the Fifth Estate have the opportunity to analyse and disseminate the news and opinions thrown at them from the Murdoch media. Denis Shanahan’s interpretation of the opinion polls are good example, which are clearly based on his opinions, and not the polls. After each of his articles, the Fifth Estate is awash with a more objective and factual analysis.

Another direction we’ve seen the Murdoch media lean towards are those stories that are trivial, narrow, shallow and sensationalist. And often untrue. But the Fifth Estate generally has the meaningful intention of changing the direction of the media and exposing the shallowness and inconsistencies so evident in today’s Murdoch media. The events of the last week have certainly highlighted this. Following Margo Kingston’s explosive story EXCLUSIVE: Abbott forced to repay $9,400 he charged taxpayers to promote his book the Fifth Estate (and social media) shifted into overdrive to find out more about what could turn out to be one of the defining moments of the 2013 election campaign. The mainstream media was eventually swept up with the story gaining currency with Fairfax, the Guardian and the national TV channels. But not so with the Murdoch media. While the rest of the country was falling over itself providing their readers/viewers with the latest developments, the main story on news.com was how a surfing advert was considered offensive. Clearly more important than what is now called battlerort, but I’d prefer to think that the Murdoch media is just making it obvious that they don’t want Tony Abbott tarnished in any way.

The Fifth Estate, subsequently, has exploded in numbers and influence in Australia, not because they are the echo of dissenting voices but because the Murdoch media has created an arena for them to enter. If the Murdoch media was objective, impartial and committed to providing a quality service then in a modern democracy there may not be a Fifth Estate, or for that matter, the dozens of blog sites that exist purely to fill in the gaps exposed by the Murdoch empire. It is also fair to say that the Murdoch brand has been tarnished globally over the last 18 months thanks to the despicable phone-hacking scandal. Arguably, Rupert Murdoch is one of the most despised individuals in the developed world. He could also be considered the least trustworthy. So how can we trust his media outlets? It is becoming increasingly evident that his only interest in Australia is how much it can add to his bottom line and his newspapers are filled with stories each shaped to ensure that the profits head upwards. For example, could his loving support for Tony Abbott be motivated by Abbott’s promise to dismantle to Government’s NBN program? A move, as pointed out in Why Murdoch’s media is gunning for your NBN, that would keep his bottom line healthy.

There is no doubt that in a few short years the Fifth Estate has not only reshaped our view of journalism, but has unlocked previously unrealised publishing opportunities. The blog sites of the Murdoch media usually filter out contributions from bloggers whose opinion do not fit into their schema, so while independent blog sites provide some impact, the avenues through the Murdoch media have been providing none.

Then what are the impacts of the Fifth Estate?

This remains the unanswered question, or if you will, a work in progress. The Fifth Estate still has nowhere near the influence of the Murdoch media, such as being able to manipulate election outcomes or influence public discourse, but, the events of the last week show that the sway of the Fifth Estate is gaining traction. Independent Australia (IA) and the aforementioned Margo Kingston are now providers of news, but not only news, but on the stories that would be filtered out of the Murdoch media, and both IA and Margo are attracting massive audiences which one would expect is to the detriment of the Murdoch media. They lead a number of long-established independent sites such as Andrew Elder, The Failed Estate, The Pub, Café Whispers, The Political Sword, Grog’s Gamut and more recently here at The AIMN where alternate opinions are awarded some voice.

In a democracy we need these alternate voices. Margo Kingston sums up why:

“Journalists used to be a bridge between the people and the powerful. Journalists used to be outside the circle but now they’re inside the circle. They’ve joined the powerful and this very dangerous for a democracy”.

“It’s scary that the media are not doing their job. Many journalist friends have expressed the same concerns; they don’t feel as though they are traditional journalists anymore, they are simply writing what the powerful want them to write.

Very true. Hence we need to make the Murdoch media irrelevant. And that’s not beyond us.

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How come readers of the Fifth Estate can see what our journalists can’t?

Apart from momentarily shouting that it will make Australia a better place, ie, acting as Tony Abbott’s mouthpiece, the mainstream media hasn’t said boo about Abbott’s Industrial Relations policy, unveiled a few days ago. I’ve been waiting. No doubt they are aware that in truth it will hurt the pocket and the work/life balance of most working Australians and they think it’s best to keep that a secret to themselves. Either that, or they see nothing negative about the policy.

If you want to know if the policy is being dissected and discussed then you can’t rely on the old media (the mainstream media – MSM). You need to turn to the new media – the Fifth Estate. I did such a thing today and it was refreshing to see the opinions of people who really matter: workers, not journalists. Following is a sample of what I found:

From Tom R at Café Whispers:

I get the distinct impression that the voices such as our media and the Australian Industry Group etc claiming that the libs IR policy is ‘timid’ are not being completely frank with the electorate.

The Daily Derp has a column highlighting Productivity and the effect the previous workchoices incarnation had on on it:

http://thedailyderp.net/2013/05/10/abbott-and-abetz-announce-workers-paradise/

But the gist of what is going on is highlighted in this statement from that column:

This article was copied form The Daily Derp on 9 May, 2013 at 22:04. You can read the original article here: http://thedailyderp.net/2013/05/10/abbott-and-abetz-announce-workers-paradise/

These new IR laws the LNP plan to introduce are Workchoices by stealth, designed to do nothing except smash the unions, and put all the power in an employer/employee relationship fully in the hands of employers, just as Workchoices did.

It is only by ‘stealth’ if our media refuse to analyse and then report their findings in the media at large. I have not seen that happen to date. It is all ‘timid’, which it isn’t, it is just sneakier.

The unions and Labor need to be vocal about this, not rabidly so, but very loud. Point out that, even though he says ‘no disadvantage’, that means ‘no disadvantage’ under the liberals interpretation of the term, ie, ‘no disadvantage’ for the employer.

I am pretty sure the media will not highlight this. It is time for Labor to shout it out for all to hear. Workchoices is back, no matter how much our totally failed fourth estate try to tell us otherwise.

From Min at Café Whispers:

. . . clearly the words “timid” and “industrial lite” are being used to enhance the somewhat false impression that New WorkChoices is non-threatening . . . to help us remain “relaxed and comfortable”.

The one which makes me smile (somewhat wryly) is the claim that Tony Abbott was never all that keen on WorkChoices. This is due solely to his often reported comment that WorkChoices went too far. This was never about policy but Abbott speculating on why the Liberals lost the election. He wasn’t suggesting that WorkChoices was wrong, just that they shouldn’t have gone so far because it cost them the election. With a good majority a likely outcome, Abbott will not have any such qualms in the future.

From Tom R again.

While reading the coalitions document, this is the relevant section that worries me the most:

A Coalition Government will ensure that enterprise agreements cannot restrict the use of IFAs. Because a Coalition Government will retain Labor’s own ‘Better Off Overall Test’ it will mean that any IFA will always lead to a worker being better off. A Coalition Government will not reintroduce AWAs.

http://www.liberal.org.au/sites/default/files/13-05-09%20The%20Coalitions%20Policy%20to%20Improve%20the%20Fair%20Work%20Laws.pdf

Now, correct me if I am wrong here, but an enterprise agreement is designed specifically to restrict an IFA, in that trades can only be done where the IFA will not result in the agreement being worst off.
http://www.workplaceinfo.com.au/resources/employment-topics-a-z/better-off-overall-test-boot

For them to claim that enterprise agreements will not restrict an IFA, means that the worst off test cannot be applied. It is internally inconsistent. Both cannot happen. Reading it in the worst light, it can only mean that they will apply a ‘Better Off Overall Test’ without being restricted by an existing enterprise agreement. Basically, they have bypassed the enterprise agreement section of the ‘Better Off Overall Test’, while at the same time claiming they will retain Labor’s own ‘Better Off Overall Test’.

I also recall a previous rendition of the Libs IR policy that claimed an AWA will always lead to a worker being better off.

A Coalition Government will not reintroduce AWAs.

No, they are just calling them IFA’s, but they are designed to do the same thing.

From Min:

. . . the reason that Howard originally brought this in was to delay OH&S inspections by union representatives. Many is the case, mostly onsite at isolated locations where following an industrial accident that the bosses sought to exclude any data being gathered pertaining to the accident site. The delay in accessing the site written into legislation suited the bosses perfectly.

From Jane:

As for SerfChoices, it has always been unpopular with employees and i can’t see any advantage for employers, particularly small employers, in having to negotiate and set individual rates of pay & conditions for every employee.

Inefficient and frankly bloody stupid. Much easier and less time consuming for both boss and employee to work within the existing framework and for employees who have never been taught how to negotiate their rates of pay or conditions.

Tom R, of course it’s SerfChoices by stealth and there are no doubt still plenty of people in the workforce who suffered under the imposition of that attempt to reduce the workers to servitude.

And some evidence that Serfchoices is counter productive wrt productivity:

http://www.crikey.com.au/2011/09/07/searching-for-truth-on-productivity-among-the-ir-spin/

And some evidence that SerfChoices is just that – a plan to return to the good old days of personal fiefdoms and serfdom for the workers:

http://webdiary.com.au/cms/?q=node/1496

From Nasking on The Political Sword:

One only has to think back on Abbott’s gleeful address to the Tea-Part like anti-carbon rally . . .

His kowtowing to Murdoch, owner of Fox News, at the IPA dinner . . .

Hockey’s brandishing of American Republican Party propaganda lingo like ‘entitlements’ . . .

Their addiction to loud mouthed shock jocks who sound more Rush Limbaugh and less sane and rational by the day . . .

To know that their softly softly approach on industrial relations, health care, education and do on are a ruse . . . complete BS.

Yes, Abbott and team also get into UK Cameron’s ‘big society’ . . . but let’s face it . . . even American Republicans love the idea of replacing essential service jobs paid for by Govt with volunteers . . . working for tax exempt charities.

The corporatised MSM . . . the neo-Liberal spruikers and apologists will generally fail to tell you that Abbott and Hockey are born again foxes in sheep clothing . . .

I won’t.

Again from Nasking:

. . . And only want to get out the chainsaw to rip into the unions splattering blood all over the workplace.

Be a wee bit more convincing if they weren’t the old guard Liberals . . . the Blitzkrieg troops who got so excited and showed so much hubris about IR reform when they last had both the Senate and House of Reps.

I bet that Workchoices’ body is being reanimated now in Joe Hockey’s basement . . . Andrew Robb furiously working on the new costume and makeup after the facelift approved by Dr Rodent and Mr Smuggles themselves.

“Not long now my creation . . my love . . . not long now . . . you shall walk amongst them again soon” squeals Dr Rodent . . . fingers twitching, stroking the jutting eyebrows in rapturous glee.

The bride of Workchoices farts.

No longer eyes wide shut.

There we have a very small sample from a few contributors. But what astounds me, is that on just a couple of ‘new media’ sites and from just a handful of commenters chosen randomly, how come they have more to say than our political journalists, who appear to be in hiding? How come they can sniff the truth out of this policy but our political journalists can’t?

Further, one only has to go to Twitter to see the number of exchanges that citizen journalists are having with the media journalists, and raising the same points. More and more people are questioning their lack of honesty in the way this policy is being reported, which they unanimously laugh off as just another lefty conspiracy theory. It sums up why they don’t report the truth: they are simply oblivious to it.

How come readers of the Fifth Estate can see what they can’t?

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Welcome to The Australian Independent Media Network

The idea of The Australian Independent Media Network sprung up overnight in response partly to this quote from the Under the radar article on the Café Whispers blog:

Isn’t it a great pity that excellent articles are being written in the Fifth Estate that slip under the radar into oblivion? Isn’t it also a great pity that this will continue to happen? Isn’t it also a greater pity that such hard-hitting, truth-telling articles will forever be drowned out by our hysterical, manipulative, dishonest, sensationalist, gutless, unfair and unbalanced media in this country?

Has there ever been a greater need for the Fifth Estate to join forces? If we don’t, a lot of what we write will continue to slip under the radar.

And capped off with this comment under the blog topic:

One fears that it will not be an evidence-based election, but there is plenty of evidence that it will be a fear-based one. Our strategies for getting the message across needs lots of thought and discussion like this post provides.

The idea of a representative body for Australian bloggers has been tossed around for a couple of years but it had never really taken hold. Tim Dunlop’s article in The Drum last October titled Media pass: citizen journalists need an industry body emphasised the need for something to be done. The introduction to the article reads:

Australian bloggers have a lot to offer in public debate, but an independent body is needed to establish the credibility and increase the exposure of our citizen journalists.

We are now at that point.

Over the coming days and weeks you’ll see this site take shape and the network develop, followed by what we endeavour to be quality, unbiased, balanced, independent journalism. Goodness knows this country needs some.

The Australian Independent Media Network: Build it and they will come.

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