Meltdown continues at the Oz

Just about everyone has piled on to this silly piece by David Burchell attacking political bloggers (more precisely, it seems, settling personal scores with unnamed but easily recognisable enemies, as in previous Oz attacks on bloggers)

So, just a couple of asides from me. First, it’s amazing and depressing that the Oz seems determined to continue trashing its reputation, already in tatters from its embrace of global warming delusionism, and the thrashing it took from pseph-bloggers in the leadup to the 2007 election. Australia could use a good national newspaper but it doesn’t have one (the Fin doesn’t really count in this context), and only radical changes from the top down can bring the Oz anywhere near delivering on this aim.

Second, at this point, the idea of “bloggers” or even “political bloggers” as a category has largely ceased to have any meaning. Just about everyone who writes on politics has some sort of blog (even if it isn’t named as such, a regular column, published on the net and allowing comments is, for all practical purposes a blog). Burchell might as well attack “typers” for lacking the gravitas of those who still compose their articles with a quill pen.

Of course, what he means in this context is clear. Well-established commentators who have an established position in old media are OK. Upstarts who write with no authority from anyone are not, particularly if they attract an audience.

17 thoughts on “Meltdown continues at the Oz

  1. It appears that Philip Travers is working to prove Burchell right. Unfortunately for the OZ it has Jack the Insider as a blog and Janet Albrechtsen who it appears has only one article, ” Left Bad, Right Good”, which can be presented in many different guises. Its own adoption of the blog technique for letters and opinion articles defeats the argument. Obviously it is effective in drawing people to read it online who otherwise would never go near it. Good for boosting circulation figures.

  2. As I said on Deltoid :

    Now I’m inclined to think that a pundit is just a high-class sort of blogger. Maybe there’s a sort of hierarchy here: troll-book authors, then talk show pundits, then newspaper pundits, then letter-to-the-editor writers, then bloggers, and finally blog commenters at the bottom of the pecking order. In terms of the overall quality of the work, it’s the same for all levels though.

    — bi, International Journal of Inactivism

  3. its truly a sh*t state of affairs,

    i cant bear the australian, the fin isnt a general newspaper and my state paper the west australian is so disgraceful it brings tears to your eyes,

    i read my news on the web but i would dearly love to sit down of a weekend morning with a good paper and my coffee

    they say that the future for newspapers is shakey but they seem to be missing the point,
    people love papers, they just want some quality content without the propoganda

  4. There is some worthwhile content in Burchell’s article. The Cuban blogger discussed by him sounds interesting, but her (by the sound of it courageous) existence does not invalidate the activities of PrQ and others; Burchell’s argument is false.

  5. I agree it is an extraordinary piece, defensive and even hypocritical in parts. When journalists (whatever that term means now) cross from reporting the news to regularly commenting on it, they can hardly complain if others then critique the reasonableness of their comments. But the Oz has gone further than that, “reporting” on many issues in a quite partisan and selective manner as JQ, Tim Lambert and even MediaWatch have pointed out. So the Oz has brought this (its critics) on itself.

    I also find it ironic that the Oz looks down its nose at “bloggers”. They certainly have no hesitation taking (often unaccredited) story leads from blogs. Many serious academic bloggers are better qualified than the journalists. With the decline of true “investigative journalism”, we all look to various sources for information, and newspapers are no longer automatically the first choice.

    I think the real reason for the resentment is purely defensive. Newspaper circulation is falling in the long term (including the Oz), the number of jobs for journalists has never recovered since Murdoch and Packer’s brutal reforms, and now they see the value of their hard fought-for prize (a staff job at a major daily) being eroded.

  6. Instead of reporting the news with some interesting opinion pieces buried deep within the newspaper, the modern newspaper is a viewspaper, pushing a particular cluster of beliefs as though they are facts. Propaganda masquerading as facts is as old as history; just a shame that the modern newspaper has adopted that as the prime mission.

    Off to add some content to “The Oz”, in the littlest room of the house…

  7. “The blogger’s goal is to solidify a tribe of acolytes around them, and to ritually degrade those who are seen as renegades from the cause.”

    Sounds like a pretty accurate description of most political blogs.

  8. I’ll accept that the Oz isn’t ideal but the SMH is clearly biased in the opposite direction. Ross Gittens lost the plot several years ago and hasn’t improved with age. When he isn’t stuck in a Keynesian time warp that insists that tax cuts are wrong whatever the season, he is busy trying to drum up credibility for the latest loopy new age happiness index.

    So what is one to do when between them the SMH and the Oz stitch up the broadsheet market in my home city? Actually the answer isn’t so hard. I get most of my news via the google news feed. I can then read most of the biased opinions, make up my own mind and then argue about the detail in blogs like this. Damn I love the Internet.

    Sorry I haven’t read the Oz article that spawned this discussion.

  9. I didnt know that modern newspapers pushed “a particular cluster of beliefs as though they are facts” any more than older newspapers – Karl Marx was a prolific contributor to many papers including the New York Tribune (which had a 200k global circulation)

  10. Terje, the problem isn’t bias. The Fin is more consistently rightwing/free market than the Oz, but its editorialists don’t feel the need to throw hissy fits when someone criticises them. And although it probably gave more space to GW delusionists than it should have done, it stopped when the case became unanswerable and before its reputation was shredded.

  11. I don’t know why anyone with a memory is surprised by this. The Oz was fomenting New Right revolution in the mid 1980s, too. Remember when they sponsored Katherine West’s “family family family” rallies? At the time, they were all but advocating the New Right movement take up arms against a Labor government.

    The names of the shrill columnists change, but the editorial stance and fact-ignoring hysteria have been the same for decades.

  12. Though I agree that Burchell’s piece is strange, I had just about come to the conclusion that the Oz was much better than the SMH these days. The Herald’s exploitation of greenery – Earth Hour and such – is very voguish and shallow. Gittins is still the best economic commentator about but otherwise the Herald’s columnists are weak. Devine the younger is even worse than Janet A as the tame crusty conservative.
    The Oz’s foreign news coverage is much better. The Herald relies largely on wire services.

  13. News Corp’s hypocrisy regarding global warming is stunning. It was among multinationals who signed a statement for heads of state ahead of Bali to urge greenhouse gas emission cuts guided by science. Every corridor in one News Ltd newsroom is lined with posters promoting News Corp’s ‘One degree of change’ campaign to make employees feel good, I suppose. It issued a press release last week saying it was committed to promoting community and employee action to fight against climate change. But one News Ltd newspaper on the very same day said it didn’t have space to run a story on new data on rising annual Australian GHG emissions and WWF comments that this underlined the importance of not building traditional coal-fired power stations. To see News Corp, also now using the Wall Street Journal, promoting climate scepticism is quite painful. I just hope few Australians are reading it.

  14. C’mon Kate – an editorial decision not to run one story hardly amounts to hypocrisy.
    And the fact that there is a strong consensus among scientists on climate change and its causes should not prevent a paper running other views.
    I think more damage is done by the SMH/WWF Earth Hour stunt which gives the impression that gestures will solve the problem.
    I would like to see more honesty, explaining that reducing greenhouse gasses will cause substantial reductions in standard of living.

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