The continuing decline of journalism

It looks like Greg Presland as made use of a quiet time to have a good look at the media in New Zealand in 2015, and how journalism seems to be continuing it’s decline.

The media in 2015 is a worthwhile post to read for anyone interested in where we are headed with media coverage.

This year saw the continuation of a trend that has been evident for some years.  The media became dumber and nastier and more superficial as cuts to spending on serious journalism increased and power was increasingly dominated corporate interests.

A fight for commercial survival by corporate media is cutting back on more left friendly journalists.

While on the left we celebrated the fitting conclusion of the right’s attempt to manipulate the media for their benefit the basic fact is that overall the media has been damaged and is worse off because of what has happened.  There has to be a better way.

Everyone in politics tries to ‘manipulate the media’. Some think they are more successful than others.

The reverberations of Dirty Politics continues although it is noticeable that National, while denying that Dirty Politics is even a thing, is busily taking steps to remove any remaining links that previously existed.

I’m not aware of National denying that Dirty Politics is ‘a thing’. Rather they have tried to bury it (a standard political manoeuvre) because it was a very bad look for them.

It is clear however that National is no longer using Slater to attack its opponents and he is now no longer the recipient of Beehive sourced information.  I am sure that Judith Collins’ return to Cabinet was made on the promise that she will no longer feed Slater with the sorts of information that she used to.  The tip line I suspect is now permanently out of order.

It’s good to see Presland acknowledge that Slater has been dumped as a useful idiot.

I think Collins committed to being seen to separate herself from Slater some time ago. Otherwise she may not now be back in Cabinet.

Overall I would rate the current year as just like last year only worse for those interested in quality independent media.

This is not a peculiarly New Zealand phenomenon and elsewhere through the Western English speaking world similar issues of corporate control and the slide of the media into irrelevance and bias are occurring.

For instance in Australia Jim Parker in a post titled the business of anger recently made these comments:

A perennial tension in journalism arises from balancing the professional requirement to accurately inform the public and the commercial one to actively engage them.

The destruction of media business models, where classified advertising subsidised across a Chinese wall the quality journalism that attracted the eyeballs, has gradually swung that balance from the professional to the commercial imperatives.

Of course, every journalist wants their work to be seen, shared and remarked on. After all, there are plenty of people on the web and elsewhere writing worthy but dull tomes that bury the lead. (And not all of them are tenured academics).

But in the brutal supply-demand economics of new digital media, where an ever growing surplus of content competes for an ever shrinking quota of attention, the only strategy (garage band style) is to turn up the volume….and bugger the standards.

His conclusion appears to be as relevant in Aotearoa as it is in Australia:

The media wants conflict for its own sake. And it doesn’t just want polite and civil disagreement. It wants desk-thumping, spittle-spraying, shoe-chucking tantrums – whether it be on talkback radio or Q&A. The issues in dispute don’t much matter. It’s anger, fury, hatred, and blind incoherent rage as a business model.

An example is what happened to the Herald this year.  Competent accomplished journalists were sacrificed for those able to generate the most noise and clicks.

This is a real problem with no sign of it getting any better or easier for journalism.

It’s not just the dumbing down that’s a problem, the fragmentation of media means reducing resources are spread over a much wider spectrum.

A six edition a week newspaper now has to also keep drip feeding an online presence. Six o’clock television news is now an often glib summary of what’s happened over the last day or two with a bit of ‘breaking news’ if the timing of disasters fits.

The only thing known for sure is we can’t go back to how things were.

Journalism as we knew it is likely to continue to decline. We can just hope that good alternatives get better.

We have available many more sources. We used to rely on, typically, a daily newspaper, a tv news bulletin and radio news through the day if we could listen.

At least now there are many more eyes and ears able to witness what is happening and able to find a media outlet.

Can this be harnessed? Or do we just have to ride with the changes and get what we can out of it.

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20 Comments

  1. Kevin

     /  29th December 2015

    If Presland was that concerned about the decline of journalism he’d stop debasing himself and stop being an author on The Standard.

    Reply
  2. Grumpy

     /  29th December 2015

    Presland and his mates only complain about the quality of journalism when one non hard left opinion piece miraculously gets published.

    Reply
  3. Paywalls are where this is heading OR alternatively the Wikipedia donation model. AD Blockers are making things difficult for online purveyors of content in terms of offering Advertisers value for spend.

    But what’s behind the Paywall has to have value. Very few journalists in NZ write anything I truly value enough to PAY for it. Certainly not in NZME, Fairfax, TV One offerings.

    Couple a perception of a lack of value by many of us interested in Hard News, Politics, Business in the current offers with a lack section of society which just doesn’t give a damn and then Media Business are going to have trouble over the next 10 years or so, until a new paradigm establishes itself

    Reply
  4. Seems to be the theme of the moment. Bryce Edwards has a political roundup on The 2015 Mediapocalypse.

    Democracy is the poorer in 2015 due to a decline in the state of New Zealand’s mainstream media. Of course the media has been suffering all sorts of woes in recent years – ranging from falling audiences to newsroom redundancies – but 2015 seemed particularly severe, leading to talk of the death of the mainstream media

    Reply
  5. kiwi guy

     /  29th December 2015

    I don’t watch TV, and the Hair Dos on the 6pm “news” are performing circus clowns replete with heavy makeup and costumes.

    Plenty of great in depth stuff on sites like zerohedge.com that neither the Left or Right will ever go near in order to protect their Sacred Cows.

    Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  29th December 2015

      How do you know what they’re like if you don’t watch TV ? I watch the 6pm news, and have yet to see a circus clown in clown makeup and costume, unless it happened to be a story about a circus. Maybe you saw something like this or an ad with Ronald McDonald and thought that the clown was a reporter and the ad was a news story.

      Reply
      • kiwi guy

         /  30th December 2015

        “How do you know what they’re like if you don’t watch TV ?”

        I don’t even know why I am answering this stupid question but I have seen snippets of the news when at someone elses place who watches it or it is playing in the background and I just roll my eyes make some remark about the News Dildos and find something else to do.

        They are clowns or media whores or whatever appropriate derogatory term I label them that accurately describes their function.

        You obviously are a big fan, not surprising as the ‘news’ is targeted at females and anyone with the intellectual capacity of about a 12 year old.

        Reply
        • kittycatkin

           /  31st December 2015

          If you only see snippets in the background and don’t actually watch it, it’s hard to see how you can make such deductions about the news-or the deduction that I am a big fan from my question. Too silly to contradict.

          You must be a charming and courteous guest. I wonder if you are ever asked anywhere twice, if you make such vulgar and insulting comments that are based upon total ignorance.

          Reply
  6. David

     /  29th December 2015

    The problem is the press gallery and their left wing group think in their little Twitter bubble and the editors who agree with them and don’t bring them to their audience and the media owners who aside from Murdoch seem resigned to terminal decline.

    Reply
    • kittycatkin

       /  29th December 2015

      We don’t seem to have anything quite as bad as the appalling treatment of David Garrett and (David Carter ?) for a while, thank goodness. That was inexcusable. I couldn’t stand David Carter (I hope the name’s right, but you know who I mean-he was chased by a baying pack around a building) but I was disgusted at the way he was treated.

      Reply
  7. While we’re waiting for things to get better – and I don’t see many ways they will – there are the many various forms of media, including all these blogsites, adding to the ferment, an early 21st century version of the early 20th century phenomena of “The Muckrakers”

    Then: In keeping with the mood of the Progressive Era (from around 1900-1917), the pen was used to combat social ills and evils and made calls for reform. Sensational, jaw-dropping articles were written by journalists who set out to investigate and reveal wrong-doing and to prompt American society to fix social, economic and political problems. Popular magazines, such as McClure’s and Cosmopolitan, competed for readers and fueled the push for the provocative material. The bottom line for publishers was: the more shocking, the better.

    Now: But in the brutal supply-demand economics of new digital media, where an ever growing surplus of content competes for an ever shrinking quota of attention, the only strategy (garage band style) is to turn up the volume….and bugger the standards. The media wants conflict for its own sake. And it doesn’t just want polite and civil disagreement. The issues in dispute don’t much matter. It’s anger, fury, hatred, and blind incoherent rage as a business model.

    http://study.com/academy/lesson/the-muckrakers-of-the-progressive-era-definition-and-influence.html

    Reply
  8. I tried to say this to “The Standard” but they rejected it saying I had earlier posted it. I had NOT:
    The post was
    “Your pants were dropped when you said this : “While on the left we celebrated the fitting conclusion of the right’s attempt to manipulate the media for their benefit the basic fact is that overall the media has been damaged and is worse off because of what has happened. There has to be a better way.”
    You immediately showed your approach and political context.
    For the record, I consider that the Government should ask for a Royal Commissioner to investigate the political bias of the Main Stream Media in New Zealand as well as the syllabus of the academic institutions who train them so as to identify the extent of the infiltration of those institutions by socialist doctrine. The MSM enjoy some special privileges in law, but those privileges exist solely at the will of the people. It is timely for the majority of MSM journalists to understand they have gone too far, and reflect on the alternatives. The pursuit of truth, integrity, examination of the position of all sides in a controversial subject and down right honesty is needed from our “overseas owned” media. Think about it?

    Reply
    • kiwi guy

       /  30th December 2015

      I can see why the Standard stalinists wanted to shut you up.

      “investigate the political bias of the Main Stream Media in New Zealand as well as the syllabus of the academic institutions who train them”

      Exactly, those academic institutions are churning out Cultural Marxist dildos – just take a look at the endless propaganda in the NZ Herald spinning positive views about homosexuals, 3rd World migrants etc.

      Reply
      • @ KG & BJM – this is a bit rich, revisionist and anti-libertarian isn’t it? Ask Nanny State and Granny Crown to intervene on your behalf because the media doesn’t do what you want?

        Despite its “overseas owners” being pinnacles of the orthodox establishment you want them investigated because their journalists, whose training they undoubtedly support, who they hire, who they encourage, are not maintaining your version of the status quo.

        They’ve succeeded in engaging you anyhow, haven’t they, that’s half the equation, “inform and engage”?

        The really odd thing is they seem to be complaining about the media being damaged too?

        What if the “irrelevance and bias”, the “balance of professional imperative and commercial necessity” and the very political makeup of the journalist population are all the result of free market forces?

        How exactly is it “they have gone too far”? Have they exercised too much free speech?

        KG – have you come across the idea that Marxism itself is a Zionist construct? I wouldn’t worry about homosexuals, 3rd world immigrants or cultural marxist journalists who work for mega millionaire media moguls old son, I’d worry about who might be behind it all –
        http://www.wakeupkiwi.com/The-Conspiracy-to-Rule-the-World-1.shtml

        Reply
  9. Alan Wilkinson

     /  29th December 2015

    Journalism is fragmenting as the old ownership models collapse. Both locality and publication advantages are being destroyed along with advertising markets.

    Reply
  10. Hel

     /  29th December 2015

    Oh come on Pete! Presland and co are just all in a tiff that Slater had the sort of control over media that they now think they have. Notice how on Twitter they are all cuddling each other and bullying others in the same way they accuse of Slater. To pretend they are behaving morally or legally any better than Slater is a fallacy. You are buying their narrative.

    Reply

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