O’Sullivan v Marvelly: “Media fought for the decriminalisation of homosexuality”

More to ‘Mainstream press’ warned off hijacking discussion around Pride Parade – NZ Herald journalist Fran O’Sullivan took exception to Lizzie Marvelly’s tweet, giving it a sharp response that led to some media involvement in the decriminalisation of homosexuality.


@LizzieMarvelly: Excuse me? Sexual outcasting and a perverse reversal? What on Earth are you talking about?

@FranOSullivan: Go read a history book.

@LizzieMarvelly: Oh yes, that’s a great way to engage in discussion… condescension goes so far 🙄
I understand the terms, I just don’t get what you’re banging on about because you’ve phrased it poorly. But I’d humbly suggest showing people with skin in the game with a little more respect.

Ironic on several counts. A number of people (including myself) have been critical of Marvelly’s ‘poor phrasing’. And one of the main criticisms has been the lack of respect Marvelly showed ‘mainstream media’. Without it her audience would be far smaller.

@DannyNocturn65: The world you are trying to build is a horrible one – you don’t need to be the subject of a societal issue in order to comment on it. this competition where whoever can prove to be the smallest minority gets a monopoly over discussion is the death of productive conversation.

LizzieMarvelly: That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m arguing against the sensationalisation of an issue by people who are, in my opinion, ignorant of the nuances that are essential to this discussion.

That’s nothing like how she put it.  She said ” It’s NOT one to be hijacked by the mainstream press, dissected by straight, cis media personalities and turned into a circus.” She suggested that presumably most media keep out of the discussion on the Pride Parade. (Another irony is the reference to a circus – that’s something like how the extravagant displays of Pride Parades have looked to many).

@DannyNocturn65: “this discussion around the Pride Parade is one for the LGBTQ+ community to work through” your words

And for the police who have been banned, and the public who fund it, and anyone who has aan interest in the discussion in an open and free society.

Another thread in the discussion:

Andrew Mackay @CHCHEastEnder: Firstly I agree with one comment. This stay in your lane crap is another american phrase usurped by someone wanting attention.

And Fran, I WAS born before law reform and the press helped and wrote articles but were not the ones marching in the streets or getting bashed and abused, there is a distinct separation on “how” the media “fought”.

There usually is, that’;s how the media operates. It gives a much wider voice to protesters that is often essential in getting momentum and in changing public opinion on issues like the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

@FranOSullivan: And that is what media do – write articles that fight for change.

Andrew Mackay @CHCHEastEnder: I agree. media fights in its own way, and usually honestly and accurately but when people have bled, been admitted to hospital and arrested for a cause you should choose your words more carefully.

@FranOSullivan: Do you seriously believe the journalists who took up their cudgels on this issue did not have to overcome hostility.

Andrew Mackay @CHCHEastEnder: Absolutely not. However, at that time media were seen as people reporting the news and not fighting for our cause…

@FranOSullivan: So now you think it is OKAY to define other people via an alphabet soup approach to humanity?

Andrew Mackay @CHCHEastEnder: a) I don’t usually get into heady discussions on twitter. I tend to avoid them.
b) Throwing spurious comments about something that I was involved in makes my blood boil.
c) I didn’t make the world I only try to live in it.
d)NO, I don’t. You play games with my comments.

Someone throwing spurious comments about something she may have been involved as a reporter seems to have made Fran’s blood boil.

@FranOSullivan: You deny people their humanity by alphabeticising them and you deny journalism its courage.

Andrew Mackay @CHCHEastEnder: No. You are putting words into my mouth. I certainly now regret commenting on something so stupidly written. Good day “madam”.

So he closed the discussion with a condescending swipe. It isn’t clear which “something so stupidly written” he is referring to, Marvelly’s original tweet or O’Sullivan’s.

Another thread:

Shane te Pou @PouTepou: If I think something is wrong I will say so I don’t have a lane… Thoughts and opinions can not be contained and nor should they.

LizzieMarvelly: Wasn’t saying you need to, I was suggesting it would be good if Hosking and Garner did, given the ignorance I believe they displayed on this issue.

If that’s what she meant she phrased poorly – in fact that is not what her first tweet conveyed. She said ” It’s NOT one to be hijacked by the mainstream press, dissected by straight, cis media personalities and turned into a circus. Hosking, Garner et al., stay in your lane.”

She referred to “the mainstream press”, to “straight, cis media personalities” and to “Hosking, Garner et al”.

Et al (an abbreviation of et alia) refers to ‘and others – Cambridge Dictionary: “It is used in formal writing to avoid a long list of names of people who have written something together”.

Another thread, replying to O’Sullivan:

@TraceyMacleod: If you were fighting for that Fran you would have seen the behaviour of many of our police. The scars run deep & it is not long ago lgbt officers were bullied out or shrunk into a closest.

George Henderson @puddleg: But not today – today they are encouraged to march in the Pride parade. Until a group of law-and-order activists manoeuvre themselves in charge, and bully out the lgbt officers for reasons that have nothing to do with their sexuality or gender, and that don’t make much sense.

@TraceyMacleod: Why dont they just wear the tshirts. Are you a lgbt person? Cos the scars of police behaviour run deep. If you think all police are okee dokee with gay colleagues and gay folk in society. I have a nice bridge you might be interested in buying.

I’m sure not all police are “okee dokee with gay colleagues and gay folk in society”, and many others in society haven’t accepted our evolution to a more tolerant, accepting and inclusive society. But should all police who want to wear their uniforms to demonstrate a significant degree of normalisation in the police force be excluded from Pride Parade, because some of their colleagues have different opinions and feelings about homosexuality?

Another thread:

@adamsmith1922: Marvelly demonstrates just how divorced from reality some of these people are. Her intolerance of others views and demonisation of other commentators shows that.

@FranOSullivan:@LizzieMarvelly is perfectly entitled to her views. But this argument those occupying her “lane/s” should be the only ones to weigh in on the decision to ban police from “proudly wearing their uniforms” as they take part in the Pride Parade is not only ridiculous but dangerous.

@adamsmith1922:To clarify, she can say what she likes. I have no problem with that. However,she has no rights to seek others from exercising their own rights in this regard. Furthermore, to demonise other commentators because they are ‘cis’ and thus by inference somehow ineligible to express an opinion renders her as prejudiced as any homophobe. We still live in a free society where differing opinions should be respected, not mocked.

Some else enters the thread, switching from a ‘cis’ diss to a ‘mansplaining’ diss.

ben parsons @peaceprone: But if you come mansplaining out of context without acknowledging the premise then you may just be in the wrong lane, shouting into the vacuum of history.

@mrsrosieb: So you’re agreeing with Lizzie’s stupid comment.

ben parsons @peaceprone: i kind of agree bc if you argue from a point of indolence, you tend to miss the point. Hosts should never assume to be experts, even if they are.

I presume that refers to Garner and Hosking as hosts. I don’t think they assume to be experts on topics they talk about. Their jobs are to raise attention and generate discussion something Marvelly et al seem to want confined to initial defined lanes.

Suffocating mainstream media

Newspaper circulations continue to slide around New Zealand, which won’t surprise anyone.

The latest Press Audit results are here.

Twelve month movements:

  • Dominion Post -13.70%
  • The Press -8.32%
  • NZ Herald -5.69%
  • Otago Daily Times -3.51%

I’m part of the ODT decline, I dropped my long time subscription last year.

All but one provincial newspaper are down, the exception being the Northern Advocate which rose 1.59%.

But this is just circulation (and large reductions in print advertising revenue). All the large newspapers also have online sites.

It may seem obvious why print news is in decline, but one person claims to be suffocating mainstream media.

One thing is for sure, no one wants yesterday’s papers.

My audience is growing. I guess you have to be relevant and reflect society. The mainstream media have not done that and their sales are sliding to oblivion.

I hope to be able to help suffocate them further.

The Dominion Post is dead on its feet. They have less circulation daily than I have readers on Whaleoil.


Except that comparing print circulation with online readership is a bit silly – the Dominion Post has a substantial online readership via Stuff.

Alexa New Zealand rankings:

  • Stuff: 6
  • NZ Herald: 10
  • Otago Daily Times: 123
  • Whale Oil: 170

Even a tumbleweed provincial ODiTy outranks the niche blog.

(Alexa is only a rough indicator but that surprised me).

Mainstream media’s use of social media

The increasing use of social media material in mainstream media stories raises important questions about what is fair and reasonable.

It’s common to see mainstream media stories that have been constructed from a few tweets or Facebook comments. This is another step towards deskchair journalism, where stories are written without going out and about.

‘Churnalism’ has been criticised for some time. It is described in Wikipedia as…

…a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories and other forms of pre-packaged material are used to create articles in newspapers and other news media in order to meet increasing pressures of time and cost without undertaking further research or checking.

Pressures of time and costs have increased even more with the prevalence of social media, and the need of commercial media to attract online revenue. This has resulted in an increase in stories known as click bait – barely news but attractive to the whims of the masses browsing online.

Jess McAllen describes herself as an ex-churnalist. She is now a freelance journalist who has had some very good stories published at The Wireless recently on mental health issues.

Yesterday The Spinoff posted an article by her on the use of social media by mainstream media – If it’s public is it fair game? Why we as media need to change the way we report on social media.

She gives a number of examples of highly questionable use of social media sources cherry picked without having any contact with the people being quoted.

Journalism schools should teach classes in social media journalism. How to: find a source by stalking their cousin’s sister’s dog on Facebook, bashfully call a D-list NZ celebrity about their latest social media gaffe, choose which “reaction tweets” to embed in a story, deal with the subsequent abuse from the public for covering such inane stories.

In my first year-and-a-bit of journalism 60% of my time was spent on stories sourced from and largely created out of social media posts. I can now vet any potential Tinder date with deeply uncomfortable ease. I managed to track down a waiter flirting with my friend the other weekend with just his first name and place of work.

It disgusts me. Old habits die hard.

In the past year as social media habits increase we have also been treated to a menagerie of social media stories – some funny, some harmful to reputations, some way too intrusive.

Remember when New Zealand media reported, even showed photos, of a Christchurch couple having sex at their office? There were huge debates in newsrooms about this, with one side arguing it was in the public arena and the other crying for common decency – jobs and marriages were at stake.

This was voyeurism journalism at it’s worst with no consideration of the effect that the massive media ogling would have on the subjects of exposure and ridicule.

People commenting on Facebook memorial pages are often unaware that reporters are keeping an eye on them, looking for comments to put in stories, and get a huge shock when, in a time of excruciating pain, their full name is propelled onto a national platform. It’s common for stories to be solely written off a social media post (time efficient! Easy clicks!). It’s an art, just read my terrible attempt at trying to flesh out a story based on an old Natalia Kills video.

Twitter and Facebook are public spaces. And conversations you have in public spaces are by nature public. You want privacy? Email, text, phone. It seems fair. But apply this to the offline world and things crumble quickly. Don’t want me butting in on your conversation at McDonalds? Should have gone to your bedroom. Don’t want me rifling through your rubbish bag – filled with prescription bottles, condoms, notes? Maybe you shouldn’t have put it in a public street.

The boundary between private and public is blurry. It always has been. We do private stuff in public and while, legally, technically, we can violate the privacy of those moments – grieving, an intimate conversation, having a breakdown – mostly we don’t. Because it’s universally understood as hugely rude.

While Facebook offers privacy options, they are so complicated that many users don’t realise their page is public. Most don’t ever anticipate that something they post would be of any interest to a journalist in the first place.

Ethical guidelines from pre-social-media-times say journalists should show compassion for those who may be adversely affected by news coverage, using particular sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects (people not usually in the public eye).

McAllen asks some very important questions. I hope every journalist – and particularly editors – reads it all and seriously ponders her points. It’s given me good reason to consider some of what I do.

The link again: If it’s public is it fair game? Why we as media need to change the way we report on social media.

She concludes…

Privacy and courtesy aside, the main problem lies within constraints of modern newsrooms not having enough time for the required stories to be pushed out so they can stay afloat: it’s lazy journalism – but not because the journalists are necessarily lazy, it’s more symptomatic of where our media landscape is at the moment.

…and offers some suggestions:

In the absence of any identifiable guidelines in New Zealand on this complex issue, I’ve written a few questions that it would be cool if journalists – including myself – remember to ask before reporting social media stories:

  1. Was this shared to a close group, a personal profile or in a conversation?
  2. Did you contact the source about including the information in the story?
  3. Is the author a public figure? How public? How will this affect them?
  4. Is the harm that could come to the individual if the information is made public justified by the public benefit of the information?
  5. Why are you sharing this? Is it for clicks and clicks alone?
  6. What alternatives do you have for getting this information?
  7. What are the consequences of sharing this information? Will the person suffer because of what you have done? Are they likely to be stalked or harassed? Could they lose a job? Is this information their parents might not even be aware of yet?

These questions should be considered by more than just journalists. Bloggers and many others, for example in Facebook and Twitter, republish or circulate small audience material to wider audiences, sometimes much wider audiences.