Things I’d like to see in the media: closer merging of news and entertainment #auspol

Image representing Rupert Murdoch as depicted ...
Image via CrunchBase

It is an oft heard complaint that there is too much overlap between news and entertainment.  It is not uncommon in Australia for news programs to promote reality television programs or to report on soap opera plot developments.  It is frequently opined that we treat politics like it’s a football match, that we turn politicians into celebrities by making them perform like dancing monkeys on prime time TV, and that we sacrifice intelligent, sober political analysis for clickbait.

People misdiagnose the problem.  These are examples of where news is sacrificed in the name of entertainment. It’s not really an ‘overlap’; it’s one dominating the other.

On the other hand, merging news platforms with entertainment platforms — entirely possible given recent technological developments — would improve the quality of our news output and the diet of people who regularly consume the news.  If done properly, it would also improve the quality and quantity of Australian made entertainment.  It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s more than possible.

I’ll admit that this is the idea which makes me seem most like a supervillain…

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Let’s build ourselves an island… @TimDunlop thinks small about trolling

Oni netsuke front
The Japanese troll: the Oni (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At some point, we will reach critical mass of articles about Internet trolls written by baby boomers, containing pictures of troll dolls.

Tim Dunlop has a piece up on The Guardian‘s website about the often confusing deployment of the word ‘troll’.  Here’s the key paragraph:

The word once had quite a specialised meaning limited to a particular sort of disruptive behaviour, but it has now become a catch-all term to describe any behaviour that some journalists and editors deem inappropriate. Their responses to what they call “trolling” often seem less about combating abuse than reasserting their role as gatekeeper, to restore to themselves the right to decide who gets to speak in public and who doesn’t. It is what US academic Susan Herbst calls “the strategic use of civility”. [Source: Dunlop, T. ‘How the word “troll” has been redefined by the powerful’, The Guardian 16 August 2013]

Dunlop has — for a number of years — concentrated on the social world of communication through the lens of the media.  What is the relationship between changes to the front page of the media (in whatever form the ‘front page’ takes) and the change in the public’s way of discussing issues.  It’s due to this background that Dunlop misidentifies the (ab)use of the word ‘troll’.  This is the journalists and editors taking its cue from common discourse — not the other way around.

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Are we surprised that starting a flamewar with @SandiHLogan isn’t constitutionally protected speech? #auspol

twitter fail image
twitter fail image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, Twitter was abuzz with a story about a public servant, Michaela Banerji, who had been sacked for tweeting anti-government messages on her account, @LaLegale. Much to Markus Mannheim’s credit, the story was corrected to better reflect that Banerji had not been sacked (EDIT: Apparently, the text wasn’t corrected — Twitter just got the detail wrong; see comments). Even so, Twitter is always ready for a good outrage.

Banerji was a public affairs officer at the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Her branch head, Sandi Logan, is a prolific user of twitter (@SandiHLogan). By day, Banerji’s job was to communicate government policy. By night, she was attacking said policy and directly attacking Logan over Twitter.

An internal review was conducted to see if Banerji had breached the APS Code of Conduct and the Department’s Social Media Guide. The Australian Public Service Commission has released guidelines for public servants’ use of social media in their personal capacity. When outspoken blogger and commentator, @drag0nista, was revealed to be political adviser, Paula Matthewson, Twitter went nuts about the APSC’s social media guideline (which I wrote about here).

There is a little bit of hypocrisy in the public debate. When people like Logan and Matthewson express their opinion, it’s considered to be a breach of the guidelines. When Banerji expressed her opinion, she’s a hero who deserves protection. It’s one of those unusual verbs: people with whom I disagree breach the social media guidelines; people with whom I agree deserve protection.

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