Sunday, July 22, 2007

Links: Blogging & Lynch in The Age

A month or two ago, I cancelled my Age subscription, for a number of reasons. It all started several years ago when the paper decided to take a new direction and try to take the very less-than-ordinary Herald Sun behemoth head on and go populist. Sports has to appear on the front page every day, regardless. AFL has to be prominent. Coverage of AFL has to be as if football is 'more than a game'. I've got nothing against the AFL or sport in general and am happy for it continue to enjoy massive coverage at the back of the paper. I do like sport (mostly as a participant), but I can't see that any sport deserves front page coverage.

Over time, other subtle changes have crept in, but I don't want to dwell on that. The reality is, the only reason I've hung on to my daily delivery for the last year or so is the
Sudoku puzzle. Yes, I'm a Sudoku nut, and the harder the puzzle the better. However, the Melbourne Film Blogger and family typically lunch on a Saturday and/or Sunday at a particular local cafe where (like just about every other cafe in Melbourne) newspapers are provided in ample numbers. So, while we wait for our order, I take the page that none of the others in the throngs that pour in over the weekend seem to care about, and fill in the puzzles myself. Same with weekdays when I go for a coffee at work (I'm not going to drink the instant stuff they provide in the kitchen).

With cafes providing papers (and not forgetting the online version), my only reservation about cancelling my Age subscription was that I might miss out on articles like I saw in the A2 section of yesterday's paper. One about blogging, the other about David Lynch. The first one is a decent post (decent as in long, 3343 words, the Age search feature tells me) by Sophie Cunningham, a contributor to Sarsaparilla, an online magazine that I subscribe (free) to. It was a well-researched and balanced article which discusses the pros and cons of blogging and how writers have found it useful, useless, time-consuming, time-wasting and more. I related to many aspects of it, and it complemented thoughts I've been having as well as the subject of Paul Harris' interview of me on 3RRR a few weeks ago (which I still haven't posted about, but something is in the pipeline).

The other worthy Age article was an interview by by Simon Hattenstone for London's Guardian. It appears to have been written some six months ago, but held off by The Age until now, with MIFF's screening of Inland Empire being imminent (August 7 & 9, followed by a limited release by Dendy sometime toward the end of the year). In it, Lynch dispels some rumours, confirms and sets straight others. As a film-maker who is appreciated as an artist, it's always good to hear from the man himself about his art.


Matthew said...

"Sports has to appear on the front page every day, regardless."

That's demonstrably false, Paul. Friday's paper, for example, has nothing about sport on it at all: it's all about the new Howard biography, Glenn Wheatley, and Canberra and Washington's nuclear deal. Hell, even the back page didn't have anything about sport on it. The Age Diary is admittedly weak, but it's not the sport section.

I know that you're talking about your canceled subscription more than you are about reading papers in general (the online version is easier to read, I think), but I have to say that, as a journalism student, I find a lot of bloggers' bashing of newspapers annoying and smug. There is an important difference between news and comment that blogs, without the financial means to cover and report on current events, cannot gloss over. That's not to say that the papers, such as the Age are always covering newsworthy stuff (all these revelations from the Howard biography, for example, are a poor excuse for muckraking-as-news), but the point still stands. I find that the Australian, for example, for all its right-leaning editorials and opinion page rants, has excellent reporting of hard news, something no blogger, or at least no blogger without a high independent income of some sort, could ever hope to replicate.

Anyway, I know that's not what you were getting at, but yeah. I think it's important to remember the importance of quality journalism, even if what we get doesn't always aspire to it. (And maybe you should look at the cover of the Age more often...)

Marty said...

Paul, I read both The Age and Herald-Sun every day and The Weekend Australian. I always used to think that newspapers are all about objective and impartial reporting but The Age would have to be the most biased paper in the world. Amazingly, there is more balanced reporting in the Herald-Sun. Most of the good articles in The Age are syndicated columns from overseas newspapers like The Guardian and The New York Times. The impartiality of The Age has little to be desired and it is very worrisome for a democratic country like ours to have such a biased newspaper. However, since the new editor of The Age started a few months ago there appears to be a bit more balanced reporting as he must have noticed the huge bias of the paper when he arrived but there is still a long way to go. For example, The Age has a huge anti-Israel perspective that almost smacks of anti-Semitism as there has not been one positive article on Israel or Jewish people in years yet there are a pro-Muslim articles almost every day. I am not saying one is better than the other but there should be balanced reporting on both sides. There is a lot of good done by the Jewish people over the years and the same can be said of Muslims but the Iraw war has skewered The Age into biased reporting that is not healthy and has turned a once fine newspaper into publishing propaganda than just factual and objective reporting.

Paul Martin said...

Matt, the intention of my post was primarily to point out two contiguous articles in the print version of the A2 section that I thought were quite good. In passing, I wanted to mention why I cancelled my subscription. I actually cancelled it a while back and resubscribed when I missed the Sudoku. But now I'm using the Sudoku in cafes I can't justify the cost of the subscription any more.

My dissatisfaction with newspapers goes back long before I even had heard the term 'blog'. My criticism has nothing to do with being a blogger, or blogger vs mainstream media, etc. Whether there was sport on p.1 of The Age or not, I wouldn't know as I don't have a paper here to check. It wasn't really the point. It wouldn't surprise me if they have a break here and there.

As research for a book I was planning to write some dozen or so years ago (on gender issues), I was scanning three newspapers a day cover to cover for six months. They were The Age, The Herald Sun and The Australian. While I found the standard of journalism in The Herald Sun appalling, The Australian definitely had excellent coverage that The Age didn't. For some time I subscribed to both, though with time constraints I ended up sticking with The Age. Over time, though, it has drifted away from being being investigative and cutting to middle-of-the-road. That's not a comment on the hard-working and sincere journalists who are trying to make a difference.

Paul Martin said...

Gee Marty, maybe I should have done a separate post about the media. I really wanted to promote those articles. Ah well, I got myself into this... I'll just go with the flow. ;)

I think The Age has taken it upon itself to have more of a social agenda. For example the way they took up the Hicks case, especially the Sunday Age. I thought this was a positive, but maybe I'm just being biased. Or maybe the media has such a responsibility in a democracy when democratic institutions are being threatened by the incumbent government.

In recent days, The Age has also been highlighting that the evidence against alleged terrorist Mohamed Haneef is shaky and has been overstated. A glance at the Sunday Herald Sun online has the head story about how the same person is being investigated for "conspiracy to launch a terror attack in Australia". This whole article is pure political propaganda. Anyway, at least we have some diversity of media (but not much).

Marty said...

Paul, I think many people including The Age are jumping the gun on the Haneef case. Everyone assumes he is innocent or at least should be free to roam the streets. I will wait until all the evidence is presented and the investigation is complete. Many are jumping at shadows simply as an anti-Howard stance. I have said this before. I am not a fan of Howard or the current government but why do you say that The Age supporting Haneef was fine but when they write an article on the fact that he may be involved in a possible terrorist attack then it's pure propaganda? What if Haneef is released and then is involved in a terrorist attack here? What would people say then? They would probably say that it's not Haneef's fault, it's actually our fault for being in Iraq. Again, many like those at The Age never condemns any terrorist attacks by Muslim extremists (if you look closely these terrorist attacks when hundreds die are never on the front page in The Age, they are relegated to around page 15) but are quick to criticise any retaliatory attacks by Israel. Why? Where is the balance? At least, the Herald-Sun has right-wing writers like Andrew Bolt but they balance this with left-wing journos like Jill Singer. Only recently with the new editor has The Age beeing trying to address their bias. Personally, I don't think people take any terrorism threat seriously in Australia and think the anti-terrorism laws are a beat-up and a fear campaign. Say this to those who lost their loved ones in Bali. They may think differently. There is no doubt that there will a terrorist attack in Australia within the next five years. No doubt about that and it doesn't matter who is in power. Labour has also supported the government's stance on Haneef. I just think they both parties know more about the case and about the actual terrorism threats in Australia than is being reported or conveyed to the public.

Paul Martin said...

Marty, I believe the anti-terror and other laws (eg, anti-sedition laws) are an assault on our way of life and are more about repressing opposition and making scapegoats than in protecting us from terrorism.

I predicted over a year ago that there would be some issue like this leading into the election, as a political beat-up for the government to focus on security issues, which it cynically sees as its ticket to electoral victory. Just like Tampa and 'children overboard'.

I can't say I noticed what you're saying about the Age's coverage of Israel, but then I've been suffering from some newspaper fatigue in recent times. Meaning, that I'm tired of the same stories over and over again. I tend to skip certain themes (mostly political). Sometimes the headline is enough.

Paul Martin said...

BTW Marty, why 2 papers? And how do you find the time?

Marty said...

If it's such a political stunt then why do Labor also support it? In any case, I read both papers because reading just one paper as your only course of news is not really giving you the full story as each paper and journalist have their own agendas. I also read many blogs and web site both here and overseas on both sides of the political spectrum to gain a better insight in current events and, of course, a more balanced perspective. For those who think that terrorism is a figment of imagination and just a fear campaign you should visit this web site to know how real it is at I doubt whether The Age uses this site as a reference but it is highly regarded around the world.

Marty said...

Paul, I agree with you that the tough anti-terrorism laws can result in people beiong held in custody due to circumstantial evidence. However, I think they need to be tough because our current justice system and laws are only effective in punishing after the event rather than preventing it. In many cases of sexual abuse and murder, the police had little chance of preventing it but only when it's too late. Case in point is the tragic muder of those two sisters who were raped and stabbed to detah by their male neighbour who really should have still been locked up for previous rapes and assualt cases. Our legal system was not designed to protect us or prevent large scale terrorist attacks by suicide bombers. The lawmakers never thought in their wildest dreams that someone is willing to blow themselves up along with a dozen other innocent civilians for no apparent reason and with no clear motivation. Our legal system is about punishment rather than preventing crimes and this needs to change in this new century for us all to be protected.

Paul Martin said...

If it's such a political stunt then why do Labor also support it?

I've been quite disappointed by the ALP's response to the whole issue of terrorism in general, especially under Beazley. Why has Rudd acquiesced? I think it's either weakness of leadership, pragmatism or maybe a bit of both.

I don't think terrorism is a figment of the imagination, and I think that it exists on both sides.

I don't agree that our legal system needs to change in the direction that it is taking; it has served us reasonably well (though that's arguable) through all kinds of political and social situations - terrorism is not new. But I also don't want to argue the point. We'll just have to agree to disagree on this one, Marty.