Unethical Media Behavior

How strange! I was reading Stilgherrian‘s rant – or, open letter – to traditional journalists: Dear Journalists, how can you spout all that stuff about “standards” and then go back to your mucky business? Oh, that’s right. You’re a proper journalist. It’s all the others… Actually, I know why you’re so bitter about “those bloggers”….

How strange! I was reading Stilgherrian‘s rant – or, open letter – to traditional journalists:

Dear Journalists, how can you spout all that stuff about “standards” and then go back to your mucky business?

Oh, that’s right. You’re a proper journalist. It’s all the others

Actually, I know why you’re so bitter about “those bloggers”. You worked hard on that student newspaper or street rag while living in uni-student poverty, put up with the abuse of grumpy old chain-smoking subs who bawled you out over trivial spelling mistakes, put up with the unpredictable patronage of editors who promoted everyone else to A Grade but you — you endured all of that hoping that one day you’d get the plum posting. But no! The newsrooms are now being decimated, and the masthead’s adorned with photos of celebrity chefs. And bloggers — bloggers! People with no professional training are leaping into the limelight. Some of them are even being paid! How dare they!

… when there was a knock on the door. It was a postman! I was shocked – who uses snail mail anymore? – and somehow a letter to Stilgherrian ended up in my hand.

Of course I opened it -carefully, using the steam from a kettle, so he won’t know- and this is what it said:

Dear Mr Stilgherrian,
After your continued and incessant attacks on traditional journalists, we will respond by noting that as all bloggers are crap and ill-educated and passionate biased, and as all heritage media have standards and ethics* and have never been caught being naughty, your membership to Old Media has now been terminated. Please mail back in your membership card and remove the I AM A BONAFIDE JOURNALIST tattoo from your left buttock.
Yours Sincerely

Cash for comments – radio
Exploitation of youth for reality TV – television
Kickbacks for good food reviews – newspapers
Harassment and eventual death of Princess Di – top magazines read in Australia
Hiding advertisement as undisclosed infomercial/entertainment.
Plagiarism (examples? that wikipedia one?)
Faking it (travel guides written by travel writers who don’t travel)

The rest of the letter was smudged by the steam from the kettle. What else do you think should be on the list?

One generalisation begets another, methinks. Saying all bloggers are crap is like saying all journalists are biased. Which unfortunately is exactly what Australians think:

We don’t trust Mainstream Media – the numbers show it. (from my old blog post)
Media Bias
A large 85% (down 1% since September 2004) of Australians believe that Newspaper journalists are often biased,
74% (up 1%) believe TV reporters are often biased and
69% (down 6%) believe that Talk-back radio announcers are often biased.

The only form of mainstream media to escape the condemnation of the majority (and only just) is theInternet – 49% (up 8%) of Australians believe Internet sites are often biased. Roy Morgan

Did any of you bring that up at these debates-from-last-century? tsk tsk. 😛

Let’s compile a compendium of unethical traditional media behavior – not so we can be mean to journalists. No, I quite like them, the little poppets. But so we can respond at conferences and debates and such, when we are told we are rubbish. We nod and say yes – of course we are – everything we ever learned about media we learned from journalists. and What a brilliant example they have set for us all. Particularly their standards and their ethics. And then we list off the incidents that make Media Watch giggle. Heh.

*pokes Stilgherrian* I’ going to Twitter this to him now. 🙂

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  1. Oh lesley, yes I’ve seen it before, but it’s always good for a second viewing – Prometeus. 🙂

    But my favourite is EPIC 2015 from Museum of Media History. Unfortunately, they take it down a lot from YouTube instead of posting it there themselves and counting the views, but here it is again (temporarily, no doubt). http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=AkFGsNtTFRI

    It is the best of times it is the worst of times.

    GoogleZon Google and Amazon merger 😛

  2. Hi Laurel, you have a point. A small one. The trouble is your list of exceptions. Most of these do NOT involve journalists:

    Cash for comments – radio: These were announcers (Jones and Laws), not journalists. Journalists caught them out – ABC’s Media Watch won a Walkley Award for its reporting on the issue.

    Exploitation of youth for reality TV – television: Journalists were not involved in the creation of these programs.

    Kickbacks for good food reviews – newspapers: Can’t answer that one but none I know of in Australia.

    Harassment and eventual death of Princess Di – top magazines read in Australia: Di was killed by a drunk driver, not the media. Simple fact. It’s also a fact that she was an active participant in her own story by feeding items to a large number of journalists at the same time as she was complaining about media intrusion.

    Hiding advertisement as undisclosed infomercial/entertainment: Unethical and very uncommon. Blow the whistle on it, though, when you find it.

    Plagiarism (examples? that wikipedia one?): Yep, happens. Students, lawyers, judges and bloggers do it too. Nothing beats your own research.

    Faking it (travel guides written by travel writers who don’t travel): Travel guides? Are you talking about the Lonely Planet books? Journalist – I doubt it.

  3. @skigod
    Not sure what is small about 85% of Australians believe that Australian journalists are biased, but if you can live with that, so be it.

    It was a quick scan of heritage media but I can come up with ‘journalist’ shenanigans if you like.
    How about printing press releases as news reports?

    “Essentially it went in as provided …
    I could have put in a by line or acknowledgement, but then I’d have to put by lines like that all through the paper …
    In an ideal world we wouldn’t run press releases, but happily this was not a controversial issue.
    — Julian Ricci, Editor, NT News, 15 April 2005″

    Anything reported by Today Tonight (are they journalists?) really.
    For example Careless Whispers

    Food journalists question -the consipiracy debate still rages about Durack vs Neil Perry. Was it a set up between a food review journalist and a top chef for more publicity or not? One thing we can answer – we don’t trust ‘expert journalist’ reviews as much as we used to.

    And last but not least -who was the technology journalist sacked a couple of years ago – Graeme or something? Anyone remember that story?

    @skigod, search journalist on mediawatch. My small point suddenly gets a whole lot bigger.

  4. I don’t resile from the fact some journalists don’t deserve to be treated with respect. My issue was with your list – it’s plain wrong.
    Nail journalists for what they get wrong, not what other people do. Unless you think generalisations are something you think you can apply freely just to show how widely read you are.
    I also note the distrust factor is soaring about online content, and rightfully so. A bit of scepticism about everything one reads is probably healthy.
    And I know Durack. It’s unlikely he would put his reputation on the line for a stunt lilke the one you’re suggesting.
    Finally, journalists can be sacked for any number of mistakes, deliberate or otherwise. They are (by and large) accountable. It’s much easier to hide online.

  5. Not my suggestions re: Durack – plenty of papers on ethics and food journalism in Australia allude to it.

    If you had read my blog post fully – and Stilgherrian’s – this list was in answer to generalisations i.e. to shut people up who say that bloggers have no ethics whereas heritage media do. That youtube is full of crap whereas evening free to air tv is pure mana from heaven. That we waste our time in social networks when we should be passively consuming media from an industry that is so laden with kickbacks and support for mates that they wouldn’t know unbiased if they fell over it. And remember, I share that view with 85% of other Australians.

    If you think it’s easier to hide online than you do not understand the online environment. There are many more ‘it’s ok, everyone does it’ scenarios in the traditional media industry than the fully transparent, totally accountable world of online could ever hope to get away with. We are transparent not because we want to be, but because it takes one Google search to find us out.

  6. uh oh. Anonymous is baaaack!

    @dear sweet brave anonymous.
    I admire your attempts to overcome a reading disability – it must be such a challenge to understand when I am making up figures (I don’t) and when I quote professional research.

    Perhaps I could gently point out that the 85% figure is from Roy Morgan. In simple terms so you can understand, they run polls which means people can vote on different issues. You have an issue with the 85%? Take it up with them.

    But thank you for taking the time to leave a comment on my crap blog 🙂 – you might find these guys agree with you. Or not.

    For the rest of heritage media, I’m speaking at PANPA in September, come up and say hi 🙂

  7. LOL!

    So 85% of people believe that journos are biased. So what? You’re saying that bloggers are not biased?

    Now, let’s get something straight: the big breaking news, the well-written analysis, the hard-hitting images that you see are all still produced by heritage media. Show me otherwise.

    Lastly, you and Stilgherrian (as well as many of your ilk in this country) are basically suffering from an inferiority complex. That’s because here in this country bloggers are not so taken seriously as in the US, say. You want your little corner in the sandpit. You want your own Canberra press passes. But who’s gonna give you all that? Look at the rubbish you write Laurel.

  8. If anyone ever wondered why Australian journalists have such a bad rep internationally, here is part of the the answer:


    That video seems to be being passed around everywhere at the mo. The point is that most people will relate to at least some of those six steps on this case.

    But it is far beyond that. Aussie journalism is incestuous. Once someone hits a new low, others take it as an acceptable level.

    Soon that 85% will be 100%. As a journalist it makes me cringe.

    Who suffers, apart from the obvious victims like her? In the long run, journalists. This used to be a respectable profession. These days it is almost embarressing at times to hold my hand up and admit what I do for a living.

  9. Unethical Media Behavior | Laurel Papworth- Social Network Strategy great article thank you.

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