Cracker by Damian Christie

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Cracker: How Media Made me a Bad Person.

103 Responses

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  • Russell Brown,

    Nice one, Damian.

    Whether it's over the lunchtable or on the shiny, modern, highly-available, very public platforms for public bitching, we all do more of it than we should.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22712 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Hey Damian, you missed one. The guy on Media 7 (and reboots) is a pretty top bloke too.

    I like to think becoming a dad has made me a better person, or at the very least made me want to be.

    I’d go with that. It’s definitely a lot harder to indulge in a pessimistic world view. Giving up isn’t an option.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10617 posts Report Reply

  • Charles F Mabbett,

    I just want to say I think it is wrong to blame the media for everything. What ever happened to personal responsibility?

    Wellington • Since Jan 2014 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene,

    Media is much like Parliament. People enter with the best of intentions before the institution grinds them into wearing cynicism. The hope remains that both public services can surmount this obstacle and raise the level of public discourse.

    Oh lord, it's hard to be humble, when you wear greasepaint every day...

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Wilson,

    You are now officially our guardian angel. Though, if it's okay to have a go at Michael Laws, isn't it also okay to have a go at media professionals who can be, you know, quite a lot like Michael Laws?

    Since Mar 2007 • 9 posts Report Reply

  • Bronwyn Hayward,

    Thanks Damian for this thoughtful reflection.

    I admit I have been worrying a great deal about the impact of twitter and blogging and competition for ratings in a small democracy.

    It is not that I wish to curb vigorous debate, but there is a real tension between cynicism, which is cheap and drives viewer ratings up or sends views to websites, yet can reduce citizens' sense of internal political efficacy -that is their confidence not only that they can understand politics but that "if I participate I can make a difference".

    There is a world of difference between cynical commentary and critical analysis-the later takes time, is expensive, needs nuance but it informs and helps empower citizens.

    If we continue to fuel cynicism we may draw the viewer but we exacerbate civic disenfranchisement- eroding our democracy in reality.

    Non voting is not just just apathy, it is associated with low income, low education, all kind of factors, and sometimes an informed disdain as ethical choice, but mostly it is associated with low efficacy and these citizens are most easily manipulated.

    In effect, in reporting cynically on politics and competing with each other it is not just journalists but also academics who are at real risk of disaffecting more people, of actually eroding democracy.

    It matters that those who commentate esp on politics in a small state don't actually make a problem of citizen disenfranchisement worse, our democracy really matters, it is not just there for news ratings, and it is not just a horse race,

    What is at stake are huge value choices about what kind of community, nation, democracy we wish to become and why

    I greatly appreciate your thoughtful pause to reflect on what it is we do... thank you

    Since Jan 2014 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Wise words. A few years ago I realised I'd said to much, and decided to attempt to make ten times as many positive comments as negative ones. I don't think I've ever reached that ratio (and sometimes I keep my mouth shut rather than engage in negativity), but the conscious decision helped me.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to Simon Wilson,

    Though, if it's okay to have a go at Michael Laws, isn't it also okay to have a go at media professionals who can be, you know, quite a lot like Michael Laws?

    Yeah that's a tricky one, and of course by even mentioning Michael Laws arguably I undo part of what I'm trying to achieve, but, well...

    I think what starts as people genuinely trying to point out what they perceive as people in the media behaving badly or inaccurately, soon evolves into more pointed versions of "I just don't like that person particularly much" or "I would've done that differently therefore that person is bad". I'm not saying there's not a place for criticism or review, and by calling for change on both sides, I'd hope there'd be less to be critical of.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Damian Christie,

    Perhaps the difference here is between "Stephen is a bad person" and "Stephen did a bad thing".

    You see this all the time when racism in public discourse comes up. Instead of talking about what people said and did, we end up having a pitched battle about whether they are a terrible person, often in the process defending people we like (even thought they have done a bad thing) or failing to praise people we don't like (even though they have done right against our expectation).

    It's also desirable in commentary to try and show insights denied to ordinary people, so we speculate about a person's motives and goals without any actual knowledge thereof.

    Of course this level of detachment is beyond most of us in ordinary life, but it would be neat if professional commentators could display it.

    With Laws of course I feel justified in calling someone who repeatedly behaves badly a bad person. This is far less clear cut in many other cases.

    Also, I stumbled on this today, and I think it's relevant somehow: The Philosophers' Mail.

    ...strokes beard and retires to life of quiet contemplation.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Sometimes people just dig themselves a hole.

    An example of that would be the actions of certain members of the press gallery in hyping Shane Jones as a potential Labour leader. He had negligible support, a fact which they surely must have known, but they persisted in running the line that he was a contender. This was a story which had a predictable endpoint - Jones coming a poor last with 15% of the vote.

    If people behave like that in any profession, they'll attract criticism. It's like a shoe shop whose products fall apart in the first shower of rain.

    Question is, does the structure of the industry actually require that journalists produce such tendentiousness in order to enjoy career success?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Stuart Coats,

    The nastiness happens at an individual level too, where the competition is between colleagues for the best jobs, the chance to present, be an overseas correspondent, or even to get off the intern desk just once and do a story. It turns friends into rivals, even enemies, remarkably easily. Just this week I heard another case of a ‘friend’ betraying another’s confidence, effectively stomping on the fingers of their colleague as they climbed up the ladder.

    I remember years ago a media friend of mine and I busted each other gossiping about the other. We genuinely liked each other – still do – so why? It was part envy, part mischief, and sometimes just going along with whatever the group might be saying. We had it out one day over lunch, then made a pact. It’s one I’ve stuck to, and extended to others, never to criticise each other, and if someone else was to say “don’t you think so-and-so is awful?” to explicitly disagree and stick up for your friend – an act so uncommon and unexpected in media that it often elicits an immediate backdown.

    I don't think this is just a media thing. It happens in all industries, in all walks of life. I guess that the big problem is that what is said "in the media" becomes news and/or a part of the national conversation.
    I have worked in a few industries now and I'm happy to say that I think the cream rises. In all walks of life there are people who try to get to the top via scheming and backstabbing. That works for a while, but I have found that the people who truly "make it" are those who act in a generous manner and care about other people.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 192 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    I teach computer training courses to university staff. The quality of every training session I deliver gets assessed, so at least once a day. That said there is no culture of nastiness around the assessment results, possibly because there is not a lot of competition as relatively few people can teach the required range of specialist software well, and our existence isn't funded by a shrinking pool of advertising money.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1443 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to David Hood,

    The quality of every training session I deliver gets assessed, so at least once a day.

    If it wasn't clear, what I meant by "held up against the competition" was publicly so.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Thanks, Damian – great post, great ‘call to action.’
    TV’s reputation for chewing people up and spitting them out on the pavement is well-deserved. Which makes those who do stay true to ideals special.
    Been watching ‘Borgen’, and have ever seen anything quite as brilliantly show how politics can corrode idealism, with daily routine, nasty shocks and little twists.
    Staying true to our better selves is a biggie. Too easy to forget when life is consumed by deadlines and competitors.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Damian Christie,

    I think what starts as people genuinely trying to point out what they perceive as people in the media behaving badly or inaccurately, soon evolves into more pointed versions of “I just don’t like that person particularly much” or “I would’ve done that differently therefore that person is bad”.

    I very consciously try and be precise about what I think is wrong when I make a media criticism - eg: when the Herald website had that dumb, inappropriate "f-bomb" Lorde headline this week, noting that the homepage sub had made a bad call, rather than the "Ya boo Herald sucks" thing.

    And I pointed that out to Shayne Currie on Twitter, and he agreed with me and changed the headline. I did feel kinda bad that most of the responses ro my original tweets were "Ya boo, Herald sucks" though ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22712 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I did feel kinda bad that most of the responses ro my original tweets were “Ya boo, Herald sucks” though …

    But... it IS sort of an awful paper in many respects. I mean, I'm not trying to be a dick. I haven't been corrupted by a career in media. ;) I just think it's generally pretty bad.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Danielle,

    I just think it's generally pretty bad.

    Sing it, sister.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Damian Christie, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    I just think it's generally pretty bad.

    Sing it, sister.

    Keeping in theme with this post, I'd like to point out there are some really excellent reporters at the NZ Herald who work incredibly hard and do fantastic work in their field. David Fisher is the first who springs to mind.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1164 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Damian Christie,

    Keeping in theme with this post, I'd like to point out there are some really excellent reporters at the NZ Herald who work incredibly hard and do fantastic work in their field. David Fisher is the first who springs to mind.

    Of course. There is no contradiction between the two statements - you can have very good journalists and still have bad journalism.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Attachment

    *cough*

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Damian Christie,

    If it wasn't clear, what I meant by "held up against the competition" was publicly so.

    Which is genuinely different. Sadly it is the consequence of working in an industry with the ability to go very public with what in any other workplace would be relatively private.

    There is no-one really, other than them media themselves, that can fix such behaviour, be it public or private. But it's worth noting that every time the media do publicly air their spats it normalizes the behaviour.

    those working in the media are deliberately stupid, lazy, corrupt or inept, or all of the above

    This is something I'm guilty of as well. It isn't fair because in every profession there are people with those traits and most people are guilty of some of those at some time or another. I try not to be deliberately stupid and I don't believe I've been corrupt but it doesn't mean my actions could not have been viewed as such. Again the media are a victim of being public.

    BUT over the years my opinion of those in the media has become jaded. The problem is that as I've read or watched news stories where I've actually known the facts or the subject in detail it has become very clear that the reporting of those stories in long or short form has often failed to properly inform the public. Errors of fact, errors of tone, bias. I now view almost every news item delivered by the media with deep suspicion. If the reporting of the stories where I know the facts is wrong then how can I trust the reporting of stories where I don't know the facts.

    And when I've known the reporting is wrong it has been hard to not see the failed reporting to be a result of

    deliberately stupid, lazy, corrupt or inept

    reporters.

    Being a better person yourself is a hell of good place to start in any profession, but I guess I'm not sure it will be enough to change the media.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4445 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Damian Christie,

    I’d like to point out there are some really excellent reporters at the NZ Herald

    And elsewhere. That doesn't stop the media being badly tainted by those that are bad. Nor does it help when it seems very much like those reporters that are good end up below the fold while those willing to frame a story get the lead item.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4445 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Thanks, Damion. You are doing good work. But, despite the prospect of sounding like a stuck record, it is not about journalists, journalism or even news organisations--it is the blind belief that ratings are the only measure of success. Most journos don't know how TV ratings and radio surveys work, but have to believe in them. I do harp on about this (most recently in the latest Listener) but it is time such a poor measure of what people actually do with media was scrutinised, to be found flawed and misleading,

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2537 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    The problem is that as I’ve read or watched news stories where I’ve actually known the facts or the subject in detail it has become very clear that the reporting of those stories in long or short form has often failed to properly inform the public. Errors of fact, errors of tone, bias. I now view almost every news item delivered by the media with deep suspicion. If the reporting of the stories where I know the facts is wrong then how can I trust the reporting of stories where I don’t know the facts.

    Hmmm. In my worser moments, I think that too. But then consider how often eye-witnesses differ in their recollections of apparent fact, or how different people can give wildly differing accounts of an event because of what matters to them. When you think about that, and remember the need for a story to be a story, I suspect our mainstream media are not too bad.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3121 posts Report Reply

  • Jo Scott,

    What an incredible piece Damian. You've brought me to tears. It's like you've read my mind. Thank you for writing it.

    Christchurch • Since Jan 2014 • 1 posts Report Reply

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