Australian media owners and journalists unite to call for laws to protect a free press

Thanks AdNews.

Media owners have united in an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking him to defend press freedom in Australia.

The “Journalism is not a Crime” letter was published in News Corp Australia newspapers, including The Australian, and Nine newspapers, including The Sydney Morning Herald.

The letter, also signed by some of the nation’s most prominent journalists, including Karen Middleton, David Marr, Kathrine Murphy, Laurie Oaks and Malcolm Farr, calls for legislation to “recognise and enshrine a positive public interest protection for whistleblowers and for journalists”….

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Sydney Boys High 1985

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I couldn’t recall Scott Morrison, our PM du jour, from my teaching at Sydney Boys High from late 1985. Still true, but I have found some evidence. Yes, he was a prefect — and the Principal there in the front row had been my Maths teacher in 1958-9.

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Why think of this today? Because last night I saw someone I do remember from SBHS 1985, a member of the Year 11 class that became the memorable Class of 1986. I might even suggest this person is rather more interesting than SM, but maybe that would be churlish. It was on last night’s The Drum on ABC News 24.

Host: Julia Baird
Panel: by Brooke Boney, Simon Holmes à Court and Samantha Maiden
Guest: Dr Sacha Molitorisz and Pete Goss
The panel discusses $4.5 billion funding for non-government schools, a no confidence motion against Peter Dutton and Australians losing trust in the government.

Sacha looked rather different in 1985 — but then, so did I! Fascinating research he’s been doing:

My expertise spans ethics, media and law, and my goal is to find answers to the question of how, in a digital age, we can shape a more ethical media landscape. At the Centre for Media Transition at UTS, my research (and teaching) areas include digital privacy and trust in news media. In 2017, I completed a PhD into the ethics of digital privacy; previously, I studied law and English Literature.

Bunnies, keep your pants on!

Great one-point win on Saturday over the St George-Illawarra Dragons, in which this man was bloody marvellous. Next week a chance to get into the Grand Final!

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The previous 48 hours, courtesy of the Daily Telegraph, were dominated by other matters. So much more important than natural disasters in South-East Asia or the Carolinas, or evn then the war in Yemen or the latest from Syria. But I digress.

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Rather taken with the approach by today’s Sydney Morning Herald though.

The high-profile Souths player at the centre of the sexting scandal is unlikely to be stood down before the preliminary final against the Roosters amid claims the lewd video chat was consensual.

While other media outlets have chosen to name the player, Fairfax Media has decided not to following legal advice….

In a bizarre twist, the woman involved in the sexting scandal has identified herself as a Roosters fan who hails from Sydney’s eastern suburbs. There is no suggestion she is trying to sabotage Souths’ run at the premiership.

She is presently holidaying in Johannesburg, South Africa, but investigators hope to interview her via a telephone hook-up in coming days to get her version of events.

The NRL, which was first made aware on Thursday of the woman’s allegations, says it is too premature and the facts too blurred to decide if the Souths player should be stood down.

Is this harassment? Gross indecency? A honey trap from a scorned admirer? A legal issue or a moral one? It remains murky at best….

So much news about the news

Here I am at City Diggers contemplating the front page of this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald.

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Probably most amazing, when you think about it, is that The Herald, The Age and stablemates still exist! I for one am glad they do. The story is Fairfax and Nine are merging. Here’s what the deal involves and what it will mean for you.

Fairfax journalists will inevitably fear for their future, given the company’s form in retrenching thousands of journalists in recent years and increasing competition from other digital media.

Even if Fairfax’s newspapers continue, for the foreseeable future, many will rightly fear that a pooling of journalists and other staff with Nine will inevitably lead to more job losses.

A loss of journalists will mean fewer people reporting on the important issues facing Australia each day, and many fear will mean a loss of diversity in media coverage.

Former Prime Mnister Paul Keating is withering:

…if in the announced arrangement, Channel Nine has a majority of the stock, Channel Nine will run the editorial policy.

The problem with this is that in terms of news management, Channel Nine, for over half a century, has never, other than displayed the opportunism and ethics of an alley cat.

There has been no commanding ethical or moral basis for the conduct of its news and information policy.

Through various changes of ownership, no one has lanced the carbuncle at the centre of Nine’s approach to news management. And, as sure as night follows day, that pus will inevitably leak into Fairfax.

For the country, this is a great pity.

But probably inevitable. Wonder what will happen to the regional Fairfax papers, such as our own Illawarra Mercury.

And then we hear Lee Lin Chin is departing SBS! Alas, alack, and oh well-a-day!

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Could all these events taken together portend the end of civilisation [correct spelling!] as we know it?

See Lee Lin Chin: Looking back on some of the ‘Queen of Australian TV’s’ memorable moments.

Time to assert the critical role of media professionals

Today for example the Sydney Morning Herald brings us an important interactive page on the 2003 invasion of Iraq — a must read. Such media voices are now under attack from the most powerful office in the world, and we must all fight back with everything we’ve got.

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Thanks to jollyjack on Deviant Art

Now for some signs of these times. First:

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD—A few minutes into his CPAC speech Friday, esteemed and honest president Donald J. Trump said people were so excited to hear him speak that, “There are lines that go back six blocks. I tell you that because you won’t read about it.”

In a sense, he’s right. You won’t read about it, because they don’t exist…

Second:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Friday hand selected news outlets to participate in an off-camera “gaggle” with reporters inside his West Wing office instead of the James S Brady Press Briefing Room.

The news outlets blocked from the press briefing include organisations who President Trump has criticised by name. CNN, BBC, The New York Times, LA Times, New York Daily News, BuzzFeed, The Hill, and the Daily Mail, were among the news outlets barred from the gathering.

Instead, the press secretary hand-picked news outlets including Breitbart News, One America News Network, The Washington Times, all news organisations with far-right leanings. Others major outlets approved included ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News, Reuters and Bloomberg…

Third:

“I can run a little hot on occasions,” he admitted at the conservative freak show known as the CPAC conference. Judging from his rare public outing on Thursday, that would be an unusual example of diplomatic understatement.

Bannon spoke disdainfully and at length about the real threat he identified facing the nation: a critical media that he likes to call “the opposition party”. “They are the corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to the economic nationalist agenda that Donald Trump has,” Bannon yelled.

Bannon clearly shares Trump’s burning sense of resentment at being excluded from the establishment. For his boss, that reached a peak with the humiliation of President Obama’s jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

For Bannon, now safely inside the West Wing, that means still seeing the world through the lens of the Breitbart website that shocked the media conscience with so much alt-right trash. At one point on Thursday, Bannon even used the phrase “we at Breitbart”, as if there were no real difference between his old job in digital far-right media and his new job as a presidential adviser.

Bannon predicted the media would fight “every day” against the Trump agenda…

Fourth:

Trump used the opening of his remarks to again denounce the media, saying many stories about his administration are “fake news” with stories that rely on anonymous sources. Trump pointed to a Washington Post story this month that cited nine current and former intelligence sources who said Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn discussed US economic sanctions on Russia with that country’s ambassador before Trump took office.

Trump said he didn’t believe there were nine sources. “They make up sources. They are very dishonest people,” Trump said. The Post’s stories helped lead to Flynn’s resignation after further disclosures that he had misled administration officials, including Vice President Pence, over the nature of his conversations.

“We are fighting the fake news,” Trump said. “It’s fake, phony, fake.”

Fifth:

President Trump’s speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor in Maryland was littered with some of the president’s favorite and frequently cited falsehoods. Here’s a roundup of 13 of his more dubious claims, listed in the order in which he made them:

“I saw one story recently where they said, ‘Nine people have confirmed.’ There are no nine people. I don’t believe there was one or two people. Nine people. . . . They make up sources.”

Trump is referring to a Washington Post article that disclosed that then-national security adviser Michael Flynn privately discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with that country’s ambassador to the United States during the month before Trump took office, contrary to public assertions by Trump officials. The Post report prompted a firestorm that led to Flynn’s firing by Trump, because it turned out that Flynn had misled Vice President Pence and other administration officials about whether he had discussed sanctions.

The article cited information provided by “nine current and former officials, who were in senior positions at multiple agencies at the time of the calls.” (Calls by the Russian ambassador are monitored by intelligence agencies.) No White House official has disputed the accuracy of the article — and indeed, it resulted in Flynn’s departure from the administration…

Sixth:

There is reason to be concerned about the integrity of American political and legal institutions as the president and his advisors have thrown them open to question and manipulation. The president seems not to have thought through how these tactics will affect the future political trajectory of the country — a fact that contains stark similarities to the way the leaderships of Egypt and Turkey have leveraged institutions to meet immediate political challenges and, in the process, consolidated the authoritarian nature of their respective political systems.

Finally, with my teaching hat on, from the International Literacy Association:

If we have time to teach our students only one thing this school year, let it be critical literacy! There are few topics more crucial for students today than those that enable them to analyze information critically.

Gone are the days when trusted teacher- and peer-edited textbooks were the main providers of knowledge. So long to a time when most fake news existed at the checkout line in supermarket tabloids. These days, our students are flooded with information, and without the proper skill set for identifying fact from fiction, it will be difficult for them to determine legitimacy. Modern media come in many different formats, including print media (books, magazines, newspapers), television, movies, video games, music, cell phones, various kinds of software, and the Internet. Knowing how to read these media critically is the key to literacy and understanding for today’s learners and information consumers…

One way is to teach students to use the 5W’s for Critical Analysis, recommended by Donald Leu, Deborah Leu, and Julie Coiro in their 2004 book, Teaching With the Internet K–12. They suggest it is helpful for students to ask the following questions while consuming information: Who is saying/writing/creating this? What was their purpose of the particular media that was used? When did they say/write/create? Why did they say/write/create it? Where can we go to check for accuracy?

Tailpiece 10am:

Part of the developing picture.

AUSTRALIA’S best-loved children’s author, Mem Fox, was left sobbing and shaken after being detained for two hours and aggressively interrogated by immigration officials at Los Angeles airport.

Fox says she’s unlikely to ever travel to the United States again after being made to feel like “a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay”.

President Donald Trump had created the climate for this sort of behaviour, she said, adding: “This is what happens when extremists take power.”…

“I am old and white, innocent and educated, and I speak English fluently,” she said. “Imagine what happened to the others in the room, including an old Iranian woman in her 80s, in a wheelchair.

“The way I was treated would have made any decent American shocked to the core, because that’s not America as a whole, it really isn’t. It’s just that people have been given permission to let rip in a fashion that is alarming.”

The irony that the two most popular of her more than 25 books published in the US, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes and Whoever You Are, are both about diversity, was not lost on her. Nor was the fact that the theme of the conference she was attending was inclusivity and diversity.

Fox has visited the US more than 100 times since 1985, and is widely known there as an author and literacy educator…