Saturday, September 10, 2011

Criticizing the Critical Critic

He struggles with ratings both on the radio (where MTR's failed talk format will more than likely change back to music in the near future) and on the television (really, why does Channel 10 even bother?). And whilst he is believed to be widely read, both online and in print format through the Murdoch distributions, I think Bolt's power as a commentator is on the way down. Here's why:

1. He is repetitive
Bolt has his hobby horses, being
In the same way we turn off politicians who keep spouting the same message, again and again and again, Andrew Bolt is starting to sound like a broken record. And with each additional repitition of his messages more and more people will start turning off.

And whilst politicians use repetition as a way to sell their message one must remember Bolt is essentially there for entertainment purposes, and a means of selling advertising space. Repitition will not make for entertainment in the long term, and as readers drop off so will the advertising. Media organisations are there to make money and it doesn't matter who you are, if you have declining readers you will be dropped, quicker than a hot potato.

2. He is Lazy
In the recently create website The Power Index, Bolt is decribed as the number one "Megaphone". In describing his output:
Bolt blogs like a man possessed. It's not unusual for him to start posting entries before 6am and continue until midnight.
But being a man possessed, posting entries 18 hours a day, does not necessarily mean that most of this output is orginal. If you want to, take a good hard look at his blog over a 7 day period. You will find that the majority are simply lifted from other sources - be they readers providing contributors, or media types - with maybe a couple of lines at the end penned by Bolt himself.

There will only be a couple of entries per day that is diatribe from his own thoughts. This does not appear to be a hardworking commentator at work.

This laziness reduces his effectiveness as a commentator. In time this will reduce his power to influence.

3. He Lacks Detail.
It is easy to write crtically of others. Believe me I know. I do it all the time. However gathering evidence and testing that evidence takes time. Time that could be otherwise spent creating half a dozen poorly checked blogs.

Don't just take my word for it. Read about it here, here and here.

This lacking in detail trips him up from time to time, and eventually this culmination of errors will reduce his credibility as a commentator.

4. Ego
The writing was on the wall when he was lured to Channel 10 with his own TV show, The Bolt Report. When the focus moves from the issues of the day to the size of the head of the commentator the credibility gap is further enhanced.

This ego will be undergoing a check with the demise of radio segement and likely demise of his television show.

5. The Guy Is A Dick
In my opinion.

6. Change of Government
If you believe the polls and the commentary at the next federal election there will be a change in government. And if there are no surprises within the Liberal Party the next Prime Minister will be Tony Abbott.

So we will be in a position in Victoria where both the State and Federal Governments will be conservative in outlook.

So, what outrages will Bolt write about then?

No Gillard and no carbon tax. Nothing to get all steamed up about. So no confected outrage. And then nobody to take an interest in what he is writing.

Ultimately his greatest wishes will be his downfall.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Baying for Blood or Too Much Red Cordial?

My two sons had a couple of their friends for a sleep over last night. The total energy that these four kids have, with their late to bed and way too early to rise stamina, is matched only by their inability to put that energy to good use (And yes, this is a grumpy old man chastising the young 'uns of today). These four boys do remind me of the print and online media this morning, especially in the speculation, insistence and baying blood with the resignation of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister.

I was going to just attack Bolt's diatribe under the heading of Queen's Reign Is At An End, But Who Wil Be King?, but that's a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. What would you expect from someone like Bolt, especially after his boss had a run-in with Gillard earlier in the week?

And someone with Bolt's mentality was always going to go in hard for calls of her resignation, even if his reasoning is half-arsed, at best. What you are less likely to expect are the calls coming from those who really should know better.

I'll start at the Fairfax publication in Melbourne, The Age.

Michael Gordin tries hard in A Matter of Judgement, but if you are going to use a John Howard quote about Gillard, or a quote from Milne quoting Bolt in The Australian, you've lost any respect that you were trying to build earlier in your column.

Lenore Taylor's column Panic Leads to Speculation That Stirs the Winds of Change is ultimately a bit of a nothing piece, as it seems to state that a) Gillard wont resign, b) no-one's going to push her to resign and c) Labor has a lot of work ahead of it. OK. Thanks very much for stating the obvious. If you however add the words panic and speculation hopefully it turn a nothing piece into a, well, another nothing piece.

Most of the rest of The Age, including the Editorial, appear to be more balanced, indicating that whilst there are major issues for the Government to deal with, they will be dealing with them with Gillard at the helm.

So let's move to the mighty Murdoch Empire, and its national flagship, The unAustralian.

Sid Maher - Labor Leadership Ructions Loom Large
Dennis Shanahan - In This Stench Who Would Want To Take On Leadership
Peter Van Onselen - Respected Cleanskin Might Save The Furniture
Tom Dusevic - Malaysia Solution Fiasco Leaves Gillard's Government All At Sea
Jennifer Hewitt - MPs Getting Ready To Think Unthinkable
Paul Kelly - Multiple Disasters for Julia Gillard

And if you read all of these articles there is more hope than anything else that Julia Gillard is replaced as Prime Minister.

Now for those of you living under a rock these last few months, you may wonder why our national broadsheet seems to have it in for Gillard. Certainly one could say that there is no love lost between the Gillard Government and The unAustralian. You have this dummy spit back in June by The unAustralian after they were denied a "scoop" due the Defence Minister deciding to publicly release information needed for this "scoop" (See my Blog entry about this.) There have been ongoing tensions between the two groups as the editorial bent of The unAustralian appears to be firmly against the Gillard Government, and most notably in respect of the issue of Carbon Tax.

Things stepped up a notch with the Milne article early this week, the "series of phone calls" and the apology issued by The unAustralian, combined with the pulling of articles by the Bolt bloke (See my blog entry about this earlier this week).  It's not too often that Murdoch press has to back down on an issue, and even less often when a grovelling apolgy is issued. This was one of those times. It is within this context that one should view the mild hysteria being displayed in today's The unAustralian. It also explains why this piece of crap was written today by Ewin Hannan - 8am Call That Put Julia Gillard's Old News On The Front Page.

Now there are problems for the Gillard Government. They unfortunately created the mess that was called The Malaysian Solution and they will need to clean this up now that the High Court has effectively blocked this as an avenue to deal with assylum seekers. And whilst Gillard's comments about the judgement have sought to inflame the anti-Julia brigade, I actually think that Paul Kelly is sort of correct in his article Argument May be Unwise But It Is Sound (though I suspect that this has been edited from what originally appeared online last night).  I actually have no problem with public commentary by a Prime Minister in respect of a court decision, and think that the confected outrage is just more of the same from those wanting to compose the obituary of the Gillard Government.

And whilst pokies reform and carbon tax are to other policy areas that the Government will need to concentrate on, their biggest issue is dealing with their problem of effective communication. Their media strategy needs to be rewritten and those advising the Prime Minister and the government on communications need to be replaced. The Government has achieved a lot and will more than likely achieve a lot before the next election, however the manner in which the effectively communicate these messages is poor.

Not that it helps when half the media are jumping around as though they have drunk too much red cordial.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Barrie and Bolt - Different yet Similar

I am no fan of Andrew Bolt. His regular rantings, be they on radio, print or television show you what happens when poor journalism meets inflated ego. Whether it's his ponderings on the climate change (warmists!), the Gillard Government (disgraceful), the stolen generation (treading carefully around current legal issues) or whatever else he decides to deride on any particular day, you can be sure that his comments are couched in a way to gain maximum bang for buck. And I guess that is why he is employed by his various employers, as controversy almost guarantees increased reader/listener/viewer-ship, which is hoped makes the advertisers happy. But you still can't get away from poor journalism.

I am also no fan of Barrie Cassidy, he of the ABC, for pretty much the same reason - poor journalism. He may be a veteran journalist, but in my view longevity does not necessarily equal quality. Just look at Piers Akerman. Or Terry McCrann. And his current roles of the host of Insiders on Sunday mornings, combined with regular offerings on The Drum, online, are showing increasing signs of tiredness, resulting in poor journalism.

It may not be all Barrie's fault. Maybe the budget cuts at the ABC mean that the news and current affairs staff are all stretched much too thinly. Why on earth is Barrie doing both Insiders and Offsiders? I don't care who you are, being seen to cover both Politics and Sport competently on a Sunday morning is a very hard ask. And maybe the articles on The Drum are seen as simply contractual obligations that need to be fulfilled. I don't know. And quite frankly I don't care why. Whether it is of the ABC's making or whether it's Barrie himself, the end result is poor journalism.

My last two media rants have been directed at these two journalists. Andrew's dummy spit earlier this week caused a flurry of activity in the Twittersphere and resulted in many inches of blog writing, including my blog entry. And I had blogged about Barrie's recent posting on The Drum, here.

Barrie's latest offering on The Drum can be read in full here. It seeks to try to create the story of who the next leader will be for the Federal Labor Party once Abbott apparently becomes Prime Minister.

Respected journalists do not  produce articles of this poor standard. The only actual facts in this article are from the quoting of polling results for Victoria (relating to state politics, not Federal). The rest is a combination of rehash, speculation, wishful thinking and fantasy.

Now the Craig Thomson "affair" was titillating and allowed the Opposition to become very animated during Question Time last week. But looking at the big picture this was nothing other than a sideshow. This in itself will not bring the Government down. And I have previously discussed the concept of a person being seen as innocent until proven guilty. Barrie had a go at this issue in his last article, and I think he may want this to have a little bit more traction before he ultimately lets go of it.

The High Court decision is a blow to the Government. There is no question of this. A lot of political energy had been expended on the "Malaysian Solution", and the High Court's rejection of it is not only embarrassing for the Government, but also seeks to highlight the issues of offshore processing. I was interested in reading Andrew Elder's blog entry about this at Politically Homeless as he is/was a fan of the "Malaysian Solution". He brings up a couple of thought provoking points concerning the development of a regional solution to deter what is in essence people smuggling. However one wonders whether the time, money and political capital being expended on this issue is really necessary. Or actually achieving anything.

Whilst it is embarrassing for the Government, they are hardly the first Government to be knocked back by the High Court. Nor is it the first time that the High Court has turned perceived established principles on their head (Read the Mabo Case or any number of decisions that have gone against the Australian Taxation Office). The test of any Government, and especially this one, is how they pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start right over again. It will be interesting to see what their Plan B is, or even if they have one (or actually need one).

Getting back to the article being disected, Barrie then writes this sentence:
It goes to competence and leaves the public wondering whether they can ever get anything right.
Easy on there, Barrie. One swallow does not make a summer. Or are you referring to the Building Education Revolution (97% success) or their continued ability to successfully negotiate their way through Parliament as a minority Government, or their earlier success in sidestepping of the GFC? Yes they can't get a bloody thing right.

Then Barrie goes off with the fairies and brings up polling of the Victorian political landscape and somehow manages to show because the public apparently think Ted Bailleau's doing an OK job this translates federally to Abbott getting in as Prime Minister.

Obviously there is a huge amount of evidence that Barrie has in order to state that:
Undoubtedly, much of Labor's sudden demise in Victoria is a branding issue. The state parties are being dragged down under the weight of an unpopular Federal Government.
I am sorry. This is nothing other than BS. You are adding one and one together and coming up with thirty three. With apologies to Rod Tidwell, "Show me the evidence!"

What then follows is an analysis of what apparently are the top two candidates for the position of Federal Labor Leader once Gillard "goes". Bill Shorten (yes, of course) and Mark Butler (WTF!?).

The piece then finishes, rather curiously, with this:
It will come as no comfort to the current leadership team that key people spend their private moments in such musings. But given the events of this week, they can be thankful those musings are essentially private.
This final paragraph reminds me of the keynote address by Jay Rosen recently at the Melbourne Writers' Festival.  You can read the transcript here, on The Drum. I won't spell out why Barrie's conclusion to this article is symptomatic of what is wrong with his journalism. Jay spells that out more clearly than I could ever hope to.

Barrie and Bolt. Different style of journalism. Same outcome.