The Fourth Estate myth

At a party last week the blog fell into conversation with someone who was shocked by the Murdoch media reporting on ABC audience share and the fact that the facts in the story were not actually facts but rather a distortion of significant proportion.

The conversation rapidly became a discussion of the fourth estate concept with the blog arguing that the concept of the media as an independent, fearless fourth estate truth teller was always a myth and that the times when media had acted in that role were the exception rather than the rule. The blog has been trying for years to get one of its quotes to appear in the media. The quote is in response to the question from journalists covering that perennial story – do PR people distort media coverage and have too much influence on the media? The response: name a PR person who has done more to distort media coverage than a Northcliffe, Murdoch, Hearst, Beaverbrook or Packer. Needless to say the blog is still waiting for a journalist to use the quote. read more

When did coffee get so cool?

In 18th century London the place to go for information about stock market speculation, political gossip, news media and the latest books and plays was the coffee house. No doubt some contemporary PR-type person trumpeted that this was a new media channel which could transform communications like no other medium before and that, for a large fee, they would explain why it was important and how to use it. read more

Manufacturing ignorance

A US National Science Foundation survey recently found that a third of Americans deny the reality of evolution and believe that humans and the rest of the world’s animals have always existed in their current form and about a quarter believe the Sun revolves around the Earth.

The survey has been comparing scientific knowledge in various countries for more than a decade and tracking responses to questions about evolution, astronomy, radioactivity and other scientific facts. The questions are in true or false form and it is worth noting that some other countries do pretty badly too and that, before we scoff too loudly, we don’t know how badly Australia would fare in a similar survey although we do know, however, that the Abbott Government took more than a year to appoint a Science Minister and seems largely ignorant of the debate sparked over past decades by Vannevar Bush’s 1945 publication Science: The Endless Frontier. read more

,,,as I was saying before being rudely interrupted

For anyone wondering the blog has not been on holidays (well it has sort of) but the break in blog posts was due to some hacker rudely interrupting.

Now back up, secure and operating. thanks to the work of the blog’s inimitable technical team. The site looks a bit different and in the coming week or so there will be some more changes. In the weeks after some book reviews of new books on PR and the regular blog posts. read more

An Abbott mash up

In the past week or so it is difficult not to think of the Abbott government as some sort of mash up of the BBC TV series A Very Peculiar Practice, Tacitus and a case study of how the Grunig’s theory of asymmetric and symmetric communications works.

Evidence versus ideology

After Kevin Rudd it seemed unlikely that the words evidence-based policy would pass the lips of many politicians other than infrequently although few would have realised that the alternative, Tony Abbott’s evidence-free policy, would suddenly make it fashionable again.

Indeed, despite all the media talk about the Abbott government’s communication problems the real problem is clearly one of evidence-free ideological attitudes tinged with a fair degree of visceral nastiness. There was little or no visceral nastiness about the Napthine government but their failure on a cornerstone policy lacking any evidence base, rooted in ideology and urged on by News Corp may have lessons for the Abbott Government. In this case it was the Napthine government’s law and order policies – and those of politicians as diverse as Tony Blair, Bob Carr and hundreds of US legislators – which are both increasingly seen to be failures when the evidence is examined and losing their political effectiveness. read more

Who was right and who was wrong

If the weekend’s Victorian state election made anything totally clear it was that if you want accurate information about a likely election outcome it is probably best not to turn to most of the pundits or the media.

Right up until the last minute most of the media was saying the election was too tight to call and the result may not be known until a week or so after the election, despite the last minute polls suggesting the probability of Labor winning was at least 60% and possibly higher. Indeed, the only part of the speculation which was vaguely right was that a few close seat results won’t be known until later in the week. read more

All staffed up

A good indicator of how well a new government goes in its early days is how quickly it gets its Ministerial staffing into place, how it goes about it, how the staffers are briefed and the operational guidelines they are given.

The Howard Government may have been very successful over much of its life but it got off to a very shaky start losing Ministers, sacking Departmental Secretaries and putting in quite a lot of inexperienced staffers whose main characteristic seemed to be a distrust of their departments. A blog colleague was not surprised when talking to a new Howard staffer to be told how busy and overwhelmed the staffer was. But he was stunned when the staffer said it was because he was snowed under by the Ministerial correspondence. The blog’s colleague asked whether the department wasn’t producing things quickly enough and the staffer replied: “I couldn’t trust them to do it, I’m doing it myself.” read more

Interpreting the Victorian election sub text

The blog got an email this week from the Victorian ALP State Secretary and Campaign Drector, Noah Carroll, imploring the blog to help the cause as the election was ‘too close to call’. About the same time the blog read a background briefing from a ‘Coalition strategist’ which pointed out that the current polls may  be unreliable because the Coalition could expect to get a bigger share of the undecided voters than the polls assumed. read more

Memes and truthiness

A major Indiana University research project on how memes spread on social media has thrown unexpected light on what the US satirist, Stephen Colbert, calls ‘truthiness’ – a term defined as “the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true, rather than concepts or facts known to be true.” read more