josh rosner

Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

JOURNALISM’S LOSS: VALE MICHAEL HASTINGS

In Journalism, United States of America on June 19, 2013 at 7:30 am

Speaking truth to power, never backing down, and hunting down a story until there is nothing more to tell are journalistic attributes in hasty decline in this era of citizen journalism, gossip tv and a demanding online news culture. Andy Warhol’s maxim that everyone gets fifteen minutes of fame sounds quaint today. The Internet has the ability to make superstars out of all of us, whether we are singers like Justin Bieber or someone with a smart phone and mid-level editing skills. Some people, like the late Michael Hastings, simply seek to tell stories that need to be told, caring little for the trappings of fame that might accompany the task.

hastings Michael Hastings became famous after his 2010 Rolling Stone profile of General Stanley McChrystal, which ended with the general being recalled to Washington then given the boot by Obama. You can read it here. It is, without any doubt, a brilliant piece of immersion journalism and an extraordinary piece of writing. For obvious reasons, it was compulsory reading for my journalism students in 2011. But he was also a prolific wordsmith; from big stories to small, from wars to politicians. The topic was irrelevant. The search for truth was everything.

In February 2012 Hastings wrote an obituary, published in Rolling Stone of the New York Times journalist, Anthony Shadid, who was killed while covering the conflict in Syria. Now, in a cruel irony, journalists are writing Hastings’ obituary – a life senselessly ended at the painfully young age of 33. Life sometimes has a way of laughing right in your face.

There is little need – or desire – to labour over a lengthy obituary of Michael Hastings. I didn’t know him. It didn’t matter. I knew his work well. I’ve read his books. I read his journalism. I followed his career. He was the kind of journalist other journalist aspire to be, but never quite make it.

His editor at Buzzfeed best summed up the loss: “Michael was a great, fearless journalist with an incredible instinct for the story, and a gift for finding ways to make his readers care about anything he covered from wars to politicians. He wrote stories that would otherwise have gone unwritten, and without him there are great stories that will go untold.”

I hope somewhere out there a journalism student is sitting in class, learning and practicing their craft, aspiring to be like Michael Hastings. The world can only hope.

CAN WIKILEAKS SAVE JOURNALISM AND DEMOCRACY?

In Australian Culture and Society, Journalism on October 7, 2011 at 8:19 am

In December 2010 I gave an academic paper to the Journalism Education Association of Australia (JEAA) Conference at UTS, Sydney. Although it has taken almost a year (with some drama that resulted in me withdrawing it during the peer-review process from a different journal before offering it to the one that published it) I’m pleased to see it finally published. Particularly given some of the issues I tackle are starting to get ‘old news’. Any feedback or commentary is most welcome.

The link my article in Global Media Journal is here.

QUALITY JOURNALISM MISSING DURING FLOOD COVERAGE

In Journalism on January 14, 2011 at 4:26 am

With the Christmas and New Year break still in full swing, and the first semester of 2011 not commencing until 7 February, I find myself increasingly working from home rather than making the drive into campus, where distractions abound. At home, I can work for a few hours and then take a break, make a sandwich and a cup of tea, and sit and watch daytime TV. Could there be anything more genial?

The problem I have faced since this new year announced its arrival is that every time I take a break from my work and turn on the box, I encounter footage of the devastation that has befallen our northern brothers and sisters.

Before I am shouted down and accused of lacking tact (a valid accusation), political correctness (God forbid) and a heart of stone (all the better to deflect the slings and arrows…..), let me preface the comments to follow by saying this: I am not immune to the emotional consequences of the floods. I am not so callous as to not give a damn about the tragic and senseless loss of life that has ensued. Were I am man of faith, I’d pray – for those still living through this nightmare and for the souls of those now departed – but if I did, it would be hypocritical and hollow. I live a 1,200km drive or a 100 minute flight from Brisbane. Travel up to help is not a feasible option. In any case, what Queensland needs are people with expertise in engineering, health, medicine, water, food, etc. They don’t need another journalist voyeuristically taking notes and imagery on an i-Phone before he files a story from the safety and comfort of a hotel room. Instead, I made two donations. $50 to the Red Cross (you can make a donation here) and the same amount to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal (you can make a donation here -$54,733,396 raised as of 14 January).

Which is a neat segue into my real argument. Every time I turn on the box I am bombarded with images of the devastation and destruction wrought by the flood waters. The images I can handle. The accompanying banal commentary in the guise of serious journalism is a different matter.

It’s long been a problem of the 24-hour news cycle that every moment of airtime must be devoted to news – regardless of its significance or ‘newsworthiness’. And yet, even with a story like flooding which is constantly evolving – and therefore, one might think constantly newsworthy – journalists have managed to take the art of the succinct, insightful interview to a new low. The same interviews are shown over and over. There’s air-time to fill. The same footage of flood waters is aired over and over. When a fresh, new interview subject is found, the same redundant, banal, boring questions are asked. Then, that interview is aired over and over.

Last Monday while watching a morning news program I will refrain from naming and shaming, I saw an interview with a young girl who intelligently and emotionally described her family’s evacuation from their home. Three days later, watching the same morning news program, the same interview was aired again – no consumer advice that it was three days old and the network was trying desperately to find ways to fill the airways.

In the evenings, as I sat to watch some of my favourite shows – and here, alas, our national broadcaster was the greatest instigator – I found instead the stations had canceled regular programming in favour of continuous coverage of the floods. More repetitive footage. More devastatingly amateurish interviews. More insignificant opinion.

It got me thinking. Were I amidst a disaster or tragedy, during which my very comprehension of the world around me was shattered and my raw, very personal emotional response could not be contained, would I really want a television crew filming my every move; my every tear, as my heart was ripped from my chest by forces beyond my control; beyond my comprehension?

I seriously doubt it.

In the future, journalism educators at universities across Australia will use the coverage of the floods as a case study in how to take a respectable career and make a mockery of it.

ROSS CAMERON ON WIKILEAKS

In Australian Politics on January 13, 2011 at 1:46 am

I never imagined the first article I linked to by another writer would be by a disgraced former Liberal MP. Nonetheless, Ross Cameron’s opinion piece in today’s National Times reflects not only my own sentiments towards Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, but it is also an excellent piece of writing.

In November last year I delivered a paper to the Journalism Educators’ Association Conference at UTS, Sydney, titled: ‘Can WikiLeaks Save Journalism and Democracy?‘ My broad argument is a simple one and it mostly reflects the views of Ross Cameron.

WikiLeaks is here to stay. Like it or not. If not WikiLeaks then another so-called ‘transparency-democracy’ website with a similar approach to the secrets of sovereign nations and the ‘elites’ who lead them. WikiLeaks is good for journalism – particularly print journalism – because it decreases the massive costs of investigative journalism and it removes much of the threat of legal consequence in reporting ‘secrets’.

Swiss theoretical philosopher Dale Jacquette formulated a ‘fundamental justificatory principle’ for professional journalism. The principle states that:

Journalists are morally committed to maximally relevant truth-telling in the   public interest and for the public good.’ (See Jacquette, D. (2005).                   Journalistic Ethics: Moral Responsibility in the Media. Upper Saddle River: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

If we accept Jacquette’s principle as being reflective of the broad intent of journalism (and I do), then the public good dictates that not only is it morally permissible for the mainstream, traditional media to report on secret documents published by WikiLeaks, it is morally obligatory for journalists to do so. If journalists are not permitted to do their job freely, unhindered, then the very foundations of democracy will crumble.

That is my argument. I’m still searching for a publisher for my paper, but I will provide a link to it here once that occurs.

You can read Ross Cameron’s insightful piece here.