journalism

Photo of the Day

Liz Smith with Donald, Ivana and Ivanka Trump in 1987. Credit Tom Gates/Getty Images

Liz Smith

“The Grand Dame of Dish”

She was the most powerful gossip columnist in the 1980s. A tabloid celebrity herself, she could turn anyone into a star overnight. Celebrity culture would be nothing like it is today were it not for Liz Smith, known better as the Grand Dame of Gossip. For decades, her column was the only thing that mattered in showbiz and even today, at 94, she’s still writing about the comings and goings of the rich and famous.

From the time she began her first job at a New York City studio rag called Modern Screen, the renowned journalist has had a ringside seat for every celebrity story and scandal since World War II. Smith, a native Texan and graduate of the University of Texas, arrived in New York in 1949 with $50 to her name and no ticket home. Turns out she didn’t need one.

After working at some of the country’s top publications in various roles, Smith became a new kind of gossip columnist – one known for wit, humour, extensive legwork and fairness.

Smith became a celebrity herself due to her syndicated gossip column, starting out by ghostwriting a gossip column for Hearst newspapers in the 1950s and landing her own self-titled gossip column at the New York Daily News in 1976.

At the peak of her career, she was syndicated in more than 75 newspapers worldwide, and she eventually went to the New York Post, which let her go in 2009 when she was 86 years old.

She opened up about what it was like to dismissed by Rupert Murdoch, which she said “hurt my feelings and stature as a columnist.

“I was more shocked than anyone,” she said. “I thought I was indispensable.”

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Photo of the Day

Hunter rode the British made motorcycle BSA A65 Lightning while researching Hell’s Angels. When he lived in Big Sur in the early 1960s, he rode his Lightning so much he was known as “The Wild One of Big Sur”.

“Some May Never Live, but the Crazy Never Die”

Hunter S. Thompson

He was a gun-loving, hard-drinking ‘outlaw journalist’ with a taste for illegal substances.

Hunter S. Thompson reached the peak of his literary career in the mid-Seventies after his books, Hell’s Angels and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas were published to great success.

His writing broke from conventional reporting and straddled both fiction and non-fiction, a unique approach which turned him into a counter-culture icon and won him legions of fans. His trademark reporting style became what’s now called gonzo journalism, in which he made himself a central character in his own stories. And a character he was: his stories often centred on his panache for excessive consumption while surveying America’s political and cultural landscape in a way that no one had before.

Asked to list what they require before commencing a day’s work, most would probably list things like coffee, toast and perhaps a cigarette or two, but not Hunter S. Thompson, who needed a kaleidoscopic bevvy of cocaine, Chartreuse and hot tubs in order to get his creative juices flowing.

His daily routine was charted by E. Jean Carroll in the first chapter of her 1994 book HUNTER: The Strange and Savage Life of Hunter S. Thompson, and remains an object of fascination, awe and horror to this day.

Thompson, who committed suicide at 67, was of course known for his heavy drinking and drug habit and they were both ingrained in his writing. He once said of them:  “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” In spite of his well-deserved reputation for substance abuse, Thompson was an assiduous worker with a writing career that spanned six decades and included 16 books and a litany of short stories and articles.

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Is Ian Wishart a politician or a journalist?

Bloggers wanting to be journalists.  Journalists running blogs.  The friction as to what constitutes “real news” has been debated for many years.

But what happens when a known journalist, an acknowledged one, is drifting into politics, but does not reveal this?   Then what the journalist writes about politics or the party is unlikely to be impartial.  To not allow readers to know you have an interest is very much like a politician, but less like a journalist.

Ian Wishart of  Investigate Magazine fame was approached by the Conservative Party to run for the 2014 campaign, but he declined.  We know he is a Christian conservative, so in general he would be aligned with the party’s ideas.

As covered this morning, we’ve seen him lend a hand by publicising “The Great Kiwi Poll” which was just the Conservative party itself really.  Ian supporting a cause that he believes  in doesn’t make his work any less valid.

Unless, of course, instead of being a reporter, you turn into someone to whom hard facts are suddenly just approximations to be bent at will.

There is no doubt in my mind that Wishart knew the Conservative party was behind the mysterious poll.  And so, promoting it on a site that has been a site where he’s been selling investigative journalism and news is a little cheeky.

But I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.  The poll was meant to be some kind of mystery poll with an aim to stop respondents skewing their responses. Read more »

Conservative party nearly breaks 5% in poll

Whaleoil follows political parties, other media and people of interest as part of staying on top of what is happening.  One of those is Ian Wishart’s website for Investigate Magazine.  He normally only publishes two or three articles a month.  Often these are to push his own work.  Fair enough.

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What is driving the likes of my very close friend Brian Edwards nuts?

Here is the first sentence from an Associated Press report which I’ve just finished reading in the online edition of today’s Herald:

“WikiLeaks has offered to help the likes of Google and Apple identify the software holes used by purported CIA hacking tools – and that puts the tech industry in something of a bend.”

Now I don’t know who penned this story but it wouldn’t surprise me if the author was a Kiwi.

Why? Because “the likes of” has almost entirely replaced “like” , meaning “similar to”, in New Zealand journalism and, I fear, in everyday speech.

So why am I getting my knickers in a twist over this? Because “the likes of” is such an unnecessary and ugly construction compared to the simpler, more practical and more elegant “like”. Take this example:

1. Broadcasters the likes of Paul Henry, John Campbell and Mary Wilson are paid huge sums of money.

2. Broadcasters like Paul Henry, John Campbell and Mary Wilson are paid huge sums of money. Read more »

Underpaying journalists the root of most of its problems

Despite making up most of the workforce, female journalists in New Zealand are being paid significantly less than their male colleagues, according to a new study.

The survey, part of the 2016 Worlds of Journalism Study, shows the median after-tax salary of female journalists was 26 per cent lower than that of men of equal rank and experience.

The research, made up of interviews of 539 Kiwi journalists, found women were also disadvantaged in terms of promotion, with only half of men working in non-management roles, while two-thirds of women hold non-management roles.

The survey also found journalists in New Zealand feel they are working longer hours, and are under more pressure, both ethically and resource-wise, than two years ago.

“It is concerning that journalists feel these changes have affected news quality, with a perception that the credibility of journalism, ethical standards and freedom to make editorial decisions have all fallen,” study lead and Massey University head of journalism James Hollings said.

So if journalists themselves feel the news quality has dropped, that their credibility is lower, that their ethics are eroding and that they are just cogs in the machine, who is really responsible for this? Read more »

Shouldn’t NZ’s leading academics be objective and non-political?

In New Zealand, we have a problem with both journalism and academia. Both careers have historically been all about balance and objectivity but more and more of our leading academics are involving themselves in politics and promoting themselves as experts to the media even when their fields of expertise have nothing to do with the topic they are talking about.

Two terrorist sympathisers who have been held up as experts on the Israel-Palestine problem by the New Zealand Herald are both University of Auckland Dance Studies lecturers. Yes really. Even better another one is a senior lecturer at the Massey University School of People, Environment and Planning. Perhaps they all have a cunning plan for peace that involves dancing around trees as they plant them on the border?

Dance Studies

…Quite how these academics qualify as experts – or even objective commentators – on the complex Israeli-Palestinian question is a moot point. There is much to contest in the letter and numerous factual inaccuracies. What is clear, however, is the academics’ eschewing of Western Liberal values for support and appeasement of terrorists.

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This too will fall on our media’s deaf ears

“so-called ‘credible’ journalists”

Hurunui District Council has been appalled with the inaccurate reporting that has been carrying on in relation to Tuesday’s plantation fire – and the negative economic consequences that this irresponsible, sensationalist misreporting has caused to the small village of Hanmer Springs.

The imagery from the fire at its peak was very powerful – and as most of this was taken at dawn, the bright orange flames against the silhouetted background was a spectacular sight and made for pretty compelling viewing.

It is true that access to the single-lane Waiau Ferry Bridge and the portion of narrow road near this area was closed on Tuesday morning, only reopening to stop-go control from around 1pm that afternoon – the fire came very close to this area and in fact crews remain in that area keeping a dampening down vigil as this is the main access road into the Hanmer Basin. The stop-go controls also remain in order to provide a level of safety to those crews working in this area.

But scaremongering information continued to grab headlines yesterday (Thursday) with reports that strong winds had caused the fire to flare up again, with 15 metre flames shooting into the air, local residents being evacuated and eight helicopters doing their best in the trying conditions. Imagery from Tuesday’s fire was used to accompany these extremely exaggerated reports.

They may not be in their underwear, bashing angrily on their keyboards from their bedrooms, but that doesn’t make the “modern journalist” any less capable of feeling disconnected from the real world; the world where actions have consequences.  Read more »

Is NBR the HuffPo of New Zealand?

A few years back I was asked by NBR if they could republish some of my content.

I said sure, $500 per post. For some strange and unknown reason I never heard back from them and they have never republished any of my posts.

However, they do republish posts from others, most notably David Farrar and Brian Edwards, and occasionally others. I am pretty certain that they don’t pay them as they would no doubt have been told that the only recompense was the kudos of having the NBR republish to their shrinking and small audience.

Turns out that is exactly the same business model that Huffington Post uses, making millions off of the back of free content.

I love this question,” said Stephen Hull, the editor-in-chief of Huffington Post UK, when Steve Hewlett asked him on Radio 4’s Media Show yesterday why he doesn’t pay his writers.

And this is the answer Hull apparently loves to give:

“If I was paying someone to write something because I want it to get advertising, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. When somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real, we know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of.”

Yes, a man who has literally made a career out of being paid to write and edit said this.

Your mole wonders how far the miserly head HuffPo honcho takes his logic. Presumably he can’t go out to eat at restaurants, because the food the (paid) chefs cook him is inauthentic. And when he’s ill, he must have to research his symptoms online instead of visiting a GP, because their salaries mean the diagnoses they give aren’t real. He must have to walk to work because of all those pesky salaried workers driving tube trains and buses, ruining the authenticity of the daily commute.

Maybe we’re being harsh on Hull, who doubtless draws no salary himself. Evidently he is just a lonely advocate for full communism who has accidentally found himself working for a global telecommunications behemoth. Poor man; poorer writers.

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