All the news that’s fit (and not fit) to print: new buzzwords in journalism

read all about it“It’s not change. It’s a f*cking revolution,” said a media analyst in the brilliant New York Times documentary Page One.

He was referring of course to how the online world has ripped up the traditional business model of newspapers replacing highly profitable print advertising and classifieds ads (the so-called “rivers of gold”) with cheap, interactive and intuitive online offerings.

Fairfax journalist Pam Williams did a brilliant job telling this story in her book “Killing Fairfax” – reviewed here – but is by no means the whole story.

The wheels of change continue to spin and at an even faster rate.

Two of the hottest and most provocative concepts becoming entrenched in the new age of publishing are “native advertising” and “corporate journalism”.

‘Native advertising’ – where paid-for, sponsored or branded content is produced and published on news sites to have the look and feel of a genuine article  – was the focus of a recent episode of the ABC’s Media Watch 

“Corporate journalism” – content produced by an in-house editorial team focusing on issues that matter to the corporation and its stakeholders – was in the spotlight following the launch of ANZ Bank’s new website BlueNotes in April, billed as “the first corporate digital publication for news, opinion and insight of its type in the Asia-Pacific region”.

The launch of BlueNotes sparked healthy debate on Twitter kicked off by Australian Financial Review columnist Christopher Joye who wrote that the ANZ site was likely to be “part bank brand-building, marketing and spin, opening up a new channel through which to project ANZ’s voice; and part bona-fide research and insight that will be of value to ANZ’s constituencies”.

What BlueNotes was unlikely to be, Joye wrote, was independent journalism of the sort produced by Fairfax and other traditional independent media. Nor would it be an “intellectual free-for-all that interrogates issues and disseminates opinion on topics germane to ANZ’s customers, but which can also conflict with ANZ’s profit motive”.

I tweeted Joye’s article and said that I agreed with him that BlueNotes is “not really journalism” to which former AFR senior journalist Andrew Cornell, the managing editor of BlueNotes, responded that it then begged the question: “What really is journalism?” and…was it restricted to “no-for-profits?” (A cheeky remark surely alluding to the fact that once-powerful media empires can’t seem to make a buck out of journalism anymore).

Cornell is a firm believer that corporate journalism – of the kind produced by his team – is the future of business journalism. It was a remark he repeated often in his last few weeks at the AFR.

twitter conversation1Amanda Gome, a former colleague of mine at Private Media and Fairfax, and now head of strategic content & digital media at ANZ, tweeted that BlueNotes was “new journalism” or “corporate publishing” – (and in another tweet, that it was definitely not native advertising).

twitter conversation2

Paul Edwards head of corporate communications at ANZ said if the site “started doing ads” then it would “fail”. Rather, he said, it aims to “engage thought leaders not sell stuff”.

twitter conversation3

On reflection, I agree with Christopher Joye that there is merit in what ANZ is doing with BlueNotes.

The views of its experienced executives, economists and commentators while slanted towards the bank’s view of the world,  are insightful and important (though I would argue they are better served as part of a balanced article in the mainstream media drawing on the views of others as well).

Only time will tell how many people find value in its offering, but it should find a niche among the myriad of online news and commentary sites finding an audience in Australia ranging from academic sites like The Conversation to mummy blogger uber-site Mamamia.

In its defence, corporate journalism like BlueNotes does not attempt to hide the fact that is an ANZ-produced publication, focusing on issues that are of important to the bank, its shareholders and clients.

But native advertising is less honest, muddying the waters between news and commercial interests and breaking down the traditional editorial division between church (editorial) and state (advertising).

Farhad Manjoo, a journalist with the Washington Post wrote of the deceptive quality of native ads that while they “usually carry a tag identifying them as ‘sponsored,’ they appear alongside and share the look and feel of the search results, tweets, status updates, blog posts and other content that you don’t immediately suspect of containing paid messages”.

He makes the point that there is a place for native advertising provided that it is clearly branded as sponsored content (he mentioned a story paid for by Toyota about 20 coolest hybrid animals to promote its hybrid cars that ran on BuzzFeed as a good example) but is sceptical of how this will play out over time.

buzfeed

The Buzz Feed ad/content created for Toyota

Native ads he says, “create incentives for misbehavior by advertisers, publishers and services like Facebook—and, over the long run, the incentive structure is sure to translate into looser disclosure standards and generally trickier content”.

The agenda of BlueNotes on the other hand is all in the name – unless of course you’re looking for a Miles Davis record.

Advertisements

A glimpse of the real Jimmy Savile -12 years ago

This, for me, is the moment, 12 years ago, that Jimmy Savile, revealed to the world that he was not one of Britain’s most-loved entertainers and charity fund-raisers, but an evil paedophile:

This is a still shot taken from a documentary by celebrated interviewer and documentary film maker Louis Theroux called “”When Louis met Jimmy” filmed in 2000.

In light of the hundreds of allegations of rape and abuse of children made against Savile, the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) re-broadcast the documentary.

(You can watch the whole thing on Daily Motion)

Apart from showing Savile to be completely eccentric (he had no stove in his flat, smokes a cigar while exercising on his treadmill, never has guests around, prefers sleeping in a minivan to his Highland cottage), manipulative (he turns a question from Theroux about a secret stash of alcohol into an accusation that he may not be a teetotaler) and disturbed (he turned his dead mother’s bedroom into a Norman Bates-like mausoleum complete with her dry-cleaned dresses hanging up in the closet and earlier tells the cameraman that while working as a dance hall manager in the 1950s he liked to “tie people up” that were causing trouble), there are many clues, which in hindsight, point to the hundreds of accusations that emerged a year after Savile’s death.

And so to this photo and the expression it captured.

It comes towards the end of a the hour-long documentary  as Theroux and Savile sit side-by-side on a train.

The discussion turns to Savile’s relationships with children.

Theroux asks Savile why he has said in the past that he hates children.

Savile’s response is that by saying he hates them: “it puts a lot of salacious tabloid people off the hunt”.

Theroux’s response is to ask Savile if this served to put and end to questions about “Is he or is he not a paedophile?”

“Yes,” says Savile. “How does anyone know whether I am or not? Nobody knows whether I am or not. I know I am not.”

Theroux says: “To be honest that makes you sound more suspicious.”

“Well that’s my policy,” Savile replies, shaking his head.

“And it’s worked a dream.”

After a moment’s thought, Theroux asks: “Why have you said in interviews you don’t have emotions?”

“Because if you say have emotions you have to explain them for two hours.”

Savile yawns and adds:

“The truth is I am very good at masking them.”

There is silence. The camera zooms in and crops Savile’s face.

And there’s THAT expression.

Savile looks towards the floor, his eyes lowered in shame and bewilderment.

Perhaps, at that moment he is remembering what he has done to all those innocent young people and who he really is – a sick, lonely old man.