Dec 182012
newspapers are dying as the media business models move online

Brother’s plea shows up online failings crows the Sydney Morning Herald over social media’s role in misidentifying the perpetrator of the Sandy Hook school shooting.

The problem for the SMH is that social media wasn’t responsible for the story. As the Washington Post reported, CNN and various other outlets misidentified the shooter as his brother who had to take to social media to correct the record.

For the mainstream media, the Sandy Hook shooting was not their finest hour; not only did they misidentify Ryan Lanza as the shooter, but they mistakenly reported his mother had worked at the school. When the Daily Mail does a better analysis of the story than many outlets, you know something is wrong.

Something is certainly wrong at Fairfax as the cutting of resources results in the Sydney Morning Herald being three days behind the story and factually wrong on key aspects – not to mention adding a smug headline that is embarrassingly incorrect.

While the writer of the SMH article should be held to account for sloppy work and poor research, the real responsibility for this embarrassment lies with the paper’s editors and management who should be ensuring what appears under the masthead is accurate and reliable.

Both The Age and Sydney Morning Herald are essential to the fabric of their respective cities, this story is a good example of the important role the SMH has in shining light on the arcane dealings of the city’s business community. Fairfax can, and should, do far better than a poor, badly researched story on social media.

Ironically, the mis-identification story quotes media academic Julie Posetti as saying “anyone with an internet connection could now contribute to and comment on the breaking news cycle without going through the filters of the traditional media.”

At Fairfax, those filters are broken with the breathing space from selling its New Zealand digital operation, the company’s management has an opportunity to fix their credibility problem and focus on its core business.

  3 Responses to “Poor journalism and social media”

  1. Fairfax are to the media sector what Harvey Norman are to retail; a formerly canny operator who has ignored the changing environment until it is too late.

    It must be a tough call to be sitting in the Fairfax HQ offices faced with declining physical sales and the majority of non-sales revenue looking shaky because its heavy reliance on real estate advertising.

    What do you do?

    Well, without harking back too much to Woodward and Bernstein, the level of political and industry corruption in Australia is sometimes breathtaking. Perhaps rather than devoting the excessive Domain section trying to persuade me to take out leverage to buy declining assets, how about some harder-hitting investigative work?

    The Craig Thomson investigation was good work by journalists, for example.

    Perhaps that’s where the future of papers like the SMH lies; cut down on the resources producing candyfloss and hire/train more old-school rottweilers who hunt down the facts of a story. I can get my Hollywood/X-Factor/restaurant review fixes from multiple other free sources. What I’d be prepared to pay my $40 a month for is a serialised quality investigation into one of the big corruption cases going on in the city, and not just the repeating of the police press releases or court report.

    News is a market. Give people what they want AND are prepared to pay for and you’ve got a thriving business. Fairfax is failing on both counts currently.

  2. TNA, I think you’re on the money. Fairfax and others need to deliver news that’s relevant to their markets – certainly uncritical regurgitations of real estate agent and property developer media releases are not the future.

    There’s no doubt though that their costs are too high and it’s been a good exercise to flush out some of the older journos who had become furniture. Unfortunately they also got rid of their corporate memory and editorial expertise.

    If they were really looking at cutting costs then they need to be looking at their executive team.

    What amazes me with media organisations are the masses of managers who don’t seem to do that much. I’m convinced Fairfax, and the ABC, could cull two-thirds of them and output quality would probably improve.

    Of course in this age of rampant managerialist corporatism, the idea of sacking empire building, value destroying executives is anathema to the bean counters.

  3. It’s not often I can quote and agree with a Socialist;
    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something , when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”
    Upton Sinclair

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: