Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Picket fences, Miranda Devine, Federal Cabinet’s one woman, and Team Sports.

September 24, 2013

I was fascinated (as I often am) by the weekend newspaper, which has, to quote Ogden Nash, “all the gruesome fascination of something that fell or jumped from the thirtieth floor and lit on a picket fence.

In this case, particularly by  “Sorry Ita, but Bishop’s no token woman.”  From The Sunday Times (Western Australia)  (“Insight” P.63 22.09.2013) – Miranda Devine’s blog, online at the (Australian) Telegraph:

If it were voiced by “First Dog on the Moon”     I would know it was satire.  Unfortunately, it is printed in a Western Australian newspaper and, from the comments permitted to remain on her blog, I think she is serious.  Please read it before continuing (should it disappear, let me know and I will post a jpeg of the newspaper page.)

If you are too busy – in essence, she suggests that there is only one woman “ready” for a Federal Cabinet Ministry because too few of the women in politics have been  involved in team sports, so they are not “Team Players.”

For non-Australian readers, you might need to know that:

1. The generation of men in power here come from a background where “Team Sports” means foot-egg and cricket.  This generation tends to like strong women as long as they are in a subservient position (daughter, deputy, etc.) BUT tends not to hear if they voice some new idea –  however, it will often be said again ten minutes later by a man, and then is greeted as a good idea (Personal observation, echoed by others involved in committees.)

2.  The Prime Minister’s team sports background is rugby – a variety of foot-egg where male players are noted for macho behaviour and objectification of women.

3. The status of female team sports is clearly demonstrated by their usual absence from the nightly TV news  “sport” section.  Most young women here have played some team sport – hockey, netball (the home of “here if you need”), basketball, lacrosse …   giving up part of the weekend for their team.   Generally, not foot-egg or cricket, though.  Why? Well, just ten years ago a girl in a State primary coeducational school was  told that she couldn’t sign on to do cricket in the Sports period.  When her family supported her complaint of unfair access to the sport, she was allowed to sign on – on the same basis as late-signing boys.  So, as she had not done the sport the previous year, she joined the “waiting list.” And took up hockey.  Women’s rugby and cricket are seldom reported, even if the teams are winning internationally.

4.  High – level business mentors find that women often subsume their ambitions to the leader’s claimed needs of their teams (personal communications.)  The social conditioning of female children in Australia strongly encourages the compliant/supportive behaviours over individualistic drives, and discourages challenging dominant males.  For example, I heard one older woman tell a teenager “Don’t show how clever you are – men don’t like women who are more clever than them.”

5.  The reality of politics is closer to Mungo MacCallum’s “How to be a Megalomaniac”  – this book is written by a senior and satirical journalist, and rings true to long-term Canberra watchers.

So: few women fit for Cabinet? Sure, it’s because they aren’t on the Women Pollies’ Hockey Team.

Yeah.  Nothing to do with the tendency of selection panels to choose “People like us” as the most capable, and the selection panel here being really not representative of the national demographic profile (i.e. being mostly older white male politicians.)  The link I give is to Mikki Hebl’s  “Subtle Biases in Job Selection,” from Rice University website, and includes the truths that

…there are other Biases we have:   Job/Gender Congruency.
1) In masculine-stereotyped occupations (i.e, sciences and engineering), men’s performance is evaluated more positively than is women’s, even after controlling for the performance itself. This bias shows up in scores of studies and is consistent (i.e., Glick, Zion, & Nelson, 1988; Top, 1991).
2) When women act in noncommunal ways, they are penalized by evaluators; however, when they act in communal ways, they don’t get the job (Heilman, Wallen, Fuchs, & Tamkins, 2004; Rudman & Glick, 2001).

And many people read Miranda Devine for a “sensible” view of things.

Lit on a picket fence, indeed.


Newspaper Editor at work: a call for change to journalists’ behaviour becomes a call for MPs to be ethical.

September 15, 2013

I have noticed that the media now mainly quote (or sound-bite) people without giving background facts or historical context.  I object to this, as many of the consumers of modern media haven’t the energy or training to do this for every factoid that gets spread.

Wanting journalistic responsibility, wanting facts over factoids, I wrote to a newspaper demanding action.  The letter was published – sort of.  I give both versions here.

This gives a resource for English and Society & Environment teachers:  How could the letter be improved? (See below.)  How could the letter be shortened while keeping its intent? What changes have been made in the published version?  How does the new meaning compare with the original?  What is, and what should be, the duty of reporters and editors in the media when it comes to reporting factoids?  And when editing letters?

What I wrote:  904 characters

There is much reporting of Mr Abbott’s claim to a “mandate”. Mandate: in politics,the authority  to carry out a policy, seen as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election.

When reporting Mr Abbotts claims, journalists should add that, by the intent of our constitution, the candidates which won election on a policy against to Mr Abbott’s have the mandate to oppose his efforts, and also have the ethical duty so to do.  Also, they should remind their audience that the Senate system was designed to let people who liked part of the major winner’s policies elect senators to block the parts they dislike.

They should do this EVERY TIME the Coalition claim that the others should cave in to their “mandate.”

Any Green or Labour MPs or Senators who vote against the policies in their election platforms will be betraying the mandate the voters who put them into parliament.

What they printed:  608 characters

There is much reporting of Mr Abbott’s claim to a “mandate” (n: In politics, authority to carry out a policy, seen as given by the electorate to a party or candidate that wins an election).

It should be added that the candidates elected on a policy against Mr Abbott’s have a mandate to oppose his efforts, and have the ethical duty to do so.  Additionally, the Senate system was designed to let people who liked part of the major winner’s policies elect senators to block the parts they disliked.  They should do this every time the Coalition partners claim that the others should cave in to their “mandate”.

(I see many errors.  I’m sure they weren’t there when I typed the email – but then, I didn’t do a hardcopy.   Another point to raise in English:  do students find they can proofread beter on paper?)

Do the politicians think we have no memory? Part 2

July 28, 2013

I have previously commented on this, but recently journalists and “letters to the editor” editors have been letting worse rewriting-of-history activities go unchallenged:

they are not referring to the facts when others claim in speeches, interviews, or letters that the John Howard-led Australian Government “turn back the boats” policy was working in the early 2000s.

I lived through that period.  I remember the trickle of early (intelligent!) refugees from the just-begun crises in the Near and Middle East, and predictions that it would become a flood.  I remember the boats being less and less seaworthy, ensuring that the refugees had to be rescued rather than returned to Indonesia.  I remember the Tampa,  SIEV 4 (where it transpired that government claims of children being “thrown overboard” were false) and SIEV X, and the community horror at the forseeable results of  “turn back the boats” in action.  There are many sources to confirm my memory – for example,  , .  The photos on the latter site could be matched tomorrow without anyone being surprised..

Journalists and media owners note:  allowing the publication of unchallenged lies is either incompetence, cowardice, or a form of lying.

Do the politicians think we have no memory?

November 14, 2011

“The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” — John F. Kennedy, 1963

Here  in Oz, it is starting to feel as though the Federal opposition think the voters are really, really ignorant of law and history, and that they want to keep things that way.  They seem to be going on the premise that

You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.  The trick is to fool enough to get elected into power.

Unfortunately, the media seem to be going along with it, to the detriment of our version of democracy.

I started to wonder how dim the average journalist is when no-one challenged the claim that, if a proposed tax did not get passed by parliament, the current government should (with voice tones suggesting “are required by tradition to…) dissolve parliament and hold an early election.  Now, I remember several occasions when financial bills were not passed, were resubmitted and rejected again, and the government of the day had a “double dissolution trigger” which they might choose to use.  Usually they did not.  Therefore, the clain was false – however, the press let it through unchallenged.

Then the Opposition started saying that Australia can’t be run by a Coalition – referring to the agreement between the Labour Party and the Greens.   They suggest that it is in some way wrong for Labour to trade favours with the Greens.

Not even the satirists have commented that we were run by the Liberal/National (a.k.a Country Party) coalition for many years (they joined in 1922), and that “The Opposition” is that same bunch, so famous that Wikipedia    gives them as the primary meaning for ” Coalition” in Australian politics.   None of the political journalists have mentioned the thousands of times Liberal policies were shifted to meet the demands of the gerrymandered rural electorates.

Now the Opposition is suggesting that the Labour party is wrong or weak to trade favours with the Independent Senators, who hold the balance of power.   Strangely, no-one has mentioned former Senator Brian Harradine, who served from 1975 to 2005, and strongly represented the conservative Christian viewpoint for many years by enthusiastically exploiting his position as a “balance of power” senator.    I have heard no-one  in the current commentariate  ask whether the series of (now) respected former PMs who did dubious deals with hin were, by that argument, wrong, or weak.  (At the time, it was a common left-wing  grumble about lack of courage – but dismissed by The Coalition, who liked many of his opinions.)

I wouldn’t be so annoyed by the Opposition’s attempts to sway voters if (i) they weren’t misleading voters as to the traditions and Law of our parliamentary system; (ii) if they hadn’t done exactly the same themselves; and (iii) if the current affairs programmes and satirists were hammering them for their hypocrisy.

The trouble is that younger voters haven’t lived through the events which this campaign ignores, schools haven’t the time to go through the details of past political horsetrading, most children learn just enough about the system for just long enough to pass their school tests, and most people don’t read political history for fun.  If the journalists don’t challenge them publicly, politicians can spread false views of Law and history.   Then we get the downside of democracy: the lazy and below-average together vastly outnumber and outvote those who are both gifted and thoughtful.

Where the lazy, average, and  below-average are not properly advised by the knowledgeable (or, even worse, are led by demagogues to distrust and mock those of high intelligence),  they have fewer thoughtful members to debate with the gifted and thoughtful and thus are less able to make a strong democracy.  Instead  we see the situation Mills warned of:

“A people may prefer a free government, but if, from indolence, or carelessness, or cowardice, or want of public spirit, they are unequal to the exertions necessary for preserving it; if they will not fight for it when it is directly attacked; if they can be deluded by the artifices used to cheat them out of it; if by momentary discouragement, or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an individual, they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet even of a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions; in all these cases they are more or less unfit for liberty: and though it may be for their good to have had it even for a short time, they are unlikely long to enjoy it.” — John Stuart Mill, Representative Government, 1861  (My emphases)