Tag Archives: online news

How to embarrass yourself on a national website

I know, I know, I really shouldn’t be looking at News.com.au, but pointing out the stupid is just too much fun. Like this story on their homepage:

News.com.au misses the point in a big way

News.com.au misses the point in a big way

Why is Owen Vaughan, the news editor of an Australian website, writing about fashion trends in shops that aren’t in Australia?

THE look this summer is barely contained rage against rapists, neo-Nazis and, well, men in general.

Oh, this is just laughable. H&M is in the northern hemisphere and this is a fashion collection for the northern winter. You’d think the picture would be a dead giveaway that it’s not a summer look. Derr. I guess that’s what happens when you rip all your news from the Daily Mail. Very poor form not to give them credit for the story – five links in the News.com.au re-write and not one to the original. In the rest of the world, we call passing someone else’s work off as your own, plagiarism.

Fashion chain H&M, the home of hip clothes that are destined for the recycling bin in just a matter months, has decided that every woman wants to be Lisbeth Salander, the permanently p***ed off hacker in Stieg Larsson’s best-seller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

So you can channel your hatred for all men while still looking cute at the bar.

I haven’t read the books but even I know the original title is Men who hate women. And check out the reader comments:

Ellen of Adelaide
Obviously the author of this article hasn’t read the books as Lisbeth hates men who hate women, there’s a difference. And she’s not permanently p***ed off, she just chooses her friends wisely.

Confused of Hobart
At what stage in the story did Lisbeth profess her hate for all men???

Lisbeth doesnt hate men, she’s just very aware of how some men treat vulnerable women.

Evelyn Joy of Sydney
If you read the books you would get that she is not a man hater but a victim of the most brutal crimes.This hard edged look is very sexy.

Oh, how embarrassing for you, Owen Vaughan.

Veet 1, news editors 0

Oh goody, another “study” from a company with a product to flog is considered news: Body hair linked to women’s confidence and body image, study reveals:

ONE in three Australian women have knocked back going on a date because they are embarrassed by their own body hair, according to a recent survey.

The study found – somewhat obviously – that women avoid baring hairy legs and armpits but some 40 per cent still go longer than a month without getting rid of the stubble.

If it’s so obvious, then why bother reporting it in the first place?

Helen Davidson is a good young journo, so why is her editor wasting her time with stories like this? More importantly, why does a media release re-write get a byline? That is a major journalism no-no.

Bylines are used for original reporting (unless you write for The Economist, but they have their own reasons for not using bylines). News.com.au isn’t the only one using undeserved bylines. The Sydney Morning Herald gives bylines to journos who re-write AAP copy. I guess the thinking is that if readers know your journos, they’ll be more likely to go behind the paywall. But who wants to pay for re-writes of wire copy and media releases?

(The study was, also somewhat unsurprisingly, commissioned by a hair removal company.)

Acknowledging the source of the “study” (term used loosely) doesn’t change the fact that you still fell for it and gave that company a free plug. And no, it’s not “ironic”.

I was once told to write a story about limited edition Coke bottles. I pointed out that a) Coke releases limited edition bottles all the time so it’s hardly news, and b) it was simply free advertising. So the editor told me to call an ad person and find out how much that sort of coverage would be worth. To put in the story. I’ll just leave that with you.

Sexing the news

I meant to post this yesterday but an impromtu dinner with McDonkey and Jen meant more wine, less internet.

Anyway, this: On the job compo taken to new level: worker hurt during sex in hotel:

The lawyer representing a woman who was injured while she was having sex in a hotel room during a work trip in rural NSW says his client was undertaking “normal behaviour” akin to bathing or sleeping and is entitled to compensation.

The woman, a Commonwealth government employee whose name has been suppressed by the Federal Court, suffered injuries to her nose and mouth, as well as a psychiatric injury, when a light fitting attached to the wall of the hotel she was staying in fell on her head during sex.

It doesn’t matter if she was sleeping, shagging, painting her nails, reading or watching tv – a light fell on her head while she was somewhere for work. End of story. But the way its been reported by News Ltd and Fairfax, you’d be forgiven for thinking she’s claiming compo for a sex injury.

Several lawyer friends have said that news reports of court proceedings are rarely accurate reports of what actually happened. Journalists focus on the one minor point that gives them a sexy headline. She was in bed when it happened? I don’t suppose she was having sex, was she? Bingo! That the mention of sex is considered to be the most important part of any story shows how immature our journalists are, and how immature our news editors think the rest of us are. (I feel the urge to giggle and say “boobies”.)

Most of the time, journalism is routine. Someone says something, so you call someone who you know is going to disagree. It’s the same person you always call for that topic. If they’re not immediately available, you write the story – 10-20 formulaic sentences – while you wait for them to call back, just leaving spaces for their quotes. The first sentence is always the colourful yet meaningless quip, or anything that mentions sex or drugs. That first sentence is supposed to sum up the entire story, and every other sentence after that is just additional detail. The result is adequate reporting, but it’s rarely good reporting. One saucy quote is rarely the most important part of a story, yet if you’ve still got your reader by the third sentence, it’s considered a fascinating article.

The thing that interests me most about journalism is how we make everyday print journalism better. (I include online news in my definition of print journalism because online news is just, as Nyugen (2008) says, “shovelware content”. It’s old wine in new bottles. What a waste to simply slap the print version of the story on a website, often with a video of the tv version of the same story, and say “ta da! Look at our online news”.)

And to start making everyday journalism better, journalists and editors need to stop creaming their pants every time sex is mentioned. Then the rest of us might start taking the MSM seriously again. In all of the talk I’ve heard about paywalls, it’s always been about how to make people pay for something they’ve been getting for free. Sadly, I haven’t heard anyone talking about how to improve the product so people want to pay for it.

Nguyen, A (2008), ‘Facing the “Fabulous Monster”: The traditional media’s fear-driven innovation culture in the development of online news’, Journalism Studies, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 91-104.

Why I still read newspapers

Every day.


Every day.

Yes, they contain yesterday’s news, but don’t kid yourself that news websites in the morning are more current – they are filled with stories the overnight crew took from the next day’s paper, plus some stories from wire services. Each morning, AAP re-writes important stories from the papers and sends them out to both Fairfax and News Ltd, where the online editors pick up the ones the other mob had.

Sure, by mid-morning the news sites will have stuff that happened that morning, but it’ll usually be about accidents and crime. Yawn.

Don’t get me wrong, I think news sites have an amazing set of tools for story telling, but when’s the last time you saw a good online news story? When’s the last time you saw a news website consistently doing interesting things with news stories? Because, in my opinion, putting a cool graphic or interactive map in a story every now and then doesn’t excuse the rest of the mediocre offerings that we have to put up with, day after day.

Anyway, the main reason I still read newspapers is because they’re put together by editors with decades of experience as journalists, and they are structured to lead you through them, to see stories you wouldn’t normally be interested in.

News websites are put together by editors with less than a decade of experience as journalists, who chase the ‘most popular’ list instead of using editorial judgement. You don’t learn anything about ‘us’ as a nation or as a city by looking at a news site. Because, for fuck’s sake, do we really need to know about every car accident and every pedophile arrest?

Can gadgets be green?

I’ve previously blogged about not owning iThings. It’s not that I dislike the company or the technology, but I’m just not a gadget person. Which is why it’s a bit of a surprise to be thinking about getting an e-reader. Probably not an iPad because the name is just too silly for words, but that says more about my sense of humour since I still laugh at Wii.

Call me old-fashioned, but I get the newspaper delivered each morning. News websites take all their copy from the paper and AAP these days, so dead trees are still important. And news websites are so disappointing. They’re completely predictable: sex in the headline (even better if it’s the rape of a teenage girl so the headline can titillate with ‘sex’ and ‘schoolgirl’ even though sexual assault is not sex), a story about how women are shit, a story about a kid getting hurt or killed, something dumb a politician said, check check check check. So much potential, yet they treat audiences like they’re stupid. And you only read the stories you want, whereas I love the process of reading the paper because you get to see everything in it.

The thing that doesn’t sit well with me is the amount of newspaper that ends up in the recycling bin. Yes, some of it goes in the worm farm – and the rubbish we throw out in a week fits into one of those small thin fruit and veg bags, which is pretty good – but still… it’s a lot of paper.

Mind you, I’ll have to wait until they become cheaper – or it comes free with my newspaper subscription – because I bought a money tree but the name is incredibly misleading.

There’s a Tiger in my news

I know the mainstream Australian news sites did cover it, but Tiger Woods having an affair shouldn’t have interested them. It’s tabloid stuff. But Tiger Woods having 12 affairs is newsworthy. So, where’s the point at which it changes from one to the other? Does five affairs make it newsworthy? Four? Anyone?

Mark Scott’s falling empires

As a journo I spend a bit of time wondering if my job will exist in two years’ time. Sometimes I’m so over putting together yet another bikini gallery for work that I wish my job would vanish. But other times I have a sense of hope that it will get better.

So I’m reading ABC MD Mark Scott’s speech, delivered last night, on the fall of media empires. It’s a response to Murdoch’s push to charge for content and James Murdoch’s attack on the BBC in August.

But now, the man who just four years ago said he wanted to “make the necessary cultural changes to meet the new demands of the digital native” says he’s not going to respond to the demands of these digital natives. Instead, they – who have never in their lives paid for news online – will be asked to respond instead to his demands and start paying.

The argument seems to be that people once didn’t pay to watch television but now many do. We fought against timed local calls but now make them every day on our mobiles. Some of us might pay for recorded music we might once have illegally downloaded. And because we want to read and see this great content so badly, now we will pay for that.

My gut feeling is that the empires are going about it the wrong way. Earlier in the year, Nicolas Sarkozy said 18-year-olds could get a free daily newspaper of their choice. Get ’em hooked when they’re young, and get ’em interested in the news. Nine months later, little news babies have been born:

And 65 percent of the young subscribers continue to read Ouest France at least once a week after their free subscriptions end.

Obviously they had to think about content teens would want to read, and balance that with the news desires of their existing audience. But why isn’t this happening here? Rather than lament the decline in newspaper sales and then dumb them down further in a failed effort to appeal to more people, why not be more aggressive? Give teens free papers (no doubt their parents will also read them), pump money into investigations rather than just media release-generated news, and bring back the quality. After all, The Economist is doing really well.

As Mark Scott said: I suspect too much attention is being given to
finding a pay model rather than addressing the content questions in terms of quality and distinctiveness that will really drive audience commitment.

I don’t think bloggers pose a real threat to news organisations. A few really successful bloggers (oh, to dream) may attract some of the news audience, but someone who’s interested in a news-related blog is also going to be interested in the news. And Twitter won’t replace a news organisation because what are users going to link to when they discuss the news in 140 characters?

Besides, newspapers have always been propped up by the classifieds, so now that this has changed, why do we expect them to suddenly earn their keep?