Tagged: blogs don’t kill old media Stuff kills old media

News media and blogs: where’s the line?

Cameron Slater’s blog Whale Oil has been found to not meet the Evidence Act’s definition of “news medium” – meaning he doesn’t get to claim the right to protect his sources’ identities.

The Evidence Act defines “news medium” as

a medium for the dissemination to the public or a section of the public of news and observations on news

From the Herald report:

Wellington media lawyer Steven Price said the thrust of the Law Commission’s report was that bloggers who were serving the functions of free speech and a free press should be treated as media and be entitled to media privileges.

“Still, it is concerned that the reporting be dispassionate and reliable. It can be argued that Whale Oil doesn’t measure up on that criterion.”

This point really interests me, because I think there’s a big grey area if you look at the whole range of blogs and bloggers in New Zealand.  And what about looking at group blogs as a whole vs. at the work of individual posts or posters?  At any one time on the front page The Standard you could have a serious, info-dumping post from lprent on climate change, full of citations and graphs.  Sure, he’s obviously pushing a certain agenda, but is that enough to rule the post out as “news”?  On the other hand, it could be sitting next to a post from me or Zetetic which is a big opiniony rant.  But if opiniony rants mean The Standard as a whole isn’t media, what about the Herald, which publishes Bob Jones on a regular basis, and daily anonymous editorials?

Do Public Address and Pundit count more as “news media” because their authors are (I believe) all writing under their legal names, and because many of them are often quoted or relied on for comment by traditional media?

If we treat the media-blog divide as a spectrum, where’s the line in the era of Stuff Nation?

Do I think Whale Oil should count as news media?  Probably not.  Neither should Ideologically Impure, for that matter.  Highly partisan and personally abusive?  Fuck yes.  But when Keith Ng breaks a national news story at PA?  I think that’s news.

The irony is that one of the reasons the line is blurred, and one reason Slater may sincerely believe he qualifies as a “journalist” for the purposes of the Evidence Act, is that our undeniably-mainstream media keep using him as a source.  When the Len Brown affair broke on Whale Oil, Stephen Cook was frequently referred to as a “journalist” (which is again confounded by the fact that he has worked as a “proper” journalist) in the media.

I don’t have any answers.  But I think this judgement is going to be an interesting, early data point in what has to be an ongoing discussion about where blogs and media sit in relation to each other.

Rape culture post of the day

Actual Stuff/The Press headline:

Man denies sex with ‘pretty hot’ 13-year-old

… I guess we should just be thankful that he’s arguing his innocence on the basis of the sex act rape not actually taking place, rather than relying on her “hotness” to override basic common sense and that pesky age-of-consent thing.

But he still had to mention she was “pretty hot”.  And Stuff still decided to put this in the headline of their story.

So we shouldn’t really be thankful at all.

H/T Lew on Twitter.

John Hartevelet, hero of the people #nationalstandards

So, after Anne Tolley in 2009 saying the government would make it really hard for schools’ National Standards data to be published in the form of league tables, today Stuff launched an entire new section of their site to … basically publish league tables.

(Oh no, John Hartevelt laments, they haven’t compiled league tables!  They’ve just published all the raw data online so anyone with a modicum of Excel knowledge can easily sort the schools by their performance.  It’s like publishing a list people’s salaries sorted alphabetically by surname then saying “Oh, we totally haven’t published a rich list, it’s not in order of salary!”)

And we have John Hartevelt to thank, people.  He is our hero.  Tirelessly combatting the bureaucracy and self-serving interests of those scum who dare call themselves “teachers”, he’s just reporting the facts and letting us decide.  Take it away, John:

Many people told us not to publish the information you see on this site.
They fought to stop us. Some sent us bills for the privilege of their school’s data. Others buried the figures we asked for in complex matrices and pages of indecipherable bumph.

Many more gave up their school’s National Standards data with a grave note of caution about the reliability and usefulness of it. We have not been deterred by the criticisms and the cautions,

But some people aren’t so certain that National Standards data is, well, any use at all to anyone for anything:

Anyone who read the National Standards results as a proxy for quality would be quite foolish. …For starters, they are not moderated, so one school’s “well below” may be another’s “at” or “above”. There is just no way of knowing – yet – exactly how the standards have been applied across schools.

But even if they were moderated, the standards alone could not tell you everything about how a school is doing by its pupils. As many of the experts we canvassed for this project have noted, quality is most evident in what a school does to push its pupils up, not in how well they do at attracting the brainiest, most-privileged kids in the first place.

So why publish National Standards data at all?

Wait, no, that was also John Hartevelt, in the very next paragraph.  Why indeed, John?

Well, let him tell us, people, it is not a business decision and they are not doing it to drum up pageviews, and mumble mumble something about Letting The People Decide.

Let the people decide what, John?  You’ve acknowledged that the data is inconsistent across different schools.  You’ve acknowledged that the data has no correlation to actual school quality, and cannot be used to draw meaningful conclusions about, well, anything.

What debate are we meant to have with rubbish data as its foundation?

It’s like they’ve launched a new Science And Evolution section based entirely on spreadsheets of the Biblical genealogy of King David.  “Look, we know that this is only one source which doesn’t accurately reflect any kind of scientific consensus,” John would trumpet, “but we have a duty to the people, and we trust them to weigh up the non-existent facts and baseless statements.”

Does John Hartevelt understand why journalists exist?  There’s a reason that the mainstream media is still holding on despite the rise of parasite bloggers like myself – because people do assume that journalists have done the background work, they do assume there’s some kind of accountability and adherence to basic facts, and you know what, John, they kind of think you get paid to sort through the bullshit for them.

If we all had the time and expertise to play around with statistical data you wouldn’t have a job, John.

So please, let’s stop kidding each other.  This is all about drumming up baseless stories to run down our teachers and keep pretending that poverty doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter, that the gap between rich and poor is just about not being able to pre-order an iPhone 5, that Reading, Writing And Rithmetic is all you need to know because that’s what gets you a job.

And as a bonus, John Hartevelt gets to sell himself as our hero.  Isn’t that nice?

Sex offender gets reprieve from sentence he should’ve faced 11 months ago

[Trigger warning:  sexual assault of a child]

That’d be the headline if Stuff had a single ounce of integrity.  Instead, they’ve published an article which boils down to “oh noes, the poor man is left uncertain of his fate for a whole seven days, look at his fee-fees.”

The fate of his victim isn’t mentioned until you’re sixteen paragraphs in.  But don’t worry, because in paragraph five, my new Official Scum member Judge Mark Perkins has already downplayed her trauma:

“There is an argument that the [psychological] effect on the child of the offending is a result not of the offending itself but the actual breakup of the family.”

Yeah.  The breakup of her family because she was sexually assaulted by her mother’s partner.  (It remains unclear to me if the victim is his biological daughter, signs point to no.)

You’ll remember the case from this post of September 2011.  That’s where Judge Philippa “I like a good laugh” Cunningham refused to impose a sentence on him because he’s such an inspiration, and it was so tragic the way that his sexual assault of a child may have affected his career.

Sexually assaulting a kid SHOULD FUCKING WELL AFFECT YOUR CAREER.  And you should also face some kind of actual punishment, you know.  It’s not like any judge is going to let Mark Hotchin walk off just because “being publicly mocked by Hell Pizza is punishment enough.”

But no, after we’ve found one good judge (on ya, Judge Murray Gilbert) who can actually comprehend that

the consequences of a conviction did not outweigh the offending, … the judge did not take into account that the guilty plea meant the man had admitted he intended to carry out an indecent act on his daughter, and … the fact the man was drunk should not have been a factor in the original decision.

Now it’s back in the hands of someone who’s quite willing to think that maybe we should treat the obvious consequences of the offence as being the real problem.

There’s one chance for Judge Mark Perkins:  it’s entirely plausible that Stuff have lifted their quote out of context, that it was part of a wider discussion, that it was followed with the phrase “but that argument is, in the opinion of the court, utter cack.”

I guess we’ll have to wait and see if some actual justice prevails.

Fat pregnant people: automatically doing it rong

I’m going to give the award for Most Contemptible Headline on this story to the Herald, with:

Extremely obese mothers “a scary problem” – expert

with an honorable mention for Stuff’s

Greater risk for obese mums-to-be

I know there are plenty of people out there who are going to say I’m just defensive ’cause I’m fat, or Everyone Knows* being fat is basically a death sentence which is unjustifiably not being carried out this very second.

I merely ask those people to look at statements like:

the survey showed 38 per cent [of “extremely morbidly obese” women] had their labour induced, compared with 21 per cent in the general population, and more than half (52 per cent) had a caesarean delivery, compared with 32 per cent of other pregnant women.

And consider that

a)  “Extremely morbidly obese” is apparently determined by a BMI of over 50 – and BMI is bullshit;

b) There is a growing awareness of the fact that lots of the time, women don’t get the hugest amount of choice in having their labour induced, or caesarean deliveries.  Are you honestly going to sit there and tell me that none of this group of 370 women was told, by their supposed medical adviser, that “you should induce because you’re at risk because you’re fat” or “we need to do a C-section because your baby is too fat“?**

Well, you probably are.

But the fact remains that only one of the stories linked above – the Herald one – stated that labour “had” to be induced, and the pregnant people “needed” C-sections.  The fact that language isn’t matched in the Stuff story?  Yeah, colour me suspicious.

c)  Anyway, any article which says “Anecdotally, however, the problem of extremely obese mothers was growing” is probably not one I want to base healthcare decisions on.

It’s sad, you know.  Professor Lesley McCowan of the University of Auckland has gotten all the way to the top in academia without figuring out that the plural of anecdote is not data.  And correlation isn’t causation.

I’m not saying we should stop all research into pregnancy complications or maternal health.  But taking 370 women, based on a stupid, unscientific “measurement”, and then basically saying “see!  Their fatness kills their babies!” without saying “and we controlled for socio-economic status, and we controlled for race, and we controlled for illnesses or medications which might cause weight gain, and we controlled for potential health issues caused by years of socially-encouraged disordered eating” …

It basically makes you a judgemental wank who should stop pretending to do science.

I’m always open to the idea that the media have, as usually happens, completely misrepresented an otherwise balanced, well-designed study.  But when you’re dealing with fat issues?  Odds are against it.

If you yourself feel like a nice cold shower of scepticism when it comes to medical professionals and the plus-size, take some time to read the heartwarming stories at First Do No Harm.  If you find incandescent rage heartwarming.


*To paraphrase a Tamora Pierce novel of my adolescence, “I must meet this scholar Everyone.  He seems to be wrong about a lot of things.”

**For more related, outraging reading, the “Birth” tag at Hoyden About Town should see you right.

Oh, I say, what a cad, mm, what?

An Australian has been charged in connection with a protest which disrupted “England’s iconic Oxford-Cambridge boat race”.

I assume his Australian-ness was important enough to mention on the front page of Stuff because it means we can all sit back and congratulate ourselves that no Kiwi would dare offend Old Mother Blighty’s sacred rituals in such a way, or something.

And obviously he’s caused a great injustice because, would you believe it, chaps, bloody Cambridge walked away with the title!  I say, damn poor job, &c.

… are we serious, here?  I get Easter weekend is a slow news period, but surely it would have been more efficient to just have a ticker running across the top of the Stuff front page saying “Imperative to feel pathetic attachment to elitist traditions of colonial forebears!  Derive nationalist pride in being well-behaved little colonist children!  Dem those demmed Aussies!”

The more things change, etc.

Family Fist have ushered in 2012 with a poll of teenagers on sex ed.  It’s fairly predictable, so my response is in bullet point format:

  • LOL, Curia “Market Research”.
  • Apparently we should teach values, which currently aren’t being taught, but shouldn’t teach things like “it’s okay to play with a person’s privates if they consent”, which isn’t a value.
  • Majority of teens felt parents “should be told”.  This obviously means “doctors must violate patient confidentiality” and not, say, that the majority of teens who get pregnant would tell their parents – I mean, that’s only what we filthy prochoicers have always said usually happens anyway.
  • Teenagers’ views largely reflect their parents’.  TRULY THIS IS SHOCKING.  I mean, it’s not like parents are in any position to influence their children’s views or anything.

But I’m sure some intern at Stuff will get paid to write this all up like it’s relevant, accurate, reliable, or news.

Quickhit: election squick edition

In the mall, Mr Key gets a mixed reaction. The usual adoring punters, especially women, are photographed with him and often get a rub on the back in return as they pose for the camera.

I can’t pinpoint why this is setting off my vom reflex.  The awkward/inappropriate touching angle?  The fact it’s spun as positive?  The extra-rich saroma of Eau de Smile&Wave?


Stuff fail o’ the day II: side effects say what?

Actual headline:

Pill influences women’s love choices

Actual screenshot of frontpage teaser:

Actual lead sentence:

It gave us sexual freedom, but the pill may affect who women choose to shack up with.

Actual description of study:

The study of 2500 women from around the world found those who met their partner while on the pill were less satisfied with the sexual element of their relationship but more satisfied with non-physical elements – so less likely to separate.

But don’t get comfy, ladies, because the fact your relationship is built on more than sheer sexual attraction still means you are DOOOOOOOOOOOOMED.

However, growing sexual dissatisfaction could eventually tip that “delicate balance” and trigger a separation – especially if the woman was no longer taking the pill.

Because women are whores, see, thus when they stop taking the pill they realise that despite having been attracted to you by virtue of your sweetness and intellect and loyalty, all they really want is dick.  Dick dick dick dick dick.

Actual scientific fact mentioned nowhere in the article:  sometimes the Pill lowers libido!  Wait, no, I’m sure that’s not something any ethical researcher might want to control for or anything.  And sometimes two people might really be into each other but not be satisfied with the sex, and – brace yourself – breaking up over that “imbalance” might actually be the logical, adult, mature thing to d!

Wait, no, I forgot, staying in a relationship which leaves you unhappy and unfulfilled, in which you grow increasingly bitter but feel trapped because you’re constantly bombarded with messages about the tragedy of singlehood and how you’ll never find Mr Right, you picky bitch … is totally the healthy thing to do.

Actual advice given by researchers:

However, if they were really worried about the influence of the pill on how they felt about their partner, they could always stop taking it for a few months to reassure themselves.

You know what totally spices up my sex life?  The constant fear of unplanned pregnancy and the anticipation of exciting new side effects during a medication switch! WOOOOOOOO!

It’s not sex, it’s … oh Jesus fuck seriously?

Actual headline:

Man too “frightened” to stop sex assault

Actual lead sentence:

Police say a man was too “stunned and frightened” to stop his female friend being sexually assaulted in a Greymouth park early today.

Riddle me this, readers: is it more fucking contemptuous that a story about sexual assault is told entirely from the point of view of the male witness, or that the implication is that he should hand in his Man Card due to being too pissweak to defend his property female friend?

For bonus points, analyse the creepy race issues involved in describing the attacker as:

dark-skinned or part-Maori