I’m watching a lecture by ABC News elder statesman and icon Kerry O’Brien, about the state of political journalism in Australia and globally. A critique, which follows on a book by Lindsay Tanner about the role of the media in ‘dumbing down democracy’, shows that the issue of political culture remains high on the public agenda. More than a decade ago I undertook a ‘qualitative evaluation of the political public sphere’ (Routledge, 2000), and I think the time is right for a re-evaluation. I feel a research grant proposal coming on…
The prospect of a News Corp-Apple iPad-only daily publication selling for 99 cents and called, well, the Daily, is intriguing. Rupert Murdoch regards the iPad as a game changer, while Steve Jobs is reportedly a “major fan” of the world’s last, and greatest media baron. Together, can they create a journalistic product for which people will pay in the same kinds of numbers as they used to pay for newspapers? Can they build an online brand from scratch, as opposed to converting a print masthead for the digital environment? It will be tabloid in feel, but broadsheet in intellectual content, we’re told. What about its politics, though? Will it have any, and will they chime with the liberal bent of many Apple users? What will it do for Apple’s reputation to be so closely associated with such an ideologically committed figure? We’ll see. But if it can combine Apple’s design genius and News Corp’s journalistic instincts, and for a dollar a day, it might just turn out to be the tipping point in the search for a paid-for online model.
Reading about the journalism students at Moscow State University (MGU) who put together a raunchy calendar for President Putin made me think of my visit there in the glasnost era. It was an era of dizzying change, when the totalitarian Soviet was giving way to Gorbachov’s ‘socialist pluralism’, and everything seemed possible. Dean Zassoursky had been a loyal servant of the Party, and a man who did what it took to survive, but he was a reformer by instinct, and was enjoying the moment. The Faculty of Journalism was no longer required to produce propagandists of CPSU-style marxist-leninism, but was now seeking advice from people like me about how to educate ‘objective’ journalists. I was working with the BBC and the UK government’s Know How Fund project on their ‘Marshall Plan Of The Mind’ programme – an unfortunate name, I always thought, with its connotations of victorious beneficence to losers – but Yassen was a gentleman, and his Faculty needed help, and our relationship was good. We remain friends.
So now the the daughters of perestroika, and the journalists of the Russian future, are stripping off to please Mr Putin. Maybe it’s a joke, and if so, it’s a good one…the Russian media are prostitutes, so their journalists might as well behave like whores.