Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Show About Nothing

Where else but Australia would the media work itself  into a thumb-sucking frenzy over a 'MYEFO'? Perhaps if you told the Brits it stood for My Youthful Exotic French Odyssey, they might bite. But Mid-Year Fiscal and Economic Outlook? Hold the front page.

In Australia, journos scribble millions of words every year, pulling out ersatz 'analysis' from their proverbials about data that has little or no bearing on the lives of most of us - like monthly forecasts of volatile unemployment data (a throw of the dice by the statistical gods) or, worst of all, whether the federal budget ends the financial year in a small surplus or a tiny deficit.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Elephant Men

 "The world is a business, Mr. Beale; it has been since man crawled out of the slime. Our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that perfect world in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality - one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock - all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr. Beale, to preach this evangel."

That pivotal scene from Paddy Chayefsky's prescient 1976 media satire Network sprung to mind when lowbrow radio clown Kyle Sandilands revved up the outrage machine again this week and was rewarded with buckets worth of free publicity for his troubles.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Market Farces

As with everything in Australian politics these days, debate over the federal government's media inquiry has become just another coat-hanger on which ideologues of every stripe can drape their off-the-rack worldviews. It's why we're hearing market forces are the fix for dodgy journalism.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Forecast Deficit

A few years back an economic forecaster was asked to explain why his predictions of a 10 per cent return on the Australian equity market that year hadn't come to pass. (The market ended down nearly 40 per cent in 2008). "It's not my fault," he complained. "No-one predicted Lehman."

To which the response is well, isn't that the point? Forecasts are subject to considerable error, due to the tendency for events to screw around with one's cherished assumptions. A plane flies into a building, an investment bank goes belly up, a country defaults, a government changes etc;

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Head Bangers

Old and experienced editors (are there are any left?) will tell you the best stories write themselves. Answer the who, what, where and when in the first paragraph. Tease out the why and how. Then add background and quotes to provide authority and colour.

But with so much competing noise out there, that template is rarely sufficient anymore. So journalists take every piece of news, however routine, and stick it through a Marshall stack turned up to 11, stomp on the adjectival overdrive and invite jaded readers to stick their heads inside the PA.