Journalists do not play piano in a brothel

A decade ago, a renowned Spanish editor wrote a book on the future of journalism. For its title he drew on a popular saying: “Don’t tell my mother I’m a journalist. She thinks I play piano at the whorehouse”.

In The Piano Player in the Brothel, Juan Luis Cebrián (a former editor of El País) wrote of the restoration of democracy after Spain’s repressive fascism ended with the death of Franco, and journalism’s regression in the face of ambiguities that are part and parcel of the globalised Digital Age. After a long life in the trade, he concluded: “Although I have stated that our profession has low-life origins, it also aspires to a higher truth, where honesty and transparency play an essential role.”

The vast majority of journalists that I know aspire to that higher truth. Unfortunately, the public doesn’t seem to recognise that reality.

Instead, their view of New Zealand journalism is like plaque: A nasty build-up, caused by the things they shove down their throats, that only gets worse the longer they neglect to clean their teeth. Continue reading “Journalists do not play piano in a brothel”

I hate racism…and chopped liver

 

I have a term for it: Righteous prohibition.

I define that as the willing – or enforced – suppression of information because people believe it may have negative effects. It ranges from preventing a man from whipping up a lynch mob to neutralising a language because specifics may make a small number of people feel excluded.

All of which goes to show that the meanings of a word like ‘righteous’ ranges from undeniable good to the pinched features of pernicious political correctness.

It’s about time we had a good talk about righteous prohibition. Continue reading “I hate racism…and chopped liver”

Mosque killer dilemma: To name or not

The Christchurch mosque terrorist has a name which will live in infamy, and present the New Zealand news media with an enormous dilemma.

It is increasingly evident that the killer of 51 innocent people (and the wounding of 40 more) is determined to keep that name in front of the public. The best means of doing so from his isolation cell in the Prisoners of Extreme Risk Unit at Auckland Prison is through the courts. That automatically draws in news media that have an obligation to cover his interactions with the justice system.

Last week the only man in New Zealand ever sentenced to life imprisonment without parole used his right to judicial review. He applied to have his designation as a “terrorist entity” removed and changes made to his strict prison conditions.

An announcement by the Justice Ministry that his request would be heard in the High Court at Auckland on Thursday was duly reported and it was apparent some were news media were struggling with the dilemma they have faced since 15 March 2019: Should they give him the publicity he so desperately craves? In particular, should his name be published? Continue reading “Mosque killer dilemma: To name or not”