What you’re about to read is a piece of original journalism, brought to you by the sugary zing of Old Brown Cola. Ahhh, you can’t beat the refreshing taste of Old Brown.
That statement isn’t true. There is no such company and this article isn’t brought to you by anyone, or any brand, whose core business isn’t (and hasn’t always been) journalism.
But it’s 2012. How sure of the independence of all the sources of your information can you really be?
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It’s official. The climate change dialogue is getting loopier. Maybe the weirdness has been been brought on by heat-stroke.
Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph reported that Tim Flannery and the Climate Commissions’s Professor Lesley Hughes warned that mental illness and all kinds of other maladies would increase with a few extra hot days. For those of us who believe the consequences of climate change could be catastrophic on a global scale, these kinds of statements are trivial to the point of public nuisance. They are like prank calls to 000.
So here’s the real news. Scientists don’t actually believe heatwaves will send us all mad. They’re just saying stuff like this because they’re desperately fumbling for new ways to grab the public’s attention. How do I know this? Because Tim Flannery himself told me (and a small room of other people) pretty much exactly that this very weekend.
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When Vogue published its February 2011 profile on Asma Al-Assad, the English-born first lady of Syria, her husband’s totalitarian regime already had blood on its hands.
President Bashar al-Assad has ruled Syria since the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad. They are members of the Baath Party, Arab nationalists who have ruled Syria under “emergency law” since 1971. Under emergency law the government can arrest people without warning, launch police operations against suspicious citizens and jail them without trial.
Yet Vogue, the glossy bible of all things fabulous and fashionable turned a blind eye. Describing the regime as “not as secular as we might like” while salivating over Asma Al-Assad’s long-limbed and analytic beauty. A “desert rose” in the heart of Syria. It’s the safest country in the Middle East, they cooed.
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Twitter. It’s smarter than the average marketing company. More powerful, in its way, than the cleverest corporate PR machine. It’s loud, fierce, fast and honest. It’s the tool of the people and it’s here to stay.
Just ask Qantas. Not for the first time this year, somebody at The Occasionally Flying Kangaroo got the wrong end of the stick.
Yesterday’s #qantasluxury hashtag campaign was intended to boost goodwill for the company. They asked their customers to tweet their ideal luxury flight to generate some good publicity. It was meant to be the social media equivalent of a head massage. But it backfired.
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It is time Parliaments joined Governments to ensure all professional lobbyists are registered. All lobbyists should be required to adhere to a code of conduct. And interest groups and think tanks should be required to disclose who their members and donors are.
Recent developments in the debate about plain packaging of tobacco and carbon pricing have in turn kicked off a debate about the role of lobbyists, interest groups and think tanks. In particular, who influences the influencers?
Political parties have for many years been required to disclose significant donors. The current debate is about the threshold at which donations should be disclosed.
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Like the proverbial frog dropped into cold water and boiled slowly, we have grown accustomed to paying people to twist the truth.
Every now and then we have a little skirmish and a little outrage at just how much government spin doctors are paid, but overall it has become an intrinsic part of how information flows (or doesn’t flow) to the public.
Last week we saw the SA State Government, when all eyes, hearts and minds were on Christchurch, drop the news of cancer-causing chemicals in underground water - an issue the Environment Protection Authority knew about for a year and a half.
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Imagine the same people who ran Australia’s big four banks ran your local Italian restaurant. It’s the little things you would notice first – the asterisk at the bottom of the bill alerting you, in six point type, to the $2 cutlery retrieval fee imposed the moment the waiter brought you a knife and fork.
Looking at the specials board would also incur a $2 charge. So would asking for a high chair.
If on one unfortunate night you had a soggy carbonara and they forgot the garlic bread, you would have to return to the restaurant to organise a meeting with the owner, explain that it was nothing personal but things weren’t really up to scratch, fill in an exit form and pay them $1000 before you’d be able to transfer your custom to the trendy new bistro which had just opened up the road.
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Ten years ago I had the good fortune of sitting next to Paul “The Chief” Harragon, hardman for the Newcastle Knights rugby league team
We shared a generally enjoyable conversation until discussions turned to a player who had become the media focus for – what else – excessive drinking.
Harragon was genuinely staggered that the drinking exploits of a league star would make tabloid fodder.
“If a plumber goes out and has a few to many,” he said, “no-one thinks of writing that up in a newspaper.”
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