MEDIAWATCH: JMAD Conference 2024 – Political Economy of Journalism and why the NZ media lost trust

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The JMAD Conference this year was held at AUT Centre for Journalism, Media and Democracy School of Communication Studies bringing together the smartest minds to unravel the collapse of media.

I love academic conferences win media because the most brilliant theorists present their research and it provides a level of insight and oversight that is unmatched to help explain wtf is going on in our media markets right now.

What is JMAD?

The Journalism, Media and Democracy Research Centre (JMAD) was founded by Martin Hirst and Wayne Hope in May 2010. Since 2012, Verica Rupar and Merja Myllylahti, successively, have been co-directors. In 2011, JMAD inaugurated its annual Aotearoa-New Zealand Media Ownership report. And, each year from 2020, JMAD has published a national Trust in News report. JMAD conferences held previously were entitled Media, Democracy and the Public Sphere (2010), Political Economy of Communication (2011), Media Histories: New Zealand, Australia, South Pacific (2012), Media War and Memory (2014) and Journalism, Media and Surveillance (2018). Now in 2024, after the Covid 19 hiatus, JMAD’s sixth conference – Political Economy of Journalism.

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Here was the line up:

JOURNALISM, NEWS MEDIA, ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

TRUST IN NEWS?

JOURNALISM UNDER PRESSURE: CASE STUDIES

DIGITAL PLATFORMS, NEWS MEDIA, REGULATION

NEWS JOURNALISM FUTURES IN AOTEAROA-NEW ZEALAND

RECONCEPTUALISING JOURNALISM: CONTEXT AND CRITIQUE

JOURNALISM AND MEDIA IN CHINA

First up was the Key note speaker, Victor Pickard from the University of Pennsylvania.

Keynote Speaker

Victor Pickard is the C. Edwin Baker Professor of Media Policy and Political Economy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, where he co-directs the Media, Inequality & Change (MIC) Center. Pickard’s research focuses on media history, journalism studies, and the normative foundations of media policy. He has published more than 150 articles, book chapters, and essays, and he often writes for popular venues such as The Guardian, The Washington Post, Jacobin, Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, and The Nation. He has authored or edited six books, including the award-winning monographs America’s Battle for Media Democracy and Democracy Without Journalism? Confronting the Misinformation Society. He is currently working on a book that explores how capitalist logics structure information and communication infrastructures along anti-democratic lines. 

He argues that Capitalism and Journalism is a match made in Hell. That Capitalism turns media against Democracy, that it promotes capitalist logics into its core themes.

He frames the crisis in journalism as a political economic one in a structural means (who owns it), a Historical means (how it got that way) and a Normative way (we want and need a better journalism).

Capitalism’s Effects on Journalism:

  • Market censorship and informational redlining
  • content decisions driven by profit encouraging ‘low-quality information’.
  • encourages oligarchy.
  • high quality public information is being cut.

Trump rates while the climate kills ratings.

Capitalism has such total control over journalism it warps media into being a supply and demand equation.

Institutional collapse is ‘beyond our control’. Remember how Melissa Lee just shrugged and left the collapse to the market?

Rather than losing an essential part of our infrastructure, Newshubs collapse is simply sold as the market working. We have allowed capitalism and its values to supersede our belief in the collective good and power of the commons.

Journalism has been bastardised into just a product.

A capitalist media can never solve the problems of market failure because it’s an inbuilt feature of capitalist media to fail.

The Early hyper-commercialisation of US Journalism saw less than 50% revenue from advertising revenue because the early media in America was highly subsidised.

When capitalist hyper-commercialisation culture kicked in, they stopped seeing their audience as citizens needing informing and saw them as consumers and the advertising percentage of revenue soars.

This has resulted in a structural crisis for Journalism.

  • US Newspapers are still major source of local journalism
  • ad-dependnent business model is broken because the monopoly of news has been broken.
  • Local journalism is no longer profitable.
  • Newspapers are closing and taken over by vulture capitalists.
  • the model is broken

This has created news deserts where there is no local news.

Social Costs of the Journalism Crisis

  • less informed about politics
  • less civically engaged
  • less likely to vote
  • higher levels of corruption
  • increased polarisation

The truth is paywalled, but the lies are free

Imagining Media beyond the Market.

Public funding of journalism is a better solution to subscriptions, paywalls or benevolent billionaires.

De-commercialise and Democratise media

  • Establish public options – public broadband
  • breaking up media monopolies
  • mandating public service obligations
  • enabling journalist ownership by unionising news rooms
  • enabling community ownership so newsrooms look like the communities they are serving.

We need to think of the media not as another commodity, but as ‘the commons’ and a de-commercialised structure demands we see journalism as a common good.

I love how it’s always a great time to buy a house according to the NZ Herald because the Herald’s advertising is so dependent on real estate. There is NEVER a genuine attempt to challenge what a class of Landlords forever fucking over renters will actually create in this country, because it’s never been a better time to buy a house.

It doesn’t matter what the question is, according to the NZ Herald, it’s never been a better time to buy a house.

Lectures like these are essential to redesigning the media from a market of consumers to a market of citizens.

Victor Pickard is a legend and we need his insights like never before.

Next up is the Trust in News issue with AUTs Merja Myllylahti and Greg Treadwell: Breaking the Social Contract: How Politicians and Political Attacks Against the News Media May Further Erode Trust in News.

Trust in news has dropped to 33% in 2024 from 53% in 2020.

From the social contract theory trust has fallen because people don’t believe the media are upholding their end of that contract.

Part of this is driven by the politicians themselves. Winston’s attack on the media is unhinged madness which works because he is so reliant on low news engaged voters who get their news off Facebook.

This ocean of criticism against the media goes beyond fair criticism to open hostility and abuse.

There is a correlation between distrust and unfair criticism but I also want to see the correlation between loneliness and believing bat shit crazy stuff you’ve read on Facebook.

The Social Contract of the fourth estate has been sold off in favour of a consumer media network.

They examine the way the Public Journalism Fund has been twisted into State propaganda by Winston’s lies.

Our drop in trust has been more extreme than many other countries.

It’s an interesting argument but my sense is that the reason this attack on the media has been so successful is because the mainstream corporate media had been rat fucking the interests of working people for many years. The first editorial the NZ Herald ever ran was begging white New Zealander’s to go to war against Māori.  Trump’s use of ‘fake news’ was popular because the mainstream media had been selling capitalist values, not fourth estate journalism to American’s for decades.

Social media allowed the legacy media gatekeepers to be overthrown and the resulting anarchy has led to a world of fractured realities.

Winston’s big lie that the entire mainstream media were bought off because of the Public Journalism Fund appeals to the conspiracy electorate NZF need to stay over 5% now.

I wrote many bogs critical of the funding notes that NZ on Air put forward that stipulated that if you wanted public funding for Māori media that you couldn’t breach basic tenants of Treaty value because it created the impression of an editorial direction that wasn’t there, but to conflate what were funding notes to mean the entire media had been bribed is Winstonian in its deceitful manipulation.

What Winston chooses to miss is that there was a follow up response by NZ on Air on those funding notes stating that ultimately editorial control was with the content producer.

So yes, there were stupidly woke Wellington guidelines but those notes were superseded by the reminder of editorial independence.

What he also failed to acknowledge is that a large chunk of that Public Journalism money was for positions and training.

By claiming that amounts to the entire media being bribed is not disingenuous or just false, it is malicious.

Winston is channeling Trump with his ‘Big Lie’.

The ‘Big Lie’ by Winston is that the entire media were bribed.

This has caused enormous damage which he has benefited from.

But again, I think it’s deeper than just Winston AND the righteous cynicism many have towards mainstream media.

Covid was a universal experience, we all sacrificed equally in an unequal world, it has had enormous impacts on us and one of those enormous impacts has been crippling loneliness.

More and more of us are lonely and it was kicked off by being forced to stay home during the pandemic.

That loneliness is desperately corrosive to the spirit and to the person, and the dichotomy of intense lollies combined with mass 24/7 social media connectivity has made many of us insane with a level of anger and feral hate that is the call signs of a terribly tortured individual.

We have been brainwashed by hate algorithms for the profit margins of vast Tech Gods.

If there is anything that proves Victor Pickard right that capitalism’s myths have become entwined it’s the rise of social media at the expense of Democracy.

The Big Tech Tzars have manipulated our collective fear, ego, anger and insecurities through social media in a way that has led to the largest psychological civil war ever launched against one another.

We are but meat bags secreting hormones addicted to dopamine rewards for fat, sugar, salt and sex in a cultural landscape of individualism uber allas where we sing sweet secret lies to ourselves to make sense of a world around us that is frightening and in constant entropy.

Meanwhile, the planet burns and every aspect of our existence is monetarised for big data to sell us more stuff we can’t afford. We are alienated and anesthetized by a consumer culture that keeps us neurotic and disconnected. Our work, our existence, every move we make are all built to suck money to a minority class that sits above us while under neoliberalism, globalization, financialization, and automation, our existence as individuals has only become more disposable.

Great conference. Looking forward to the next one.

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. MSM in NZ should be receiving the last rites, it’s not been journalism for last few years, it’s been cut and paste stories from other sources or just opinion pieces, opinion pieces from lefty journalists.
    Not holding Labour to account for terrible statistics in health/housing/poverty was noticed by the NZ public, plus not ever giving Ardern a hard interview but interviews where she was allowed to not answer the hard questions or with answers of ‘i’ll get back to you on that’…with never any follow up!
    NZ media shot itself in the foot, multiple times, by not holding govt to account during the 6 years 2017-2023.

    • All you have proved is that you only see & hear what you want to. While I do not have a high opinion of the MSM their main fault is going easy on the right & not the left so you must have had a very limited input of news if you think that your opinion is accurate.

    • Huh? How do you get this thought in your head. Right wing business control all media in NZ except for one a very few independent thinkers such as Newsroom, Paula Penfold, Simon Wilson, Shane Te Pou,and on occasion Andrea Vance.
      Think Barry Soper, Mike Hoskin, All other ZB staff, Peter Williams, Jack Tame mostly, Ryan Bridges, Luke Malpas, Claire Trevitt, Audrey Young, Mathew Hooten and the list goes on. All dyed in the wool right wingers funded by right wing money and promoting the views of the likes of the NZ initiative, Business NZ, Road Transport Association, the Australian Banks, Employers and Manufacturers, Fed Farmers.
      Don’t tell me the media is left leaning.

  2. I see. So the problem with the media is … capitalism? So the media must have been so much better in the USSR and communist China?

    • Yep, you are on to it – capitalism is indeed the problem – remembering that neither communist China nor the USSR exists today, thus they are not the problem here.

      The key role of media is to hold power to account. When this role is prevalent then capitalism is in reasonable shape, but when this role is sparse then capitalism is in bad shape. The state of the media denotes the state of capitalism at that time.

      This is why, not that long ago, (the 1960’s, especially) both the media and capitalism was in good shape. But capitalism has near total control over media today thus media resembles something akin to what you believe communist China and the USSR must have been – captured – therefore of little use to the people but of critical use to the powerful. Welcome to today’s world, a world where capital controls both the flow and type of information that is presented before the vast majority of us. Boy oh boy, ain’t the world in great shape!

  3. Control the medium and control the message. Has a ring to it. And surely its at the root of criticism against the influence of big business, big oil, big pharma, big tech and big government’s influence on the msm. No wonder it’s hard to maintain trust.

    At first McLuhan came to mind, the 60s insight that the medium shaped the meaning of the message. Think of a good many TV ads and how the images and narrative shape how viewers interpret the meaning. But on second thoughts, no, I think McLuhan was talking about something different. Control of the message by the rich and powerful is something else, as someone on TDB reminded us recently, Gramski I suspect.

    Does anyone still remember McLuhan 6 decades later? Or Gramski for that matter? I’d need to see the references at the end of the JMAD Conference powerpoints.

  4. “From the social contract theory trust has fallen because people don’t believe the media are upholding their end of that contract.”

    “Winston’s attack on the media is unhinged madness ”

    Winston held packed out town halls up and down the country prior to and during the election campaign and the msm didn’t report it.

    Then it was revealed the msm editors held a meeting to specifically discuss how to report on Winston. They chose reporting by ommission. A scandalous breach of trust with the citizens/readership.

    If they had reported his campaigning he may have attracted a more mainstream audience and be less beholden to the fringe.

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