jewin' the fat


Fog of Battle or Full of BS?
April 14, 2010, 12:47 PM
Filed under: Comment, media | Tags: , , , , ,

“And even if the wars didn’t keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death.”
– Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, Chapter 1

On April 5, Wikileaks.org, a website which promises to promote freedom of information and complete anonymity for its sources, posted a 38-minute video, taken by a US Apache helicopter gun-camera in Baghdad in 2007. The site, which obtained the footage via a Freedom of Information application posted two versions – one, replete with edits, subtitles, indicators and highlighting, and another fuller version. The footage appears to show – well, let’s just let it speak for itself.

 Please Note: THIS FOOTAGE MAY BE OFFENSIVE OR DISTRESSING TO SOME VIEWERS.

As posted on the front page of the Wikileaks site:

FULL VERSION:

Check out this specially constructed site

Political and defence commentators have had a field day with this one, picking apart its content, its context and Wikileaks cutting techniques, while talk back and television audiences have been ferocious in their attacks on the US and Australian military for training their soldiers to dehumanise their targets before engaging (read: killing them). Veterans and individuals currently serving are forced to defend their actions in combat against civilians who have never held a gun before, and suddenly the morality of modern warfare is all anyone can think about – that is, 65 years after the firebombing of Dresden.

“A person who hasn’t been there will never get it”                                               – Ron Leshem, Beaufort

Now regardless of whether you think the title and/or editing of the videos and site is justified or simply a ploy to pique the interest  and direct the focus of viewers, there still remains the question of credibility. 

Screen grab of Colbert's interview with Assange (HT @ The Colbert Report)

Gawker‘s empowered piece on the debacle fleshes out the issue with a smartly conceived interview between with King of Satire and doublespeak Stephen Colbert and Wikileak’s Julian Assange – nothing we read or see in public media is completely objective – so can we trust such ‘leaked’ information? Even this blog post was edited (at current count, 8 times) for maximum impact on readers. Considering the clearly political motivations of Wikileaks, as admitted by its founder Julian Assange, how do we reconcile the facts:

1. Two Reuters journalists were killed.

2. Two Reuters journalists were not identified as such, and as they should have been, and as they had been trained to be.

2. The US internal inquest into the incident and the actions of the Helicopter gunners found no conclusive evidence of intentional murder or war crimes.

3. Julian Assange titled the video “Collateral Murder”, and made assumptions on the viewers behalf, to present a vision of the events that  subscribed to his political narrative.

4. We can not rely on a gun-camera to appreciate the real-time vision of the men who fired on the group.

It’s a fogging mess. While there is no doubt this footage is on par with the photos from Abu Ghraib as a paradigm shifting tool, and a gamechanger for war reporting, the facts remain. There is no comfort in knowing, and no bliss in ignorance.

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It’s a long way to the top
April 11, 2010, 9:55 PM
Filed under: Comment, media | Tags: , , , , , ,

Reading this story on Gawker got me thinking about university and the nasty game of graduate journalism. It’s been three years since I graduated, and lo and behold, while I am still in the media field, I have gone over to the dark side. Not because I lost the spark of independence, or my sense of the power and justice of the fourth estate. Nope. I needed the money, and this job was not only looking to hire, pay, and respect me for my time and efforts accordingly, but they hired, paid and respected me a helluva lot more than most graduate journalism jobs. 

It starts with the fight to get the marks to get into the degree, and the smarts to keep up with the fast paced course, unforgiving markers, and the burning hole in your pocket kept smouldering with hundreds of dollars of investment in chasing stories. 

If that doesn’t kill the fire to tell Australia and the world something worth sharing, when you finally land that (unpaid) job at a regional/local/suburban paper (because the other 70 applications bounced right back atcha) the painstaking hours spent pitching, preparing, driving, meeting, interviewing, transcribing, writing, typing, editing, re-editing, re-working, photographing, captioning, editing – It’s little wonder Journalists are known for their drinking habits. I’d be driven to the bottle too. 

We can't all be Hunter S Thompson ... but we all learn to drink like him (Photo: aquariumdrunkard.com)

Given that even seasoned journalists everywhere are fighting to keep their jobs in the wake of one of the greatest revolutions of modern news media, it is a bleak future ahead for those who are looking to make it big as a reporter. A boom in blogging, online media start-ups (drudge report, huffington post – even our very own JC), and a shift to Public Relations has saved some, but far too many are being convince that the only way is the hardest way. 

Call me crazy, but the second a graduate lawyer or physician or accountant has to work for free, I’ll just right on the bandwagon and enjoy the ride.  Hell, it might even get my parents off my back for choosing Journalism over Law. Maybe.  

But in Australia, you can’t get a job unless you’ve been working for that paper/news organisation for free all the way through university, and then someone managed to convince someone up high that you are worthy of taking that maternity leave gig, or fortnightly column, or that you don’t mind going under the pen-name “News Desk Staff”. 

With that being said, there are plenty of smart, talented, ambitious students who have worked hard, learned fast, and put in the networking hours to get a great job as a radio/tv/print/online journalist. But there are far more who are working nights, steadfast in their belief that a television captioning gig, media monitor/summaries job, or working for by-lines (and little else) is the way to the top. 

Sadly for the time being, it may not be right, but it’s true. It’s a long, long way, and if you don’t know the right people, have the right timing, or got the endurance, it can be a bumpy ride.