Lies, and the lying liars who tell them

I find it exasperating to contemplate Zimbabwe’s role in the whole Web vs Media battle playing out across the world.

“Self-publishing by someone of average talent is not very interesting,” American TV exec Barry Diller told The Economist in 2006. “Talent is the new limited resource.” At a technology conference that year, he declared, “There’s just not that much talent in the world, and talent almost always outs.”

According to Andrew Keen’s (elitist) perspective in “The Cult of the Amateur” talent is a resource of fixed supply. The existing institutions of the publishing and broadcast world are already doing an efficient and thorough job of finding that talent and giving it a platform.

All this other stuff that’s spewing forth from the Web’s profusion of blogs and podcasts and videos is just dross that obscures the real talent’s output.

What is most perplexing is the contempt with which the Establishment media generally views the New. This is particularly evident in closed societies like Zimbabwe and Iran, where often amateur publishing is the only source of balance and yes, truth.

These are places where Establishment media equals State media equals Controlled media; the information space has been constricted to a manageable trickle of independent views in a deluge of propaganda. The web naturally provides an outlet for divergent views, and quite often works to explode the notion that all the “talent” on offer is already filtered through to traditonal media outlets.

So, what the feck am I on about?

Well, I’m reading The Herald, the flagship title of Zimpapers, that last bastion of Party values and sycophantic ass-kissing.

“THE International Monetary Fund will continue to provide policy advice and targeted technical assistance in the context of regular visits to Zimbabwe.”

Wow, that’s awesome news, isn’t it? But look a little deeper and there’s no mention of numbers, and this is from a statement by the head of the IMF’s mission to Zimbabwe. So I did a little Googling, and guess what?

“The International Monetary Fund has told Zimbabwe that it will not provide the country with more funds until its existing $1bn debts are settled.”

No mention of THAT in The Herald‘s story. Fair enough, they tend to pick and choose, attempting to portray as positive an image of Zimbabwe as humanly possible. But trawling through an adverse report to cherry-pick the tiniest scraps of reinforcement is not just deceptive, it’s in an ethical grey area that I’m sure even the weakest journalism student is clear about.

To say that the best and brightest of our reporting talent in this country is concentrated at Zimpapers and The Independent Group is stupidity of the highest order.

That’s why the media space will remain closed here, because not only would the truth shine through in a new daily , a cursory comparison with The Herald and Sunday Mail would reveal their reporters as mostly talentless hacks peddling massive falsehoods (heh), whose standard of English grammar would shock a ZJC teacher.

Bloggers may be amateurs, but where there’s a void to be filled, talent will always shine through. And until the Old world starts listening to the New, newspapers will continue to go the way of the dodo.

The trees must be smiling.

19 Replies to “Lies, and the lying liars who tell them”

  1. I like…
    “…constricted to a manageable trickle of independent views in a deluge of propaganda…”

    Well there’s media revenue, then propaganda, then revenue from the propaganda…so you nutty bloggers are not gonna slide in unnoticed!

  2. As an African I thought you would already be used to reading stuff that is clearly American/Eurocentric. Although I agree with Andrew Keen to a degree, his argument joins a larger movement of writers/thinkers like Malcolm Gladwell who represent “the old media”. These guys are referring to a very real glut of crappy information being pumped into cyberspace from twitter,blogs, wikis etc.

    First off, he wasn’t even considering “developing nations”. His argument is based solely on who makes better media: a trained journalist at the NYTs VS a blogger in Iowa. A “proper” film maker VS some guy with a camera and a youtube account. You have to view his argument in a Western open media framework because your entry is 100% on the mark with regard to state controlled media.

    Secondly, you have to remember that Keen, Gladwell etc have a vested interest in keeping professional writers (and cultural creators in general) separate from the masses. Getting paid big dollars by big media companies is their living. Without those giant media firms, Keen wouldn’t have a steady paycheck and would be forced to put google ads on his webpage to eek out an existence. Against the backdrop of a cascade of newspapers shutting down, you can see why these guys might have a problem with user generated content on the web.

    I’m not 100% in either camp because I love blogs like yours for being able to get insight where major media is unwilling/unable to communicate what needs to be said. However, there is a certain barometer of quality that is more common in investigative journalist who work for the so called “old media” than in the tidal wave of user generated content.

    Keen had a great debate with Chris Anderson of Wired Mag where they discussed this at great length. It is a pretty good read:

    sorry for the super long post

  3. Granted, I fudged issues a bit … forsooth I was going to rant about old-media arrogance, but I was reading The Herald at the same time and well, the blood began to boil.

    These guys may be referring to a glut of crappy information being pumped into the Interwebs, but the point here is their opinion doesn’t matter.

    You may think LOLcats are shit – someone in Japan loves them. That’s the point, it’s not about just creating content, it’s about sharing content, and people’s choices.

    Media stars are panicking because they get PAID to write 2000 words on growing consumer resistance to outdated retail security practices, but I’d rather read 2000 words from the disgruntled mother of 2 who was detained for two hours after refusing a receipt-check from a shop employee who watched her pack her fucking groceries.

    A grainy cellphone video is more fun and personal than a slick studio web-film with highly paid stars, cos it’s all stale and familiar.

    So yes, their profits are threatened, so they’re running scared. Well fuck them, the Internets are the greatest democracy there is, cos we’re voting with our browsers and it’s other, normal people who are winning. Be afraid.

  4. “… when a commercial interest attempts to violate the principle of openness, as it is defined by the open culture movement, there tends to be a very dramatic and forceful rebuking.”

  5. “there is a certain barometer of quality that is more common in investigative journalist who work for the so called “old media” than in the tidal wave of user generated content.”

    @Alias – that quality is just as elusive even in the old media. Take for example the Air France Airbus incident over the Atlantic. There were 24hr headlines and reports yet up to now noone knows what happened. There should have only been two headlines;

    1. Plane disappeared
    2. Parts of wreckage and some bodies found

    The rest has just been speculation paraded as news reports.

    Im putting my dick on the block and going with the bloggers because we have to sift through the rubbish as it is anyway. 🙂

  6. Conversely, there are certain instances where the old tree-killers are of value. There’s a certain in-depth coverage that comes from the structure, sources and support a pro gets – Alias has a point.

    Not really about “quality” more depth, I think. But this is only in certain instances, like high-level corruption (e.g. NYT and eavesdropping). But as a total news source, no thanks.

    Old media needs to wake up. Problem with Zim is the monopoly is legislated, so we’re fooked.

  7. I’m loathe to straddle the fence but let me give you an example. Facebook/Flickr etc have allowed me see pictures from exotic places from all over the world through ordinary peoples’ eyes/lenses. Awesome. Still I have no problem paying for a subscription to National Geographic because the photos (and insight) that come out that mag tend be top notch and humbling.

    Yes JB much of the “old media” is stale and boring, but the financial muscle and skill based meritocracy still produces great content. The interweb has great user generated content but to find a pearl you have to swim in a giant ocean of crap.

    @Mos Native: If with all of their resources, the old media couldn’t get the real scoop, what could I expect from the blogosphere if not re-posts of “old media” news stories with even weirder speculation? Believe me, I can’t stand being an apologist for major media companies, and I feel very dirty saying this, but I don’t necessarily want them to die like I did when I was 14.
    I don’t want journalists replaced with bloggers. I want both to challenge each other on a daily basis. That way journos won’t get away with cookie cutter boring bullshit and bloggers will have to learn to be accountable for their work.

    With regards to Zim media, the only thing worthwhile in the Herald are the funnies (articles) and the fact that it makes good kindling.

  8. “UMWE muporofita akazosara pamhene mushure mekunge mutumbi waati wakabviswa gumbo nevaroyi wakavhukunurwa ukwanikwa une mitezo yakakwana.”

    OMG! Kwayedza is online… this story, classic Kwayedza!

    Shoddy Shona though;
    Umwe – Mumwe
    waati – waaiti
    wakavhukunurwa – wakafukunurwa
    ukwanikwa – ukawanikwa

  9. I especially like the part where they go ‘neMunyori weKwayedza’. What the hell does that mean? Is Kwayedza a legit paper or is it like National Enquirer or some spoof mag/paper?

  10. Kwayedza is the stuff of legends!
    Its a scandalous read with gossip and intrigue reported by a sect called Vanyori
    It had a big following in the 80s dont know about before and after that.
    Used to like the section on adultery and the jokes’ section.
    Gets your Shona up to spec, but the editing on this one is poor.

  11. Crap is not limited to online media…
    Check the headline posted on my blog.
    Was in the corner cafe to get my sarmie this morning and saw this “newspaper” frontpage.

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