Recently in Media Category

Dear The Royal Gazette,

When publishing poll results, graphs are very helpful to show trends.

I know that you're reporters, and you like to write, but a picture says a thousand words as they say. Don't believe me? Check out the adjacent article where ABIR kindly provided you the charts to demonstrate the terrible impact Government immigration policy has had on Bermudian employment and wealth creation.

You don't have to be an actuary to use Microsoft Excel. Even a dope like me uses it.

Yours in eternal hope,

Christian

PS I know that I make this request once a quarter privately but I just can't take it anymore.

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Just a heads up for those who might be interested that I will be a guest on tomorrow night's Let's Talk with Gary Moreno at 8PM on ZBM Channel 9 as part of a panel discussion.

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This is what happens when the truth gets out ahead of the political PR machinery.

Stay tuned. The story is young.

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Below is a brief (edited to protect the innocent) exchange I had with a reader in response to my post on the new Royal Gazette website which raised some good points and clarified some of mine:

I disagree with you when you say the changes are branding mistake. From an online point of view I think that the changes make a lot of sense. The demographics of online readers will be quite different from those of newspaper subscribers (and the RG isn't going to be able to convert online readers to paying paper subscribers, with or without brand continuity). In order to thrive the RG needs to engage a different set of users than are buying their newspaper. Ewart Brown's push against 'the daily' has definitely turned a section of the public against "The Royal Gazette" by portraying them as the voice of the old white establishment. My wife pointed out that the new logo is probably an attempt to modernize and decolonialize the RG's image. "Royal" is de-emphasized and they ditched the 'Ye Olde England' gothic/medieval font.

My Reply:

I don't entirely disagree, and think that the logo etc is indeed an attempt to modernize the image, but I don't see having two separately branded properties as making much sense.

But to me, if you have an image/brand problem you fix it, not create two parallel ones. The existing will undermine the new. I'd say modernize the paper as well, which is why I am critical of disconnected branding. The NY Times has it right, as does the WSJ etc. although no-one has figured out the monetizing online content well - other than the Huffington Post and/or Politico who succeed at aggregating and monetizing other people's content.

I think that the Gazette is going in the direction you're suggesting, I just think they should take the paper there as well. Ultimately the demographics of online and paper readers will converge, so maintaining two brands doesn't make long term sense. I suspect alot of people read both the paper, and online, although no longer embargoing content until 10AM may change that.

Reader:

You are right about the Gazette's need to change its paper image as well. I think a well thought out redesign would have been best but they probably wanted to hurry the online changes out. I agree that they need to change the paper as well, but the new online look might not be what they want.

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If I have one overriding problem with the Gazette's new website, other than technical (it went live clearly before it was ready), it's that the look and feel lacks any connection to the physical paper itself.

The predominant red, the absence of the "The Royal Gazette" masthead with their recognised typeface just cheapens the brand and makes it look like some generic news site, rather than that of the island's paper of record.

There are other criticisms I could make, and overall it is a step in the right direction - although it still says the Gazette really doesn't get the web - but casting aside their brand like that online is a mistake.

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The Gazette's revamped website went live today, and every link (and there's lots of them over the past seven years) to them on my site is now dead. Second time this has happened.

Sorry.

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Want another way the PLP and the Republican party walk in lockstep?

Sarah Palin and media bias is it.

Sarah Palin recently was on the only network she will appear on - Fox News - with a partisan opinion host, to decry and state her refusal to be interviewed by a real journalist due to their apparent bias while claiming to be out to fix journalism.

Sound familiar?

You betcha.

The PLP, most notably through their former Premier, refused to be interviewed by the Royal Gazette, but would regularly go on partisan outlet Hott 107.5 (owned by their MP) to be interviewed by a partisan radio host (his appointed Senator) to decry The Royal Gazette for media bias and wanting to fix it through a media council.

Didn't the former Premier say he wanted to be judged by his enemies? Better to judge by the company you keep.

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It occurred to me that the perfect soundtrack for the outgoing Premier's legacy would be Shaggy's "It wasn't me".

Cost overruns at Dockyard? Wasn't me. Blame Planning.
Escalating violent crime? Wasn't me. Blame the Governor.
Tourism off a cliff? Wasn't me. Blame the global recession.
Massive debt? Wasn't me. Blame the global recession.
Ferry debacle? Wasn't me. Stay silent.

And while we're on the topic of a failure to own up to your legacy, the RG editorial did a good job of unpacking the lies in just a couple of segments of the outgoing Premier's rewriting of history.

While we're on the topic of lies, a recent column by Michael Kinsley highlighted the epidemic of intellectual dishonesty in political life:

These three different but overlapping concepts -- accuracy, honesty and intellectual honesty -- are honored by our political culture in reverse order of their actual importance. Accuracy is treated with holy reverence. Almost every day, The New York Times runs a "Corrections" column, solemnly cataloging its mistakes of the recent past. Last Thursday, for example, the Times confessed that it had given financier Steven Rattner the wrong middle initial, had miscounted the number of swamp white oak trees at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and had identified the author of a new book as a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland when he was really a professor of media and public affairs at The George Washington University. (He'll be at Maryland next year.) And there were three more items of similar weight. (The Times ombudsman told Publisher Arthur Sulzberger to say six Hail Marys and stop running columns by Bono.)

...

Intellectual dishonesty, meanwhile, is so built into the Washington culture that you have to force yourself to notice it. It even has a more familiar and less pejorative name: "spin." Spin is not just another word for lies. A better definition might be "indifference to the truth." The really great spin artists, like Karl Rove and James Carville, are celebrated as masters of their craft. Journalists crowd around them, longing to get spun.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a master spin artist, plays on this social insecurity among journalists. Barbour doesn't literally wink as he spins, but he manages to send the message: This is all a big game -- a big wonderful game -- and you have the privilege of playing it with me.

The last 4 years have seen the professionalisation of spin in Bermuda politics, marked most notably with a Press Secretary, which is essentially a taxpayer funded position to 'spin' the media.

The media in Bermuda go along with it less than their US counterparts, but I think largely fail to counter it by exposing the spin rather than simply quoting press releases, despite their lack of intellectual honesty.

If for example a politician says something demonstrably false, or patently absurd, the media's role isn't to simply report what they said as if credible. The headline should then become "Politician lies". What we've seen in Bermuda is a lot of regurgitating of half-truths and untruths without the required debunking.

The most obvious example of this was when the PLP issued a press release declaring that a number of people - myself included - were members of the new Bermuda Democratic Alliance.

ZBM news just read the release verbatim, without a simple phone call to check the veracity of the claims, and got defensive when I called up to point out that the release was complete BS. That's terrible journalism and submitting to the spin culture.

The story there should have been "PLP lie about BDA members".

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The Bermuda Sun profiled the online personas of many of our local politicians recently, while Malcolm Gladwell wrote a hotly debated article entitled "Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted".

I've been online in one form or another in a political context since 2003 with this blog, Twitter and Facebook, although I don't really use the latter two for much political discussion. But I'm with Gladwell.

The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That's why you can have a thousand "friends" on Facebook, as you never could in real life.

This is in many ways a wonderful thing. There is strength in weak ties, as the sociologist Mark Granovetter has observed. Our acquaintances--not our friends--are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency. It's terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism.

I'm not convinced that social networking is particularly effective as a tool of social activism. I think it's a largely passive activity, which is complimentary to social/political movements but by no means critical.

In the Bermuda context I think this is absolutely the case. This is a small retail politics environment, and social media is largely about fostering weak ties.

That's not to say there is no value, but I'm more and more convinced that politically astute Bermudians need to come out from behind their keyboards and start fostering stronger ties and more direct relationships than online social media.

I include myself in that.

Bermuda has a desperate need for more direct, active participation than Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums (which are different than blogs) and radio talk shows.

Bermuda suffers from too much talk, not enough action.

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A little skirmish is developing over the latest chapter of PLP Heroes Day, with the UBP lamenting the purely political composition of the selection committee and the PLP firing back that the UBP was invited to participate but declined.

There's a couple things to address here, the first I suspect is reporting related.

The headline on the RG article today implied that the UBP were miffed at not having a seat on the committee, "Group to select national heroes has no place for UBP ", and the PLP is pointing out that they were offered them but declined so they shouldn't be complaining, "We were shocked to read the headline in today's paper..."

The PLP are right: but the headline didn't reflect the story if you read closely. The headline declares that they wanted to be included, but nothing they said yesterday supports that. The UBP never said that they were denied participation. What they said was:

"We have said from the very beginning of this exercise that decisions on National Heroes ought to be made by people chosen from the community, not for their politics but for their good judgment and, perhaps, their knowledge of history.

"We believe the Government would have best served the will of the people by turning the job over to the people. Instead, we have a committee of politicians representing one political party.

"Once again, the Government is putting politics before policy, partisanship before Country. It wants to control something that could be such a pure expression of community spirit."

The UBP is saying that the non-political appointees should be there, not that they want seats. Sen. Atherdon's later quote supports this:

"The Government, with these appointments, is saying it knows better than the people. That is a sad reflection on where we find ourselves today. In order to get this Island pulling together, we need to have a Government that has more faith, more trust in the people."

It's the headline which frames the whole article, and the framing is inconsistent with what the UBP actually said.

What they said is in fact consistent with what they said back in June of this year:

"From the outset, we said the promotion of national pride and the achievements of outstanding Bermudians ought not to be part of partisan politics," she said. "We were very clear from the start of this initiative back in 2007 that it be a community-based exercise, not a politically controlled operation.

"The Minister's plan to appoint a committee of politicians to select national heroes going forward runs counter to our position. Indeed, it seems to run counter to former Culture Minister's plan, which was in line with our proposal."

.....

The Senator claimed Government's appointment of only politicians to the committee suggested a "deep-seated desire to control everything and a general lack of trust in people outside of its immediate circle of control".

In an effort to depoliticise the selection committee, the UBP has recommended the addition of two more individuals to its ranks. The party believes the Governor should appoint the additional two people and they should reflect Bermuda's diversity and historical legacy.

So the UBP have turned down two seats because they wanted additional representation from non-political appointees, which is different than complaining that they weren't included when they were offered seats. The Gazette article I think misses this point which created an opportunity for the PLP to cry hypocrisy, which seems credible in the absence of the context that the Gazette article missed.

Now, on to the thrust of the UBP's complaint, namely that the PLP have a "deep-seated desire to control everything and a general lack of trust in people outside of its immediate circle of control."

I'd concur. And what this all comes back to is what I sort of talked around a bit in yesterday's post. This is all about not losing control of The Narrative.

When the UBP says the PLP are control freaks they're correct. The PLP have spent decades carefully constructing a narrative that the credit for Bermuda's success lies with the PLP, even as Opposition, and that all that is bad lies with the UBP, even as Opposition.

This is the centre-piece of their political strategy and they can't risk losing control of it.

Hence they are in this naming mode where buildings are named after PLP supporters and politicians. We even have an airport named after an Opposition leader who never actually sat at the reins of Government. Now I never knew Freddie Wade, but he is pretty much universally regarded as a gentleman and principled politician. Even those who disagreed with his politics spoke highly of him. Harry Viera used to love to tell me stories about Freddie Wade.

But I did find it a bit odd to be naming Bermuda's sole airport after someone who never ran any Government Ministry or held the Office of Premier.

Unless you consider The Narrative. The Narrative requires Bermuda to be branded PLP, and UBP accomplishments be co-opted, erased or at least ignored. The economy that that the PLP crow about being so successful is the very same one that they complained about as Opposition for example - "Bermuda Inc.".

The Narrative says that Bermuda was built by the PLP, that the only legitimate governing party is the PLP, that identity politics is paramount, that the UBP will always be responsible for the PLP's failures no matter how long they're in power, and that the PLP will always be fighting the establishment even when they are the establishment.

They've cleverly co-opted the UBP's many successes as Government, ably assisted by a UBP who have refused to defend and own their own legacy and have allowed it to be written and rewritten by the PLP.

This is the power of The Narrative.

PLP Heroes Day supports the narrative by elevating PLP politicians and luminaries to "National Heroes", which is why they can't lose control of it either by having non-political appointments on the selection committee and/or by putting the decision outside of Cabinet control.

That's why the Minister made this pretty bizarre and condescending statement about the UBP's suggestion for non-political appointees:

Ms Butterfield argued the make-up of the committee would make it simpler to select future heroes.

She added that including lay people on the committee was also not suitable, saying: "We have looked at where they tried that in other jurisdictions, such as in the Caribbean, and it did not work."

So politicians are the only people capable of identifying National Heroes? Well, if this is a political exercise they certainly are. And that's what this is. It is much 'simpler' to select the appropriate future heroes if you have a group of ideologically driven like minded politicians.

By refusing to allow meaningful non-political involvement they're ensuring that the 'wrong kind' of National Heroes don't get nominated and pushed through, putting Cabinet in a tough position. The worst outcome for PLP Heroes Day would be honouring a UBP hero.

I'm not surprised, because the PLP are, as I've said many times, hyper-political. I don't think that the public is fooled on this one, I think most people know what the agenda is, but as with most things they're sort of resigned to the outcome.

It's just unfortunate that I think the headline of today's article has created a temporary diversion. Yes the UBP refused participation. But no they weren't complaining about not being invited if you read their actual comments.

The UBP are not participating because they don't support the make-up of the selection committee which is a principled position to take.

It does beg the question of whether anyone in the BDA was offered a spot? I'm pretty sure they'd have accepted, and then they could have had (notionally) independent Darius Tucker and a BDA and still had two 'Opposition' members.

I suspect however that the PLP don't want to elevate the BDA, so they opted to add another PLP member and someone they're pretty confident won't rock the boat.

That's speculation on my part, and I could of course be wrong. But I doubt it.

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Why is it that when I read about the White House party crasher fabricating a supposed assault by Whoopi Goldberg on the View, which the video incontrovertibly proves was a lie, I thought of Zane DeSilva?

Could it be because he fabricated a mob surrounding and banging on his car during the Corporation of Hamilton march?

Ah, the power of false media narratives and publicity hounds (the Salahis are the epitome of media whores - but I'm not allowed to say that. The term is racist you see. Except I just used it for a white couple. Go figure.)

I digress.

Even when something is patently untrue the press tend to immediately report the accusations as though credible - lending them credibility - rather than investigating the claim and then simply reporting that one side fabricated an incident out of thin air and proceeding to debunk it.

The story shouldn't be "Whoopi accused of attacking guest", it should be "Guest lies about assault on The View". As the Corporation of Hamilton story headline should have been "Minister fabricates story about mob attack on his car" rather than "DeSilva says angry protestors were driven by racism".

Just cuz it's in a press release doesn't mean it deserves reporting on or regurgitating.

The greatest example of the Republican/PLP strategy to level claims of rampant media bias, cowing the media into drawing false equivalencies and reporting from the back foot rather than the front, was watching the Republicans attack the New York Times for a liberal bias, all the while using them to carry their water on the bogus Iraq has weapons of mass destruction story.

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Quote of the day:

"Look, I went into journalism to do journalism, not advertising. My views are critical but that shouldn't be mistaken for hostile - I'm just not a stenographer. There is a body of work that shows how I view these issues but that was hard-earned through experience, not something I learned going to a cocktail party on fucking K Street. That's what reporters are supposed to do, report the story."

Michael Hastings, author of the Rolling Stone story on General Stanley McChrystal

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So I did a little 1970s throwback test of the over the air signals for the local stations now that ZBM/ZFB say they've got a digital/HD head-end, and the result is?

ZBM/ZFB looks terrible (ABC/CBS), worse than through Cablevision.

VSB (NBC) looks better.

Figure that one out. The clear conclusion though is that Bermuda Broadcasting is not putting out an over the air digital signal.

Baby steps. Meanwhile I've got my 3D glasses out to see if that helps refocus the picture on ZBM during the World Cup.

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Rick Richardson of Bermuda Broadcasting was on the radio this afternoon having a pretty good rant about signal quality, World Cup exclusivity and a few other things.

Setting aside exclusivity, which is a legal argument about regional television distribution rights, here's the good news.

Mr. Richardson stated that Bermuda Broadcasting has just finished a million dollar upgrade of their equipment and now has the capabilities for digital and HD. He put the onus on the cable provider as to how they 'disseminate that signal', however it seemed pretty unequivocal that they are now fully digital and will be distributing a digital signal of the World Cup.

The bad news? As I understand it the cable providers have to apply for approval to add stations, and this process usually takes months. So the likelihood of an HD signal for the World Cup is low at best I'd suspect.

Time will tell, but I'm plugging in some rabbit ears tonight to my HD TV and seeing if the picture has improved.

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