On the Print Media

Here is something that has been on my mind for a long time. I have the luxury in my job that I am required to keep very up to date with the news. As such, I manage to read the online versions of two or three papers a day. Not Robinson Crusoe there I am sure. Newspapers used to allow journalists to go deeper into stories and provide the level of rational and impartial analysis that television shows like A Current Affair could not even imagine. The only television shows that come close to this opportunity are “Insiders” on the ABC, “Q and A” on the ABC, “Four Corners” on the ABC and “Sunday” (now defunct but previously on Channel 9).
How poorly served are we as a society with the quality of news and current affairs reporting we get. Sadly, the print media (online included) has sunk to the subterranean depths once only plumbed by tabloid television.
What has happened to the real investigative journalists that would wear out some shoe leather all over the city trying to dig out the truth? What has happened to the Ed Morrows of this world? Instead, today’s journalists have resorted to whistleblowers and “gotcha” journalism instead of this important work and comment and editorials instead of unbiased analysis.
When our politicians lie to us, most of us are smart enough to see it for what it is. But we also expect our journalists to be similarly smart. Is that asking too much? Is it asking too much that all those presumptuous and eager brains with an over-developed sense of entitlement and under-developed sense of right and wrong be more strongly guided by their sub-editors? Unfortunately, I think we are asking too much.
This ability to not only report on society but to shift and shape it is a powerful responsibility and nothing represents this better than the manufactured argument around global warming. I won’t get into that here as another future post will deal with that, but to give equal space to some of those who do not believe in it and then bury their reasons for their particular view (considered eccentrics, funded by big oil, etc) on page 18 is duplicitous.
The fourth estate has, now and always, been about delivering the news and making money, not necessarily in that order. An institution that was once capable of exposing great crimes of conscience by the high and mighty has now become a pack of self-serving wolves who are undaunted in their search of the Truth or a good story, whichever is more convenient and financially more rewarding at the time.
Because the public is just smart enough to know its being sold sausages full of breadcrumbs half the time, they are moving away from traditional print media and onto online publications like “Crikey” and visual products like the Colbert Report and its contemporaries. As a result of this, pay-walls have come into existence and behind these are more rabid, poorly researched and biased stories designed not so much to get to the bottom of things but to rent your eyeballs long enough to justify their advertising rates.
Well sorry, media barons various, but increasingly I will be looking elsewhere.

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On Bravery

I thought I would devote this entry to discussing the idea of quitting the corporate world and doing what we really want to do. This could descend into a circular argument of drivel and cliché so I give you permission to stop reading early if I lapse.
I have this friend who I used to work with me here in the land of suits, where the possession of a conscience is seen as less necessary than the possession of an ability to accept high wages for low output. I should say that not everyone plays by the requirements set out immediately above. I am fortunate to work with some very good people who work very hard for their clients but lets be honest here, none of us are working on a cure for cancer; except those guys and girls on level 27. No one knows what goes on up there!
Anyway, I digress. My friend had the courage to leave banking and try to start her own business. I found this tremendously brave and I looked up to her deeply for this. Sadly, that dream is now on hold but she has well and truly landed on her feet in another industry where she is kicking goals and advancing at a rate of knots. What got me thinking was why don’t we make that jump more often? Or to be more precise, why don’t more of us make that jump?
I have another friend, my best friend actually, who left a high paying job in one of Australia’s leading companies to become a teacher. I, on the other hand, took a reverse direction to his. I left a career where I was serving my country, seeing the world and where every day was challenging, interesting, rewarding and left me with a great sense of achievement to join the corporate world so that I could gain a piece of the pie that is this economic engine we work in. And the gloss has definitely worn off.
Do we stay working in environments that no longer challenge us because we are apathetic and could not be bothered? I think that’s certainly a part of it. Or we have grown accustomed to electricity and food in the fridge and worry that we could not get a job elsewhere in the economy that affords our current standard of living? More likely than not. Certainly, in most jobs, there is a certain level of satisfaction about doing our jobs well, no matter what they are. Eventually there will come a time when we cannot do it anymore and decide that the joys of getting that spreadsheet to balance or making money on that particular deal no longer compensate for what we are missing out on.
Unfortunately, that particular moment of insight comes along too late for most and we look back and ask ourselves what we were thinking. It is for that reason that I admire those people, including my dear friends mentioned above who have had that enlightenment so early in their lives and who have made the leap into the unknown. One day I will join them and i guess the fact that I have written this piece means that I am on that journey myself. It gives me hope that those I care about have already navigated the way.
My karma is particular good at the moment I guess.

Hidden Gulag

I thought I might be able to write a more positive entry after so long away from the blog but it was not to be. Don’t think that I am a merchant of doom and gloom however. I can be as positive as the next guy but it just so happens that I read something recently and it moved me so much that I wanted to write about it before anything else. I hope the long wait between posts here is explained by the importance of this subject.
I have recently read Hidden Gulag 2 (link below) by David Hawk, a revised and augmented edition of his work, Hidden Gulag.
http://hrnk.org/wp-content/uploads/HRNK_HiddenGulag2_Final_Web_v4.pdf
If you want to read something that will make you despair for humanity and what we do to our fellow human beings, you should read this document. Even if you do not want to know, I think it is important that you read this. I was one quarter of the way in and wanted to stop but realised that I owed it to these people to continue reading.
It tells the story through eyewitness accounts by former victims and in some cases perpetrators of what has been happening in the North Korean prison system. I use the term ‘prison’ very loosely because as you will find when you read it, these people are political prisoners who are there because they tried to go to China to get food or happen to have been caught singing a South Korean song. Some were even born into this sad nightmare such as Shin Dong-Hyuk who managed to escape from Camp 14.
http://www.amazon.com/Escape-Camp-14-Remarkable-Odyssey/dp/0670023329
I won’t go into detail about what the document covers as I really hope that you find the time to read it yourself. Instead I want to write about North Korea and how we continue to enable this situation to continue. Why do we continue to provide food relief to North Korea when according to the document above, very little if any of this food reaches the people who need it most? Is this a payoff for North Korea not to pursue a deployable nuclear capability? If so, that has not worked so well. It is difficult to not want to give food in the face of such extreme malnutrition but if this food is only used to keep the security state from rising up against the Kim family, perhaps that would be an alternative to the current situation.
I am hardly an expert on the situation on the Korean peninsula but this situation cannot be allowed to continue. The Holocaust of the Second World War claimed around 6 million lives and possibly more in the short period of time it was in place. Although the situation in Korea is not as ‘efficient’ or quick in how it disposes of people, it is equally horrendous and again, nothing is being done. Do we buy our safety by turning a blind eye to their suffering and giving tonnes of rice and wheat as foreign aid? Not in mine name, thank you.
Please read the document in the link higher up in this entry. Please don’t be daunted by the number of pages. If you must, skip to the testimonies from the victims. I do not have an answer to this situation but I know that what we are doing now is not working.