Questionable news value

I can’t see what, exactly, makes this six-month-old story worthy of a front-page splash…


Last line of the ‘lead story’:

News of his daughter’s arrest has come at an unwelcome time for Phil Goff, who replaced former prime minister Helen Clark as Labour leader when she stood down in 2008. Polls have had him lagging way behind National’s John Key and a further drop was seen in popularity polls last week amid revelations of Labour MPs misusing their ministerial credit cards.

When could such news ever come at a ‘welcome time’ for any father?

from the Sunday Star Times. (Hardly gunning for a Qantas Media Award with that front page, are they?)

Do your opinions invalidate your reporting?

While we’re down this your opinions make your journalism questionable rabbit hole, if you’re interested, in the US a reporter/columnist for The Washington Post, David Weigel has just been fired/’resignation accepted’ after email trails revealed his rather robust private-ish views of some in the right wing movement (Tea Party etc) it was his beat to cover…

image: (click)


“I’ve always been of the belief that you could have opinions and could report anyway …. people aren’t usually asked to stand or fall on everything they’ve said in private.”

I agree.

One conservative(?) er, ‘publication’ which got hold of his emails, launched a hit piece of their own against Weigel, like this (reporting/commentary by Jonathan Strong,

Weigel seems to harbor special contempt for a type of conservative he calls a ratfucker, a favorite phrase of his.
In a thread with the subject line, “ACORN Ratf*cker arrested,” Journolisters discussed how James O’Keefe, whose undercover reporting showed officials from activist group ACORN willing to help a fake prostitution ring skirt the law, had been arrested in another, failed operation at Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office.


“Deep breath.”


“He’s either going to get a radio talk show or start a prison ministry. That’s was successful conservative ratfuckers do for their second acts,” Weigel wrote, likely alluding to Nixon aide Charles Colson who converted to Christianity after a stint in prison for obstruction of justice and founded Prison Fellowship.

I don’t have a problem with any of that. Jeez, those comments are his (private? public? who cares?) reaction to that larcenous character setting up ‘sting’ type operations to create political embarrassment … for Democrats. That he got arrested trying another stunt? That *IS* funny.

And razzing Chuck Colson is fair game — although a friend of mine says he’s become a giant of man since ‘turning his life around’. Sounds fair enough. Second although: I’m not sure the Religious Right is all that good for American politics, however.

I actually like the form Weigel used …. may use it myself. This writing, for example, is 1) simple and 2) effectively makes its point:

“I think pointing out Coakley’s awfulness is vital, because it’s 1) true and 2) unreasonable panic about it is doing more damage to the Democrats,” Weigel wrote.

Read the intensely partisan, agenda-driven, anti-Weigel piece Jonathan Strong wrote:  ‘E-mails reveal Post reporter savaging conservatives, rooting for Democrats’ at Daily Caller and decide for yourself. I read the extracts about what Weigal said about Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich etc and found myself nodding — and sometimes chortling — in agreement. Continue reading →

You say potato, I say …

Cry me a river.

Hanover Finance co-founder Mark Hotchin will not be moving into his $30 million Paritai Drive mansion.
Instead, it will be sold, and Mr Hotchin seems likely to stay overseas.
Klaus Sorensen, who is acting as a spokesman for Mr Hotchin:
“We’re not saying why it’s being sold, we’re just simply saying that it’s going to be sold and people are just going to draw their own conclusions,” Mr Sorensen said.
“I mean, the reasons are probably pretty obvious.”
He said the property had become a lightning rod for all the “vilification” and investor anger over Hanover’s failure. NZ Herald Sat 26/6/10

What some call vilification, others might call ‘consequences’, ‘chickens coming home to roost’, or ‘a little bit of just desserts’.

If one uses lets say ‘questionable’ marketing claims (‘built to withstand any conditions’) and then, as the house of cards is collapsing, one uses ‘questionable’ tactics whose effect is to leave 16,000 investors in one’s ‘enterprise’ and out of pocket and outraged, while one creams tens of millions in ‘questionable’ dividends and continues to live an enviable lifestyle … well, of course one may cop a bit of opprobrium. Hello?

It’s the same on a smaller scale with low-rent versions of these spruikers. They’re just wide-boys with glossy marketing and a plausible manner.

What do they want? A knighthood?

The new breed of journalist-commentator

There’s really good insightful ‘defence’ of Michael Hastings — the journalist who (gasp) reported now-sacked-for-his-impertinence General McChrystal’s disparaging comments about his masters.

Interesting that Hastings’ ‘friend and admirer’ the writer Barrett Brown describes Hastings thus:

it was written by a perfect specimen of the new breed of journalist-commentator that will hopefully come to replace the old breed sooner rather than later, and which has already collectively surpassed the old guard by every measure that counts—for instance, not being forever wrong about matters of life and death.

Leaving aside the implausible adolescent-esque cavil about the ‘surpassed’ older generation ‘being forever wrong’, I know people who howl with outrage a the ‘mix’ of news/commentary exhibited by news professionals like Bernard Hickey et al. Get used to it, I guess.

After all: Why try to pretend you don’t have an opinion that is (a) relevant and (b) maybe actually reasonably well-informed, given the attention you pay to an area of interest on an ongoing basis? Why affect a ‘neutrality’ or fake ‘balance’ when it ain’t true? You have a view? Spit it out!

Anyway, the Vanity Fair article Why the Hacks Hate Michael Hastings is well worth a read.

“The times, they are a-changing …”

Here’s Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show typically excellent take on the topic (video below the fold):

“At approximately 11:04 Eastern Standard Time, the American news media finally realized they kind of sucked.”

Continue reading →

YouTube copyright win. For now.

image: Huffington Post (click)

Well, that’s an interesting turn. Looks like the judge has confirmed the rule as:
Go ahead, infringe somebody else’s copyright (or provide a platform for doing so), then stop doing it as soon as the aggrieved rights-holder demands you ‘take it down’ and … ‘sweet, bro!’.

Hmm, I don’t think I like that. The role of YouTube as ‘aggregator’ needs a different standard, in my view. They’ve built their fortune on the systematic exploitation of other people’s IP. (And I say that as an avid consumer/user of the service.)

In dismissing the lawsuit before a trial, [Judge] Stanton noted that Viacom had spent several months accumulating about 100,000 videos violating its copyright and then sent a mass takedown notice on Feb. 2, 2007. By the next business day, Stanton said, YouTube had removed virtually all of them.
Stanton said there’s no dispute that “when YouTube was given the (takedown) notices, it removed the material.”

Full [AP] story via Huffington Post

AP: Viacom Loses To YouTube In Landmark Copyright Case

A federal judge in New York sided with Google Inc. in a $1 billion copyright lawsuit filed by media company Viacom Inc. over YouTube videos, saying the service promptly removed illegal materials as required under federal law.

Wednesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in the closely watched case further affirmed the protections offered to online service providers under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The 1998 law offers immunity when service providers promptly remove illegal materials submitted by users once they are notified of a violation.

That safe harbor had helped persuade Google to buy YouTube for $1.76 billion in 2006, even though some of its own executives had earlier branded the video-sharing service as “a ‘rogue enabler’ of content theft,” according to internal documents unearthed in the case.

Although it’s a major victory for Google and other Internet service providers, Wednesday’s decision won’t end a legal brawl that has already dragged on for more than three years. Viacom vowed to keep the case alive in appeals court, a process likely to last another year or two. …

My earlier comments re ‘fair use’ — quoting Wikipedia — “The use … does not limit or impinge on the image’s commercial use…” apply. It’s not enough to see and be jealous of the income the founders of YouTube or the buyers (Google) are generating from the ‘traffic’ attracted by the [alleged] copyright-busting.

Does the inclusion of, say, a clip from The Daily Show commercially hurt Comedy Central, as Viacom claimed? (A claim undercut by evidence Viacom employees were busy posting such clips at the show’s producers connivance … building an audience, you know, virally.)

But there’s something ‘off’ about the predator/parasite aspects of YouTube. Try considering if it was YOUR stuff being plastered up on the website, surrounded by ads for which you get nothing … and they do that as a business. (But they pay for the bandwidth, the electricity, and the server farms – phenomenal!)

There’s an incongruity at the bottom of it. Any thoughts?

Take no prisoners

image: (Click)

The canonization (OK, not really. He’s not dead!) of Jon Stewart — America’s most trusted newscaster — continues.

I rate Stewart very highly indeed, which should go without saying, but hey, let me say it.

His recent whack at Pres. Barack Obama’s underwhelming primetime televised oval office speech about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill sparked an interesting appraisal (well, I thought so) of Stewart as a ‘true satirist’ defined as …

A true satirist, and a true patriot, takes no prisoners; he stands for certain values and judges others not by whether they agree with him point-for-point, but whether they can go toe-to-toe with the satirist in terms of consistency and honour.

That definition is a little fraught, if you ask me — but, on reflection, I agree with it as an approach to commentary here at …

Yes, you’ll sometimes read strong judgement here of certain people’s actions and their outcomes (or ‘fruit’ — we’ve discussed that) and, yes, I’ll name names.

I do look for ‘consistency and honour’ — and aim for it. My words may be harsh, but not, I think, unfair. (And I don’t regard nor promote myself as perfect or a ‘saint’, nor, despite the protestations, do I set out to engage in ‘competitor-bashing’. But I digress … )

Matt Zoller Seitz’s full article at ‘Jon Stewart was born to bash Obama —
How attacking the president has turned the liberal “Daily Show” host into a true satirist
‘ is worth a read if you follow Stewart, as I do.

It also has a link to a video of that episode of The Daily Show which is well worth watching.

Oops. Another unpleasant surprise …

The latest in my occasional series ‘Unexpected things that can go wrong with your business or investment…’

image: (click)

Previous episodes:

  • Your ‘clients’ may take legal action against you, en masse, causing your ‘enterprise’ to fold with an AUD $5.5 m loss and significant loss of your own reputation.
  • Google may change their page ranking system to stop you ‘gaming the system’ on AdWords (too bad you’ve sold that as a business — too bad for the buyers!)
  • Facebook may BAN you for exploiting their ‘social media’ site for unacceptable use of your so-called ‘internet marketing’ system
  • ditto Twitter
  • ditto Digg

But how about a bit of sympathy for these guys:

Fiji military seize Bridgecorp’s Momi Bay resort

By Anne Gibson | NZ Herald | Wednesday Jun 23, 2010
Bridgecorp’s receivers are investigating what to do after the Fijian military regime seized the failed Momi Bay resort against its wishes. … The Fiji Times reported yesterday that the Momi Bay Development Decree became effective last Friday. …

“The state found it was essential and imperative that the [superannuation] fund acquired proper ownership of the stagnant tourism project so it could realise the securities that the fund held in Momi,” the newspaper said.

Seized! Bugger!
Read Anne Gibson’s full stomach-churning story at the NZ Herald website.

This unusual state of affairs reminds me of someone I know of who was so confident in the bright future of sections in a Fijian resort development/subdivision he was, apparently, on-selling at a profit (to fund his “work with the poor in Fiji”) that he personally guaranteed the buyers’ funds until they receive title

Does all this sound a bit too good to be true?? Well it is not unusual for developers to offer presales at discounted rates to get s/divisions out of the ground. The level of discount reflects the fact that the funds are being disbursed directly to the developers so potentially your funds are unsecured until title. I am sufficiently confident in the development having met with the developers on site and completing extensive due diligemce [sic] in Fiji that I am willing to remove that risk for you by guaranteeing your funds until title.

There is VERY significant profit in these sites as soon as title is issued or close. My onselling of some now enables me to continue my work with the poor in Fiji and allows you to purchase a significant investment for much less than it’s [sic] true value. There are only a small number of sites left so please contact me promptly if you wish to pursue this offer. CONTACT ME …
— source: Dean Letfus Massive Action promotion for Coral Lagoon development

Lucky for those holding the personal guarantees, huh? Phew.
But seriously, I wonder how that’s all working out? I’d be curious to hear an update from people in the know. Continue reading →

‘Friends’ and enemies …

This looks like it could be a good movie. We’ve discussed Mark Zuckerberg‘s [alleged] personality issues before, and the ‘inside story’ on the [alleged] treachery and deceit at the core of the Facebook extravaganza has, as they say, all the elements of a ripping yarn — sort of a Raymond-Chandler-meets-Bill-Gates thriller. (Bill Gates has skeletons in the closet, too. Another time.)

Time will tell.

Visit The Social Network official movie site if you’re interested.


UPDATE: Ha! Saw this in the NZ Herald this morning…

Apparently 4,992 is ‘too many friends’. (Nice to know there’s a limit. Snort.)

Refreshingly good advice from a former jailbird

It must be the season for straight talking (see earlier post today) …

Hawkins; 'Plead guilty, do your time and get on with your life.'
image: Sunday Star Times (click for link)

Disgraced businessman Hawkins gives jail tips

Rob Stock | Sunday Star Times

Disgraced businessmen in the courts on criminal charges have been phoning the country’s highest profile former white-collar prisoner for advice on how to survive life behind bars.

Allan Hawkins, who was jailed in 1992 after being found guilty of fraud involving Equiticorp, refuses to name those calling him, but says he’s been phoned by a number of worried company bosses facing charges, asking for his opinion on what they should do.

It is advice Hawkins gives freely, though the message he has for them is not one many want to hear.

“The system demands a scapegoat. I would advise those guys to put their hands up, and get it over with,” Hawkins says. “Get in there [jail] and then get out again and get on with their lives. “Plead guilty, do your time and get on with your life.”

It is, Hawkins admits, hard advice to take, but copping an early plea means a reduced sentence, and he believes there comes a time to face up to the fact that the system will have its sacrificial lamb and fighting the inevitable is pointless….

More ‘straight talking’ … but is that what it is?

America: the land of free speech. And ad hominem political attacks.

Watch this campaign ad (below the fold to stop the YouTube script slowing this page load), and count the bald, slanderous, (defamatory?) statements. Pretty robust stuff.

I wouldn’t dream of saying things like that unless I had evidence (even nailed-tight proof) for the statements.

Maybe he does. But they seem to get pretty ‘out there’ in US politics (… maybe it’s something to do with the prominence given to sedition crimes in the revolutionary history of the breakaway colony?) There seems to be a recklessness in some of the public statements made, as if in US politics, people are not accountable for their public statements. (It’s not always like that. Ask Nick Smith.)

Dale Petersen campaign ad (click for video) via Huffington Post

And this guy, Dale Peterson (with Winchester, by the look of it) is running for Alabama Agriculture Commissioner! (Actually, he’s now NOT running — he’s endorsing another candidate by trashing the reputation of the other guy in the race.)
Gee. Bruising. Not exactly top tier politics.

Continue reading →

Why are the get-rich-quick boys in such a HURRY?

Tim Burrowes, writing this week over at Aussie marketing/media website mUmBRELLA expressed this thought common to journalists everywhere:

The substance behind the Photon gossip

by Tim Burrowes June 17th, 2010
One of the perks – and frustrations – of being a journalist is that you often get to hear interesting gossip.
Perk because it’s nice to hear these things first. Frustrating because you often can’t stand up for publication what you’ve heard. …
Read on here

Ain’t that the truth, Tim? Well said.

Photon, if the name rings a bell, is the company which bought the now-infamous Geekversity er, enterprise … then shut it down at a big loss amid legal threats and a clamour for refunds. Browsing mUmBRELLA’s archives, it transpires there’s a lawsuit going on, apparently. It’s just one of the current woes beleaguering Photon.

Shaun Stenning promoting Geekversity. Seems like just yesterday. (Click)

Shaun Stenning, you may recall, was the ‘face’ of Geekversity, telling Australians and Kiwis he could turn ordinary mums and dads with ‘little or no computer experience’ into money-making internet marketing entrepreneurs. These “big claims” as one enthusiastic interviewer put it, turned out to be vapour. Watch the video.

Geekversity affiliates Dean Letfus and Steve Goodey gushingly promoted the short-lived Geekversity, uh, operation in New Zealand in effervescent terms until …

Geekversity/Geekdom crashed to a huge loss and refunded millions(?) [It's not clear] to avoid legal action by disappointed, oversold, aggrieved customers.

It turned out these “students” were not the only group who were disgruntled, apparently. According to the original report in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Former director sues Photon for $4.4m

by Julian Lee | SMH 29 Jan 2010
Just weeks after washing its hands of the controversial Geekversity internet get-rich-quick scheme, Photon Group is being sued for more than $4 million by a former director of one of its internet companies.

Late last year the listed marketing services company narrowly avoided a court action after aggrieved ”students” of the scheme, which charged people up to $21,000 to learn how to make money from internet traffic, demanded their money back.

Now a former director and principal shareholder of iMega, which at its peak generated monthly earnings of $750,000, is suing Photon for allegedly failing to pay $4.4 million in earn-out fees.

That’s interesting, I thought. Then there’s this from the same article which is fascinating: Continue reading →

My review of a recent Empower Education event

OK, if you don’t know I run Empower Education, that’s understandable. I don’t make a fuss about it here. (Separation of Church and State?)
But if you’re interested, here’s a review of a recent event Post-Budget Special Briefing and Property Q&A where three of my authors — Olly Newland, Mark Withers and Tony Steindle — shared their expert opinions about the effect of changes to property taxation announced in the recent NZ Budget and gave a market update.
Includes 7 minutes of audio samples and this example of my own deathless prose…

I never thought I’d write these words but one question was answered with, effectively, ‘The Tax Administration Act rides to the rescue!’ (Ha!)

Read the review at

For real?

Geography NOT a strong suit at WGNTV …

Image: (click for link)

(via Huffington Post.)

Bloomberg calls Fox News on its uppityness

image: Huffington Post

Remember Helen Thomas ‘retired’ after her ‘Jews should go home (to Poland and Germany) comments?

Now the argy-bargy about which news organisation should get her front-row seat at the White House media briefing room is getting interesting.

Fox News (bleurgh) thinks they should because they gracefully conceded CNN should get one in 2007. They’ve dissed Bloomberg, the other contender, as ‘niche’ (ha!)

Here’s Bloomberg’s case to the White House Correspondents Association… (PDF 80k)

It nicely puts the overreaching graspers at Fox News in their place, in my reading.

These film guys have got a point

Reuters reported yesterday that film studio Summit Entertainment, which produces the “Twilight” film franchise, is suing a retailer that’s selling copies of a jacket worn by actor Kristen Stewart who plays heroine Bella Swan in the movies.

The studio filed a lawsuit against women’s fashion designer BB Dakota on Friday for copyright and trademark infringement. On the company’s website, BB Dakota advertises a blue cotton canvas jacket like this: “Bella Swann (sic) wears this jacket in Twilight and scores the hottest vampire in high school, and so can you!” …. In the lawsuit, Summit seeks an injunction against further sale of the item, all profits earned from the jacket, and — the horror! — it wants BB Dakota to “deliver to Summit for destruction all Bella Jackets.”

Look at the image of one of the BB Dakota ads. I think the studio has some justification in tackling them. So has Kristen Stewart — they’ve effectively [by name and image] made her an unpaid fashion model or endorser of their clothing line.

Not OK.