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Stop The Press : Alison McCulloch

As long as there’s been a fourth estate, there have been critics. In the second reflection in Scoop's "The State of the NZ News Media - A Public Conversation" series, Alison McCulloch surveys some of her favourites, and concludes it’s time to give up on the corporate media.

Stop The Press

When I read Nicky Hager’s book “Dirty Politics”, I thought it should have been called “Dirty Journalism”. Because Dirty Journalism underpinned and enabled all that dirty politics every step of the way. It still does. But unlike the elected (dirty) politicians, whom we can get rid of at the ballot box, there’s surprisingly little we can do to hold Dirty Journalism and its counterparts – Churnalism; Gotcha Journalism; Click-Bait Journalism; Shallow, Celebrity and Listicle Journalism – to account.

Journalism likes to remind us how important it is – to democracy, to freedom, to the polity – and so it is. And because of that, we grant it some quite extraordinary privileges, both explicit and tacit. But what do we get in return? Is there enough speaking truth to power to make up for all that reflecting power back at itself; is journalism as interested in earning its privileges as it is in privileging its earners?

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Disaffection with the press is nothing new, and our own shallow corporate media is nothing special. We stick with it because (we think) there’s no alternative, and because we’re human and enjoy distracting ourselves with crap. Besides, amid the gossip, opinion and recycled press releases, there’s some good work; and amid the stenographers to power, there’s the odd maverick. They, of course, should be cherished for helping provide the news media with enough redemption for us to keep granting them their privileges, but more often than not, the opposite is the case. This, too, is nothing new.

Take that early 20th century American muckraker Upton Sinclair. His 1906 expose of the horrors of the meat-packing industry in the United States – “The Jungle,” a masterpiece of long-form journalism thinly disguised as fiction – became a best-seller, gripped the nation and eventually forced a grudging president to take action. And all despite the efforts of American journalism to discredit or ignore it. In the end, though, the government’s reforms proved inadequate as lobbyists had their way, causing Sinclair to wonder what all the “three years of brain and soul sweat” he put into the campaign had achieved. Sadly, there’s nothing new there either. We’re used to governments caving into Big Capital – in the case of “The Jungle” it was the “Beef Trust”. What’s less frequently reported (for obvious reasons), is how much journalism does it. Ever tilting at windmills, Sinclair moved on to expose that, too. The result, his 1919 book “The Brass Check: A Study of American Journalism”, was a trenchant critique that might have been written yesterday.

It’s deeply realistic and as such deeply cynical, but Sinclair more than earned the right. “It is the thesis of this book,” he wrote, “that American newspapers as a whole represent private interests and not public interests.” He described journalists as “a pack of jackals trying to tear a carcase away from another pack of jackals”, and his scornful list of some of the “special articles” and “feature stories” from the January 1918 issue of American Magazine (originally a muckraking organ itself) will sound familiar to 21st-century readers: “How We Decide When to Raise a Man’s Salary.” “What to Do With a Bad Habit.” “Are You Going Somewhere – or Only Wandering Around?” “The Comic Side of Trouble.” “Do You Laugh at the Misfortunes of Others?” “The Business-Woman and the Powder Puff.” “What I have Seen Booze Do.”

The first part of “The Brass Check” recounts Sinclair’s struggles with his “Jungle” exposé, and his efforts to get the press to pay attention. The Chicago Tribune was at first interested in serialising the book, since the meat packing district Sinclair inhabited for seven weeks and wrote about was in the paper’s hometown. It told him it had sent a staffer to fact-check the book, which is fair enough except that the report that came back had actually been written by a publicity agent for the very meat-packers “The Jungle” indicts. Naturally, it was negative, and the Tribune backed off. “I had expected that every newspaper which boasted of public spirit would take up these charges,” Sinclair wrote, “and at least report them; but instead of that, there was silence – silence almost complete!”

Without wanting to overstate the parallels, the treatment of Sinclair and his work is reminiscent of how our own media treat mavericks like Nicky Hager. There was a lot of silence when his 2011 book “Other People’s Wars: New Zealand in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror” was published. And where mainstream journalism did provide coverage, it was mainly of the “P.M. Rejects/Refutes/Denies Book’s Claims” variety. I suspect few reporters actually got through “Other People’s Wars” since it’s a much tougher read than the raunchy “Dirty Politics”, which resembles a script for a New Zealand remake of “House of Cards”. But it was at least as important, with numerous revelations worth following up, like the refusal to provide Parliament access to the Kiwi contingent’s Rules of Engagement for Iraq, the military’s overpriced overseas junkets and bloated, overpaid officer corps, and the secret side-lining of Prime Minister Helen Clark in an effort to curry favour with the U.S. in its “war on terror”. “During much of the war-on-terror period,” Hager writes “officials were running a private foreign policy, often in defiance of the government.” Then there’s what the book said about the news media, including the dubious reporting in the early days of the Ahmed Zaoui case, and the extent to which military PR was being swallowed whole then regurgitated – with the honourable exception of that other maverick in our midst, Jon Stephenson, who was to pay dearly for his independence, as mavericks are wont to do.

Rather than pick up where Hager left off, The Dominion Post decided the best response to “Other People’s Wars” was to attack the writer: “Hager sees himself as an author and a journalist,” the paper said in an editorial. “In the common definition of the journalistic craft, he is not. He is a meticulous compiler and ferreter out of information that some people would wish to keep secret, and he is very good at it.” (Um, excuse me, but isn’t that the description of a good journalist?) The newspaper went on to note that the contents of Hager’s 2006 book “The Hollow Men” was “not news to political junkies” and that Hager’s approach in both was flawed: “He amasses what he has learned and then presents it to the public through the prism that best suits his worldview, without allowing for the possibility that there might be a plausible explanation for what he has ‘uncovered’.” (I don’t think that’s what Hager does, but it sounds a lot like what hacks do.)

A few journalists tried the “mock and/or ignore” approach to “Dirty Politics”, too. Who can forget the series of softballs TVNZ’s Mike Hosking tossed to National’s Steven Joyce on Seven Sharp the week the book came out. Hosking then said this to Hager: “Which comes back to this overarching thing that you seem to be outraged about – this dirty game of politics and people do this stuff and leak and brief but most of us are saying to you and have said all day it’s been going on for years. It isn’t big news.” But as the Dirty Mountain of Dirty Politics grew higher and smellier, it became clearer and clearer that it was big news, and that the usual approach to Hager wasn’t going to work. Journalists started doing their own digging and, finding dirt they could call their own, began to follow the story.

Sinclair, too, was frequently confronted with the old “move along, there’s nothing to see here” response. The famed newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane, “with a fatherly pat on the shoulder…informed me that a slaughter-house is not an opera house”, he wrote. Another well-known editor, Lincoln Steffens told him: “The things you tell are unbelievable. I have a rule in my own work – I don’t tell things that are unbelievable, even when they are true.”

The whole “Jungle” affair essentially came to a close a year after publication, when despite Roosevelt’s watered-down “reforms”, things were as tubercular and inhumane (for both workers and animals) as ever in the packing houses. An enthusiastic New York Herald magazine section editor commissioned Sinclair to return and write a follow-up, which he did. The paper’s top editor was in Bermuda at the time, so Sinclair’s article was sent to him there, “which was the last ever seen or heard of it.” No other mainstream newspaper would go near it either.

Sinclair, makes the case throughout “The Brass Check” that journalism is in the business and practice of presenting the news of the day in the interest of economic privilege, and that any exceptions in reporting and coverage are calculated to ensure that continues, or, as he puts it, “the newspapers must have circulation, and to get circulation they must pretend to care about the public”. “A capitalist newspaper may espouse this cause or that,” he wrote, “it may make this pretense or that, but sooner or later you realize that a capitalist newspaper lives by the capitalist system, it fights for that system, and in the nature of the case cannot do otherwise.” Thus, media critics shouldn’t bother making individual bad actors their primary focus, as so often happens, but the system that produces them.

A few decades after Sinclair was taking heat for his indictment of the press, the war correspondent Martha Gellhorn was expressing similar disenchantment with her chosen profession (though, like Sinclair, she was as much a novelist and short story writer as a reporter). She, too, seemed to feel that journalism as practiced forced too many impossible compromises on its practitioners. “There is so much shit written in our business,” she told a fellow journalist, “that you feel very ashamed: you cannot write the straight truth because people resent it, and are conditioned (by the shit) not to believe it. So, finally, you write a certain amount of evasion yourself, carefully skirting the definitely dung features of journalism.” Still only in her early 30s herself, Gellhorn concluded that “you have to be very young, very cynical and very ignorant to enjoy writing journalism these days”. To be fair, she was pretty hard on a few other callings, too, notably politics, which she described as “simply a revolting profession, essential like garbage collecting and sewer cleaning, but revolting”. As well as the “dung features of journalism”, Gellhorn battled sexism and, later, ageism in the media but still managed to report on the Spanish Civil War, World War II, Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama and more. In 1999 her name was attached to an annual journalism prize of which the first winner was Nick Davies of the Guardian.

Given what he’s been through at the hands of fellow journalists, it’s hard to see how Davies keeps the faith. His exposés, “Flat Earth News” (2008) and “Hack Attack” (2014) both go where no journalist is supposed to: into other journalists’ business. And what Davies found is not pretty.

“Flat Earth News” meticulously details the rise of “churnalism” – the recycling of media releases and wire copy – and revealed that in the UK, only around 12 percent of published news stories are being generated by the reporters who write them (or at least, whose names are attached to them). “The highest quota proved to be in the Times, where 69% of news stories were wholly or mainly wire copy and/or PR. Even the paper with the lowest quota, the Guardian, compiled just over half its stories this way.”

PR material is rife in the New Zealand media, too. If you’d like to do your own investigation, visit any day of the week and compare some of the media releases there with the “news” you find on the Fairfax and NZME (formerly APN) news sites. I have my own favourite example, saved from my hometown newspaper the Bay of Plenty Times (for which I briefly wrote a column): Compare and contrast its article, “Port of Tauranga Opens Expanded Container Terminal” with the Port of Tauranga’s media release, “Port of Tauranga Opens Expanded Container Terminal.” You won’t find much difference, except perhaps the absence of bullet points, and the “Bay of Plenty Times” tagline on the newspaper’s version. The problem here isn’t where they got the “news”, but that they didn’t tell us where they got it. Davies found the same thing was ubiquitous in the UK, where “only 1% of wire stories which were carried by Fleet Street papers admitted the source” and “the denial of PR input is at least as thorough”.

This is another of those structural and systemic problems, but couldn’t individual reporters take it on? As Davies puts it in his epilogue: “In an imaginary world, we might demand that media products which are required to carry a clear label to inform consumers of their contents.” The real reason no one tells the truth about their PR content is how bad it would look if they did. We might lose even more respect for them, if that’s possible.

And it is. In “Flat Earth News”, Davies said that he’d been “forced to admit that I work in a corrupted profession”. But if he thought journalism was corrupted when he wrote that book, he was in for a pretty nasty shock with his next. Over the following four years, he and his newspaper were to become embroiled in arguably the ugliest episode in journalistic history. How to possibly describe the orchestrated bribery (of police and others), hacking, illegal surveillance, dumpster diving, blagging (duping government agencies and businesses into revealing other people’s personal information) and intimidation that parts of the British press engaged in? The 2012 Leveson report on the so-called hacking scandal (formally titled “An Inquiry Into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press”) tried to, and that was sobering enough, if a little stiff at times and impossibly long.

Davies’ book is more readable and personal, and does something Leveson couldn’t, which is offer up an insider’s account. It was this journalist versus journalist element – the “alliance of silence” – that really interested me. “It is an odd thing about newspapers,” Davies writes, “that they live by exposure, yet they keep their own worlds concealed.” And woe to the journalist who exposes a fellow practitioner. Davies and his Guardian colleagues did, and as a result came under heavy pressure from other journalists and newspapers – and not just Rupert Murdoch’s.

Sunlight was eventually applied in this case, but to what end? Despite the book’s optimistic subtitle – “How the Truth Caught Up With Rupert Murdoch” –Davies’ exposé had about as much long-term impact as Upton Sinclair’s did a century earlier – and, it would seem, as much as did “Flat Earth News”. “In truth, very little has changed,” Davies wrote in the book’s Epilogue. “For a while, we snatched a handful of power away from one man. We did nothing to change the power of the elite.” He saw this story, in the end, as being about “the abuse of power and about the secrets and lies that protect it. In a tyranny, the ruling elite can abuse its power all day long, and anybody who complains about it will get a visit from the secret police. In an established democracy, the abuse of power cannot afford to be visible. It needs concealment.”

Which brings me back to “Dirty Politics”, and the lack of transparency and accountability “enjoyed” by our own media. Take the email in the last week of August last year that helped to bring down Justice Minister Judith Collins. In the message, Whale Oil’s Cameron Slater writes: “I am maintaining daily communications with Jared Savage at the Herald and he is passing information directly to me that the Herald can’t run and so are feeding me to run on the blog. in the meantime I also have additional information flowing in via my tipline. That information will be drip fed into the media or via my blog.” The stories were about the then head of the Serious Fraud Office, Adam Feeley, and the email suggested Collins was playing a role in undermining him.

The Herald apparently believed it did its due diligence by having two of the reporters named in the email, Jared Savage and Fran O’Sullivan, explain themselves, with senior editors Tim Murphy and Shayne Currie adding their own three paragraphs assuring us that despite what we might just have read, the news stories the Herald published about Feeley weren’t sourced from Whale Oil.

“It was good journalism, and in the public interest”, they wrote, adding that reporters talk to contacts “from all sides of the political spectrum every day”. Although “some information would have been shared, … none of it, in our view, [was] pivotal or relevant to our inquiries”. Move along, people, there’s nothing to see here. But surely the advice the Herald gave the government in its first editorial after “Dirty Politics” came out applied, in this case, to the Herald itself: “The Beehive’s involvement in such dirt demands scrutiny,” the paper said. “And a ritual cleansing.”

As both “Dirty Politics” and “Hack Attack” make clear, we don’t get to know what goes on behind the scenes: not in politics, not in the news media. We’re told we must trust the motives and intentions and sources of editors and journalists, who insist it’s all in the “public interest”, but are not eager to tell us much about who’s behind what they write – even when there’s no real need for secrecy. Nor do they provide anything close to the kind of transparency they demand of everyone else. I got a small taste of this in 2012, when I was accidentally copied in on an internal email among senior editors at the Sunday Star Times, which I’d called several times trying to get comment from a reporter about a story he’d written: “Please see the email below. This person, Alison McCulloch, is seeking comment on an SST story. She has rung me and I have refused to give comment - and it was not until I got the email [Note: my email requesting comment on the story] that it has become clearer what she is after. As the story was published in SST, over to you whether you reply to her, but my view is that this is a 'journalist' who I've never heard of proposing to write for an obscure left leaning website with the seeming agenda of taking a swipe at a right wing lobby group by alleging sloppy journalism when they're reported on. I would recommend not engaging. It started out with her trying to talk directly to Charles - and I think it is very unprofessional for a journalist to try to drag another journalist into a story about how they have managed their sources. She should have approached the editor in the first place, and the fact she lacks the brains to understand that makes me think this is a no win situation.” (The article I was writing, for Werewolf, was about how journalists use partisan polling information. In the end, the SST declined to comment.)

This incident is of little moment, other than as an illustration of the contempt with which anyone working outside the corporate media tribe is held. So I rather admire Hager for both his bravery and his restraint. His bravery in going out there again and again given the inevitable attacks he’ll face, and his restraint in not making “Dirty Politics” a book about “Dirty Journalism”, when he plainly could have. Of course, not attacking the media was also the smart thing to do, (it generally is) since if Hager wanted his book to have an impact, it behoved him not piss all over the very institutions who would help make that happen. According to former Herald editor in chief Gavin Ellis, writing in the Listener, “Dirty Politics” didn’t make waves because of the number of books sold, but because of its news media treatment. I like to think that’s not true, but it still does seem the case that, as Upton Sinclair said, the average person “gets the greater part of his ideas about the world outside from his morning paper” – or 6 o’clock TV News. Sinclair, too, worked hard to leverage his work – including his “fiction” – into the mass media. Who wouldn’t.

Speaking of fiction, that’s where I’ve found some of the best media criticism on offer. The classic of the genre is, of course, Evelyn Waugh’s “Scoop”. Unlike the understandably dour Sinclair, Waugh has humour in spades, and uses it to beat journalistic self-importance to a pulp. (Though the book is also shot through with some of the nastier prejudices of its day.) “Scoop” is the story of William Boot, a hapless writer of a nature column called “Lush Places” who is mistaken for a distant relative, John Boot, and sent by The Daily Beast to cover “a very promising little war” in the fictional African nation of Ishmaelia. “We shall have our naval, military, and air experts, our squad of photographers, our colour reporters, covering the war from every angle and on every front,” the newspaper’s proprietor Lord Copper announces at a luncheon party. In Ishmaelia, the press corps – including the delightfully named correspondents Shumble, Whelper, Pigge and Corker – behave just like Sinclair’s jackals while Boot stumbles on the scoop that makes his name (or at least his distant cousin John’s).

Fast forward to 2003 and the lead-up to the Iraq war, and all that media enthusiasm for “promising little wars” is too real to be funny. Most of us know about the “the case for war” hoodwinking that went on inside America’s media elite. (The New York Times has a list of articles and a link to an Editor’s Note about its much-criticised coverage at: I played a low-level role in all this as a staff editor on The New York Times’s foreign desk.) But along with the serious-minded analyses of the American media’s failures, we also have a pitch-perfect “fictional” account in “The Last Magazine” by another of those troublesome mavericks, Michael Hastings.

As now seems de rigueur in the treatment of rebels who show up the institutional hacks, Hastings suffered numerous slings and arrows at the hands of journalistic colleagues, albeit for his reporting not his fiction. His 2010 Rolling Stone article about Gen. Stanley McChrystal, at the time the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, exposed, among other things, the contempt with which McChrystal held his civilian leadership in the Obama administration, and ultimately led to his resignation. For his trouble, Hastings came under fierce attack from the establishment as well as some in the corporate media – most notably chief foreign correspondent for CBS Lara Logan.

It’s just the kind of thing that might have happened in his novel, posthumously published last year (Hastings died in a car wreck in 2013 at the age of 33). Set at the thinly disguised Newsweek, “The Last Magazine” takes aim at the old “media elite” – among them Nishant Patel and Sanders Berman (allegedly modelled on Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria and Jon Meacham) – as well as the new elite that’s displacing them. “I grew up reading media satires,” Hastings writes in the novel, “reading about the corporate culture, massive layoffs, and polluted rivers, reading about censored stories and the national security state, our imperial sins, FBI investigations into masturbation in the executive office, reading Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and Tom Wolfe and Pat Buchanan and Hunter S. Thompson – what else could I have expected from The Magazine besides what I saw?”

What he saw was disingenuousness, privilege, pomposity, deceit, arrogance –all the staples that go along with being a top media dog. His descriptions of Patel and Berman and their much discussed think pieces on, first in early 2003, “The Case for War”, then later in 2005 by “How They Got It Wrong” are bitingly funny. Of the latter, he writes: “Both Nishant and Sanders are writing big pieces chastising various elements of American society and government. Nishant wants to aim at the Bush administration for being so stupid and incompetent. … Sanders is going to give more or less a historical defense too – yes, they made a mistake; what were we thinking? – but all great leaders make mistakes.”

Per usual practice, Hastings (he’s also called that in the novel, and is one step up from an intern) is dispatched to do their research. “I do my due diligence, digging up the most pertinent anecdotes for both sides of the argument. I start searching for embarrassing media examples and find a website that tracks those kinds of things. I edit out Patel’s and Berman’s own entries on the list before I send it along to them.”

In one of the novel’s “Interludes”, which seem to be in the voice of the non-fictional Hastings, he writes: “Most of the top media folks are a bunch of clueless assholes, egotistical, vainglorious, pompous, insecure, corrupt – you get the picture, right? Not that they’re bad people – they not out there running death camps – but it’s just who they are.” Meanwhile, the new media outlet of (probably Gawker) is snapping at the heels of dead tree journalism even as the latter ties hard to pretend it’s not doomed.’s founder puts his success down to this: “We live in a society of assholes. The media is a reflection of these assholes. We’ll show you what the inside of the asshole’s asshole looks like.”

In the end, there’s apparently no cost to be paid by Nishant Patel, Sanders Berman and all the others who determinedly made “The Case for War”, even if they were wrong and more than a million people died. Journalism is exceptional in that way. Or, as Lord Justice Leveson suggested in his report, “There is no (other) organised profession, trade or industry in which the serious failings of the few are overlooked because of the good done by the many.” The “(other)” is mine, and I’m sceptical of “the good done by the many” – but the point about a lack of accountability still holds.

A local case in point was the coverage in 2007 of the so-called “terror raids” in the Urewera and elsewhere. Then, as now, newspaper editors proved more than adept at coming up with high-minded reasons for decisions to publish the “The Terrorism Files”, which comprised police evidence – one-sided by its very nature – gathered during the now discredited investigations. In its explanation, The Dominion Post said it believed it was acting “in the public interest” – aren’t they always. “We know that publishing the material could have huge repercussions,” the paper said. “Those still facing firearms charges are entitled to a fair trial, but those trials are a year or more away.” We know now what a load of bollocks those “terror” headlines were (“IRA-style war plan”; “Napalm blast”; “Terrorist Camps Alleged” etc.), so much so that Tuhoe recently received an apology from the Police Commissioner over the raids. Will there be an apology from the news media? Of course not. (I wrote about this at the time for a journalism conference.)

Michael Hastings is right that (most) journalists are not bad people – they’re not out there running death camps, but Upton Sinclair is also right that the media represent private not public interests, and that the mavericks are exceptions to the rule. Media commentators Bob McChesney and Ben Scott wrote an introduction to a 2003 reprint of “The Brass Check”, in which they argue that Sinclair saw the treatment of social justice movements as the real measure of journalism, particularly when compared with the obeisance paid “business” interests: “He found the portrayal of labor, socialists, and feminists in the mainstream press so unsympathetic and hostile that it became an enormous barrier to the peaceful exercise of democracy.” They go on to quote a passage from Sinclair’s book that I’d highlighted, too: “If strikers are violent, they get on the wires, while if strikers are not violent, they stay off the wires; by which simple device it is brought about that nine-tenths of the telegraphic news you read about strikes is news of violence, and so in your brain channels is irrevocably graven the idea association: Strikes – violence! Violence – strikes!”

As for me, I’ve given up “consuming” our own corporate news media, finally having decided they do more harm than good. I don’t buy the idea that much, if any, of what they produce is in the “public interest” – indeed, I think the opposite is true. I try to get my local information from the original source, via media releases on Scoop or aggregator sites; from Radio New Zealand’s website, which is so far blissfully free of sensationalised click bait; and from books, some long-form magazine journalism a few blogs and NGOs. I appreciate absenting myself from daily corporate churnalism isn’t going to bring about a media revolution. But the structural problems run so deep, this profit-making media monster simply can’t be fixed with a little tweaking about the edges. It simply has to be torn down, and I don’t see that happening anytime soon – not with so much money and power at stake in controlling public opinion.

On the bright side, while institutional change is not imminent, my one-woman boycott has brought with it some unexpected positives. The main one has been freeing my mind from all that trivial and destructive noise, making for more time to read good books, and to think. I also suspect it’s made me less angry, because no matter how aware you are of it, the media’s constant effort to manufacture outrage about the trivial and complaisance about the important can’t help but seep into your soul. (I might point out that I’m more than willing to be angry and outraged about things that matter.)

Just try giving it up for a day or a week. You’ll be happier, better informed and a lot more productive. You’re also likely to discover there’s very little “news” they produce that you really need to know.

--------- *** --------


Books I read for this piece, some referred to above, some not, but all worth reading.

• Davies, Nick. Flat Earth News: An award-winning reporter exposes falsehood, distortion and propaganda in the global media. (Random House, 2008.)

• Davies, Nick. Hack Attack: How the truth caught up with Rupert Murdoch. (Faber & Faber, 2014)

• Hager, Nicky. Other People’s Wars: New Zealand in Afghanistan, Iraq and the war on terror. (Craig Potton, 2011)

• Hager, Nicky. Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand’s political environment. (Craig Potton, 2014)

• Hager, Nicky. The Hollow Men: A study in the politics of deception. (Craig Potton, 2005)

• Herman, Edward and Noam Chomsky. Manufacturing Consent: The political economy of the mass media. (2008 edition. Random House)

• Leibovich, Mark. This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral—Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking!—in America's Gilded Capital. (Blue Rider Press, 2013)

• Leveson, Lord Justice. “Report into the Culture, Practices and Ethics of the Press.” (2012) (OK, so I didn’t read all the volumes, word for word.)

• Lewis, Charles. 935 Lies: The future of truth and the decline of America’s moral integrity. (Public Affairs, 2014)

• McAfee, Annalena. The Spoiler. (Vintage, 2012)

• Moorehead, Caroline. The Letters of Martha Gellhorn. (Chatto & Windus, 2006)

• Sinclair, Upton. The Brass Check: A study of American journalism. 1919.

[Sinclair published the book himself and waived copyright, so it is available for free download at several sites including: ]

• Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. (1906)

• Waugh, Evelyn. Scoop: A novel about journalists. (1938)


Alison McCulloch began her lengthy journalism career in New Zealand and then continued it in the United States at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Denver Post, and six years as a staff editor at The New York Times. After returning to NZ in 2007 Alison wrote “Fighting to Choose: The Abortion Rights Struggle in New Zealand”, a book about the recent history of the reproductive rights issue in New Zealand. These days Alison resides in the Bay of Plenty and contributes to Scoop's sister publication Werewolf, The New York Times Book Review and many other publications.


An Invitation To A Public Conversation
From Editor Alastair Thompson

Dear Scoop Reader,

This is the second in a series of articles in a "The State of the NZ News Media - Public Conversation" hosted by

You can subscribe to receive the contributions as they are published by signing up to the "Operation Chrysalis" mailing list on the Operation Chrysalis homepage HERE.

Each article will have a conversation thread attached to it on a public Loomio group which will be set up next week. I look forward to engaging with you in this public conversation of the coming two months.


Alastair Thompson Editor and publisher

**** ENDS ****

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