Thursday, March 27, 2008

Ten useful websites

1. ABC News (Australia)
ABC News online relies on the authority provided by Australia’s national broadcasting corporation. The website uses the full capability of its broadcasting newsroom including video on demand and around the clock news updates. ABC’s Managing Director Mark Scott sees this as “the seeds of a 24 hour news channel”. The website also provides downloads and podcast feeds for radio Current Affairs programs in MP3 format. ABC News demonstrates the Internet's greatest strength with its ability to attract people during the day for short news grabs.

2. Tim Blair
“Tim Blair” is the personal weblog of the eponymous Sydney-based journalist. Blair is a prolific poster and his posts are usual pithy and humorous takes on political events from a right wing perspective. Each entry is hyperlinked to either another blog or a mainstream media report, with the intention, more often than not, to satirise. Blair is one of Australia’s most popular bloggers and gets over 14,000 visitors every day, with a large proportion of these from the US. Blair was the first blogger to make the transition to mainstream media and is now an opinion editor at the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

3. Blogocracy
Blair was followed into the Murdoch mainstream by another blogger, Tim Dunlop. Dunlop made the transition from his personal The Road to Surfdom (which he still maintains) to his News Corporation blog at Blogocracy. If Blair is the lion of the right, Dunlop is consistently the most incisive of the left wing commentators. Whereas Blair tends to brevity, Dunlop unpacks the political issues of the day in a weighty and considered manner usually backed up by either official reports or other media stories. His comment threads are usually informative and he provides a blogroll link to many of Australia’s top political blogs.

4. Hugh Atkins (Youtube)
Hugh Atkins is a young Australian satirist whose YouTube videos have achieved international stardom in last 12 months. His online video called "Clinton and Cruise — on the campaign trail", has featured on The New York Times and Guardian websites and been watched by almost 100,000 people. Atkins uses the technique of “mashup” which involve the combination of two or more disparate elements. Atkins’ mashups splice videos, texts, audio, images, and animation of unrelated events to spoof political actors in an often hilarious fashion.

5. Possums Pollytics
The people that have made the greatest impression in the Australian blogosphere are the psephologist bloggers. The likes of Bryan Palmer (Ozpolitics), William Bowe (The Poll Bludger) and Peter Brent (Mumble) are consistently providing opinion poll analysis that is as good if not better than their equivalents in the mainstream media (Bahnisch 2007). Probably the most accomplished of these, and certainly the most acerbic is the anonymous blogger called Possum Comitatus (punning on the US law “Posse Comitatus” that limit the powers of the federal government to use the military for law enforcement) who writes at the site Possums Pollytics (Possums Pollytics 2008, online). This site uses sophisticated statistical analysis such as regression modelling to observe underlying political trends and skewer political shibboleths. These have led to controversial “poll wars” particularly with The Australian newspaper. Although his authority is somewhat diminished due to his anonymity, Possum is now employed on a regular basis by Crikey to provide opinion poll analysis.

6. Crikey
Crikey is often considered the “first” or “senior” Australian blog. It takes the format of a website and a daily email sent to 16,000 addresses of which over 5,000 are paying subscribers. This lively vehicle for political, financial and media commentary and gossip was founded by Stephen Mayne and sold for $1 million in 2005. Crikey’s subtitle “telling you what they won’t” promotes the picture of a political and media outsider not beholden to big business. Crikey combines traditional media traits such as news, political analysis, business news, sport and cartoons with Internet capability such as email, YouTube videos, hyperlinks, excerpts from blogs. A 2006 poll reported that Crikey’s website gets 190,000 visitors each month making it the sixth most popular news website in Australia.

7 Larvatus Prodeo
The group blog Larvatus Prodeo is the brainchild of Brisbane academic Mark Bahnisch. The blog carries several daily updates from the members of its collective often with useful and informative links to other media outlets both inside and outside Australia. The other important feature of the site is the comments section, most of which contain very long and lively threads. Larvatus Prodeo is openly partisan discussing politics and social issues “from a left of centre perspective”. It often carries informed comment and commentary within minutes of news being announced, usually hours ahead of any the mainstream media sites.

8 The Bartlett Diaries
Andrew Bartlett is Australia’s most prominent and consistently active politician-blogger. Over the last four years, the Queensland Democrat senator has provided an insider’s view on Canberra politics in his blog The Bartlett Diaries (Bartlett 2008, online). His articles are usually balanced, thoughtful and provocative and they add to the understanding of the workings of the Australian parliamentary system. Bartlett’s blog provides particularly useful insights into Senate committee inquiries. However, the future of this blog is uncertain after Bartlett’s defeat in the 2007 election which means he leaves parliament on 1 July 2008.

9. Al
Al Jazeera is an international news broadcasting organisation based in Doha, Qatar. Its English language website reflects the Al Jazeera International TV channel’s style and editorial content and provides news from all over the world as well as in-depth analysis and background. With a template similar to the BBC, it categorises its news across geographical regions and provides access to news not easily accessible elsewhere – especially about the Middle East and Africa. They also reuse video content from their TV newsroom. The station has gained a reputation for feisty independence having offended every government in the Arab region as well as upsetting Washington for what they saw as its “unbalanced and anti-American coverage”).

10 Freedom to Differ
Freedom to Differ is a blog by QUT law academic Peter Black about legal and policy issues facing the media and the Internet. Black is a passionate believer in the power of web 2.0 and his site is linked up to several social media such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Stumbleupon. Black’s blog is a media news aggregator. On a daily basis, Black will link to several media articles about internet technology and legal implications Black’s blog is an excellent example of the scintillation model of news coverage in that it serves as a meta-blog citing links to discussions that have “scintillated” into newsworthiness elsewhere on the Internet.

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