20 Dec 2019

What we're reading this week — December 20, 2019

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The impeachment of US President Donald Trump, the fight to save local journalism, the history of Australian broadcasting in the Asia Pacific and whether female characters in Star Wars get less dialogue than their male counterparts.

These are some of the stories that caught our attention this week.

Making the Australia Calling documentary about 80 years of ABC international broadcasting

ABC Backstory / Michael Vincent

“My favourite ‘surprise’ of the documentary was discovering a couple who fell in love over the Radio Australia airwaves — Humphrey and Anita Chang — and then finding and meeting them in Suva, Fiji.” Vincent details the challenges and joys of filming a documentary about the ABC’s history of broadcasting in the Asia Pacific.

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Life under the shadow of a coal-fired power plant

Dawn / Syed Muhammad Abubakar

The residents of Qadirabad, a small town in Pakistan’s Punjab province, say the local coal-fired power plant has “impacted not just their health, but uprooted the life they once knew.” As the rest of the world considers its dependence on fossil fuels, will Pakistan follow suit?

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Stokes puts stake in the ground in Prime battle

Financial Review / Max Mason

The ongoing stoush for control of regional broadcaster Prime Media has intensified after Kerry Stokes' Seven West Media bought out Prime's largest shareholder.

See also: Seven West Media buys Prime stake after takeover fails in The Australian.

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We can’t fight fake news without saving local journalism

The Guardian / Emily Bell

“In the 2020 election cycle, we are already seeing a rise in hundreds of phantom ‘local news sites’ set up by political operatives to churn out automated stories that fit particular talking points. The resources at a local level to counter these operations are shrinking.”

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Biscuit tin democracy: The humble start of New Zealand's most progressive laws

The Guardian / Charlotte Graham-McLay

In New Zealand's parliament, bills to be debated are stored in a 30-year-old biscuit tin. This is great insight into one of the quirky elements of our neighbour's parliamentary processes.

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There are more women than ever in 'Star Wars.' Men still do most of the talking

Los Angeles Times / Swetha Kannan, Andrea Roberson, Sean Greene and Tracey Brown

In case you missed it, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was released this week. Reporters at the LA Times spent more than 100 hours studying Star Wars’ female characters, across the nine films that make up the Skywalker saga. They found that the majority of dialogue is still delivered by men.

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How China is changing the global balance of economic power

Lowy Institute

This simple interactive shows how far the balance of power in global trade has swung to China in the past 40 years.

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The industry (mostly) welcomes the government's response to ACCC Digital Platforms Inquiry

Mumbrella / Hannah Blackiston

A concise overview of the thoughts of media industry leaders about the Government’s response to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s Digital Platform Inquiry.

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The conservative case for impeachment — and removal

The New York Times / Bret Stephens

“What Republicans are doing now with their lock step opposition to impeachment — and with their indifference to the behaviour that brought impeachment about — is not conservative. It is the abdication of principle to power.”

Bret Stephens delivers a typically sober commentary with a dose of historical perspective.

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One nation, tracked

The New York Times

"If you could see the full trove, you might never use your phone the same way again." The Times' investigation into the smartphone tracking industry reveals the alarming scope of intrusions into people's privacy.

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Predictions for journalism in 2020

Nieman Lab

Some of the best minds in journalism take a look at what the industry can expect during the coming year. It covers a broad range of topics, including fighting disinformation, journalism as a public service, AI, and the intersection of sports and politics.

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What it's like trying out for the Nationals' racing presidents

NPR / Barbara Sprunt

The Washington Nationals, who recently won Major League Baseball’s World Series, have some familiar mascots — presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. This story takes a look at the gruelling competition to select the people who get to wear the presidential costumes.

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Cities driving the world

South China Morning Post / Marcelo Duhalde

A list of the world’s most competitive cities is dominated by just five countries. The US, UK, China, Germany and Japan are home to more than half of the top 200 cities. The SCMP provides an excellent visualisation of the data from the Global Urban Competitiveness Report.

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Watch: The BJP's hidden history of extreme student protests

The Wire / Raghu Karnad

India’s ruling party, the BJP, has been critical of the recent students protests against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act. Yet, prime minister Narendra Modi’s own political origins are linked to student radicalism. Raghu Karnad’s video provides the historical background to an important story.

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Here's what else you need to know

The Judith Neilson Institute has celebrated its first year — Take a look at some of the highlights so far.

We've made a list of the journalism clichés we'd like to stamp out

Missed last week's edition of what we're reading?