Dear media, write about something else

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s an election coming. It’s about this time we should be seeing politicians nailed to the wall about their record, and their policies. So what do we get from our media?

Do we hear about the 1632 children being held in detention solely because their parents risked their lives to seek asylum in Australia? Children who grow up in an atmosphere of utter despair, in conditions of squalor, and with no realistic hope of escape any time soon? For that matter, do we hear that Parliament’s own Human Rights Committee sounded a note of warning, urging MPs to comply with our international obligations?

Do we hear about the Coalition’s plan to flout international law, and Australia’s treaty obligations, by deporting any refugee convicted of a crime with a sentence of 12 months or more back to their home country? To speed up the process, any such refugee would lose their ‘normal rights of appeal’. (Yes, you heard that right. No judicial process for you, refugee person, even if you were wrongly convicted. We’ll put you on a plane and fly you right back into the hands of the country you fled in fear for your life. Bye-bye, now.)

Do we hear about the Coalition’s lack of any substantial education policy, other than to reverse anything the government manages to set in place? Christopher Pyne doesn’t think the education system needs fixing – oh, except for that pesky National Curriculum. That’s got to go. Too ‘black armband’. We can’t have our kids growing up thinking our history contains anything shameful.

How about the major parties marching in lockstep to preserve a duopoly between Coles and Woolworths, which causes immense harm to primary producers and small businesses? The complete silence on Arts funding? The government’s undignified scramble away from legislation to regulate poker machines? The Coalition’s intent to widen an already huge gap between wealthy and low income families through a number of policies, including its misnamed Paid Parental Leave (only available to women) and removing means testing on so-called ‘middle class welfare’ schemes like the Schoolkids’ Bonus?

Do we hear incisive analysis about the issues? Informed, reasoned commentary? Close questioning in interviews?

We do not.

What we do hear is, day after day, the same pap regurgitated.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott visits yet another small business, telling us that the ‘carbon tax’ is killing the country. Or the mining tax. Or both. The script is so predictable that one suspects he may, at times, be talking in his sleep. But that’s perfectly all right, because no one is likely to ask him any hard questions.

Yet another opinion piece pops up, telling us that Kevin Rudd’s supporters are massing for a tilt at the leadership, and that Labor is on the verge of self-destruction. That a challenge is imminent. Ignore anything that Labor politicians actually say – just keep presenting the conjecture as fact. Sooner or later, it’s got to be true, right? Even a stopped clock is correct twice a day.

And then there are the endless, endless discussions of polls – but only some polls. Only the polls that show the government heading towards an unprecedented defeat. Only the polls that show Rudd is more popular than the Prime Minister. Don’t worry about the polls that have consistently shown a different trend, which – at least – suggest that closer analysis might be in order. Don’t worry about polls showing Abbott’s popularity pales in comparison to that of the leader he ousted, Malcolm Turnbull.

Think I’m exaggerating? Watch the headlines on the hourly ABC News24 and Sky bulletins. Go and look at the headlines under ‘Politics’ on the Fairfax or News Limited’s websites. Discount anything written by a politician, and here’s a sample of what you get:

(from Fairfax)
‘For Fix Sake, Someone Sort Out Rudd and Gillard’
‘The Loved and the Loathed’ (Gillard and Rudd, of course)
‘Little Wonder Caucus Mired in its Pool of Tears’

(from News Ltd)
‘Kevin Rudd Can’t Save Labor’
‘Gone-ski, Me? Not Today Anyway’ (Fairfax makes Lewis Carroll references, News Ltd makes puns)
‘G-G on Hand in Case of Coup’
‘Blocking Kevin Won’t Leave Julia a Martyr’

To be fair, there were a couple of articles about issues other than the Labor leadership. One was a very short update on how 457 Visa legislation might not pass the House. Another expressed astonishment at the social media backlash that followed Senator Cory Bernardi’s column yesterday, in which he claimed he’d been vindicated in his assertion that same-sex marriage would lead to multiple marriage and bestiality. By far, though, the majority of media coverage has been the same old same old.

Now, sure, breathless speculation about an imminent Constitutional crisis makes for great headlines. What a story – it’s got action, it’s got conflict, it’s got drama – and best of all, there’s no need to make sure that the facts are correct. Because there are no facts. It’s all one big hypothetical, and if it never happens, well, no harm, no foul, right? The next story can always be about how Rudd’s faction ‘backed away’. Meanwhile, there’s always another Abbott presser.

This is the kind of rubbish that clutters up political journalism, buries – or even outright ignores – substantial policy debate and criticism, and is served up to us. Is it any wonder that people turn increasingly to independent media?

Here’s a heretical thought for the mainstream media. Why not stop writing about how Rudd might challenge Gillard? Sure, keep an ear to the ground, and if a challenge is on, be there on the ground – but in the meantime, there’s plenty of news to go around. Get stuck into the Coalition on their resounding lack of policy. Pin down the government on their appalling asylum seeker legislation. Do some bloody analysis on Greens policies. Hell, spend some time with the Independents – all of them – and find out what they plan to bring to their election campaigns.

For the love of Murphy, write about something else.

I promise it won’t hurt. You might just find your audiences start re-engaging. And those readers and viewers would have some real content to accompany what they get from independent media. Everybody wins.

Wouldn’t that be a fine thing?

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13 Responses to Dear media, write about something else

  1. Steven Baxter says:

    Dear person who writes this article,

    While I agree with what you are saying, I cannot identify with you while you continue to not identify yourself. I do not agree with age’ s analysis of the situation but at least I know who I am talking to.

    If you continue to make it difficult to identify who you are, and enable peolpe to ensure that your commentary is not just some political party “spin” then we cannot take you seriously. My name is Steven Baxter. I am proud to enter a debt with you. What is your name?

    • I wasn’t aware I was ‘making it difficult’, considering both my Gravatar and Twitter profiles display both my real name and image. Nonetheless, I’ve now made a point of putting my real name right up front on the blog header – so let’s have no more talk, please, of ‘spin’. I have no affiliation with any political party, and would certainly declare it if I had.

  2. misseagle says:

    This post is quite prescient given to-day’s editorial in The Age. Shall be reposting it on Facebook and Twitter.

  3. D & L says:

    I agree with most points you make however, what about the pressure that private media outlets put on journos to stick with these ‘popular’ and headline-grabbing stories? It’s all about ratings and ad-revenue for them.

    Do journos at these private media organisations have much freedom to report on issues outside of the regular narrative?

  4. […] Dear media, write about something else. […]

  5. lmrh5 says:

    Reblogged this on lmrh5.

  6. megpie71 says:

    My state’s major metropolitan daily, The West Australian, has recently laid off staff due to lack of readership and thus lack of sales. It adheres pretty closely to the mainstream media line, and basically serves up the same sorts of stories I can find for free on the internet (via the ABC and its online version). The rest of the paper is pretty much advertising space (more and more of the paper is advertising, and less and less is news these days). I have a lot of trouble believing these two things aren’t causally linked.

    I’m currently living in a household which gets the paper delivered on a daily basis. Each day I get more evidence my decision to discontinue my own subscription was a wise one. I wouldn’t willingly pay $1.50 for what we’re getting.

    It’s a bit ironic, really. The main local content is dedicated to the belated realisation of the West’s management and writers that the WA Liberal party (whose most enthusiastic cheerleaders they were during the election) are lying liars who lied, and that as economic managers, they’re not able to cope with conditions which aren’t boom times (which we all could have told you anyway). But the federal content is mainly about how horrible the Gillard government is, and how Tony Abbott’s Liberal government (which is going to happen, and why bother with a bloody election to find out the obvious?) is going to be soooo much better for Australia (and I can get that for free from Mr Murdoch’s Community Newspaper group here in WA anyway!).

    So, in the spirit of helpfulness, and just in case the editor or proprietor of the West is reading this, here’s something I’d be interested in seeing, and something I might be interested in paying $1.50 for. How about a detailed analysis of the various parties (all of them – including the Greens, Family First, and all the other minor parties we’re going to be looking at on the Senate ballot paper) and how their various ideologies (their principles and ideals) are turned into policies (the bits they’re taking to the election). In the cases of certain parties (such as the Liberal party) you may have to go on past evidence, since they haven’t released much in the way of actual policy to the wider world, but it should be possible to find the guiding principles they use as their lodestones to determine the way they interface with the wider world. It might also be interesting to see where these ideologies and principles veer off from the consensus reality and into a reality all of their own making.

    That kind of thing I’d pay for.

  7. Mark says:

    A very hard hitting and well written article. I totally agree with you and the responders so far. How do we spread articles like this further ? The MSM in this country is failing us badly.

    • Thank you.

      Please, feel free to distribute links to this article (or any other from this blog). I only ask that attribution.is clearly given, and that the content isn’t modified in any way. (Excerpts are okay, though).

  8. deknarf says:

    Yes indeedy! How about some REAL journalistic investigation! The fourth estate is failing Australia!

  9. Damien says:

    Commercial news is there to get people to look at the ads. It turns out all that hard stuff like analysis and caring doesn’t do too much better than just saying “Rudd Rudd Rudd” 400 times in one article.. 😦

  10. JenniferGJ says:

    Yes please, journos. There is so much that matters to ordinary Australians like myself which does not seem to be being talked about in the mainstream media. Please remember the pride with which you entered journalism and get out there and get stuck in to real issues. This morning on ABC News Breakfast I thought I heard glimmerings of the questioning and thought provoking journalism I used to admire.

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