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November 22, 2007 / Amy Bradney-George

The Common Perception of the Australian Media

Is your news limited?

For years I’ve been dissatisfied with the media in Australia. Journalists seem to come across as sneaky, snide, sleazy, arrogant, unethical and unconcerned individuals which add up to the sum of media in this country. But are they like that?

Since this year (I suppose) I have been wondering whether the media really is as bad as we all seem to think it is. And this train of thought is fuelled largely by my study, but also by my increased interest in current affairs and news and satire like The Chaser and Frontline. I was having a discussion with my brother a few days ago about whether the Australian media help to enforce ideas of democracy. And he was saying that he believed the media is not doing that job in the slightest and is more hinderance than helper.

I used to agree with that sentiment, almost without question, but the cynical (journalistic) side of me questions everything. And really, are the media such a bad element? Should we distrust them, make them the butt of our jokes, treat the phrase “ethical journalism” as an oxymoron of old? What is it about the media that causes regard somewhat lesser than that you might have for mould in the shower?

Most of the journalists in this country are good journalists. They are ethical and they do their job not for glory, but out of an intrinsic human interest (and probably an ingrained duty some of the more weathered journo’s feel). Think about journalists like Kerry O’Brien, Sandra Sully (yes, she annoys me, but she’s pretty good really), George Negus, Indira Naidoo, David Marr, Michael Idato, Hedley Thomas (who exposed Dr Death and the mistreatment of Haneef). If you know any one of those names, think of whether they fit in with your perceptions of the media. I don’t think they would for my brother, but they are good, prominent journalists. And the majority of journalists in this country are just as good.

But if we have so many “good journalists”, why does the media seem like it’s doing nothing helpful? Therein lies the problem.

I think it has to do with the concentration of media ownership, firstly. Of course, I love Fairfax and News Limited, but with only TWO primary owners of media in this country, there’s very little competition. Think of a job you would like. And imagine you are in a position where you could be promoted for doing better than your colleagues. Ok, now imagine there are very few colleagues at a level above you as most are on the same level as you. That’s what I think we have with the media here. What’s the point in trying to get to the top when most people are level with you and going higher could expose you to a lot of nasty treatment?

There’s more legislative influences, but that is a big one, and I don’t want to harp on for much longer.

The other element is what makes up the definition of media. It includes news, current affairs, features (in magazines etc), documentary shows like Australian Story and celebrity gossip that you often see in magazines. Are you seeing the contrasts?

I’ll probably write a lot more political stuff over the next few days, leading up to and following the election.

Next time: Tune in for the best way to ask questions as a journalist, and the different techniques you can use. Baffle your friends with your investigative, persistant skills and stun politicians with your mastery of questioning.

But for now, I wonder if you might think about how The Chaser’s War on Everything only ever satirises a couple of sections of the media. If all of “the media” was the way lots of people think of the media, wouldn’t they satirise more than the usual suspects?

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One Comment

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  1. Anonymous / Nov 23 2007 8:39 am

    Very good read, and some very valid points in there also. I guess the point I was making (as the brother you mentioned) is that the more popular sources of media are the ones that are the most biased. I really admire journalists like Kerry O’Brian, but lack of funding and advertising means that shows like today tonight and ACA are spead and distrubuted to more broad audiences. This article roused more interests in this area and has encouraged me to do vast and extensive research. Thank you, and I might add that if more journalists presented their agruements the way you just did, than there would not be any problems like this in the first place.

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