Home > Australian politics, Media > #mediafail – The death of Australian political journalism

#mediafail – The death of Australian political journalism

For a while now there’s been an inexorable decline in the standards of journalism across the globe.  With the advent of the internet the 24 hour news cycle and the need to always be the first with the latest the emphasis has been moved away from considered analysis to superficial reportage merely to stake the claim as the “first”.

But now I am sad to report that political journalism has died a miserable lonely death in Australia and shuffled off to the wasteland currently inhabited by Today Tonight and A Current Affair.  It hasn’t been a pretty decline by any stretch of the imagination, but the past four years have seen the malignancy increase to the point where it is impossible to sustain life without heroic measures any more.  So what have been the causes of this sad termination, apart from the above mentioned 24 hour news cycle?

  1. The political journos themselves must shoulder the lion’s share of the blame.  From the days of titans like the younger Laurie Oakes and Paul Bongiorno (not the sad caricatures they have become in an attempt to remain relevant) we have now descended to the era of the Mark Rileys, Latika Bourkes, and Dennis Shanahans.  The whole press gallery has become an exercise in circle-jerk confirmation bias and a death spiral of editorial prejudice, with quality reportage and analysis the first casualties.  They have become nothing but stenographers for the right, with every press release treated as reality and devoid of any hint of thought.  When the national broadcaster starts the majority of political stories with “The Federal Opposition says…” you know there is some bias there.
  2. Following on from the journos themselves is their publications/broadcasters incessant treatment of opinion polls as news.  They are a carefully guided questioning of a small (very small in some cases) cross section of society…in no way do they represent what would happen if an election were held…which it won’t because it is at least 2 years away and only a moron would kick themselves out of a job because some brain-dead mouth-breather kept bleating on about a new election.
  3. Treating politics as a horse race/sport is the next step.  Both of these viewpoints require a distinct winner and loser, or hero and villain (no guessing what the current casting is huh?) and quite frankly the world doesn’t work this way.  Rather than dig deeper into the boring policy stuff to find out what is right/wrong or good/bad, they will grab the most sensational sound bite and beat it up until it suits there needs for hits/ratings/sales.  Take the “Julia lied” furphy as the current popular meme.  It wouldn’t take much to lay out the reasoning as follows:    a)  Promise was made during the election campaign i.e. BEFORE THE ELECTION RESULT WAS KNOWN.   b)  she also said Labor always wanted to put a emissions trading scheme in place.  c)  Neither major party won government in their own right, so they needed to negotiate with the Greens and Independents.  d)  Negotiation means compromise on previous promises.  e)  Compromise was that a fixed price would be put on pollution temporarily until an ETS was established.   It’s not that hard.
  4. And finally the journos belief that they are somehow integral to the political process and must be treated with the “respect” they deserve.  This of course leads to the well known phenomenon of journalists interviewing journalists, mostly about what other journalists have opined…best seen in that wonderful show “Insiders”.  The title sums it all up really…they truly believe that they are part of the mechanism of running the country.

Of course none of this is new so why the sudden urge to declare time of death?  The coverage of the carbon tax.

Never have I seen such a conglomeration of dribble, gibber and, to paraphrase the PM, absolute crap.  The coverage of the facts of the package have been minimal and detailed analysis almost non-existent, but the reportage on the hysteria of the LNP, mining companies and any other vested interest that might even have to pay a bit extra has been staggering.  For fuck’s sake there’s been wall-to-wall reporting of whingers earning over $150,000 who are complaining that they will have to pay extra to run the ducted air-conditioning in their McMansions.

So to sum up, I think it’s time for a change.  We can no longer rely on the journalists in this country to provide us the information we need to make decisions about the future of this country and which political entity will do the best for our country.

We, the amateurs of the blogosphere need to stand up and be counted.  I’ve read far more detailed analysis and reporting in the numerous blogs I read than anything else I can pick from one on the major news organs.  It’s time for us to get our messages out there and be taken seriously as the successors to the Fourth Estate.  They can revert back to the celebrity breakups and dodgy tradies that they cover so well…the blogosphere can handle the serious analysis that they are unwilling or unable to provide.

Now I’m only a rank amateur…I’m poor at fact checking, let my opinion run free and am not one for in depth analysis (whoa…I could actually be a journalist with that skill set!), but for some better and more detailed information I strongly suggest you check out Grogs Gamut, Politically Homeless, The Failed Estate, Larvatus Prodeo, and if you’re feeling combative and want to see some trolls in the wild, jump on to Gutter Trash and join the fight.

Get yourselves out there and get the correct information spreading…we desperately need it.

  1. Min
    July 18, 2011 at 5:10 PM

    An excellent read Massive, have popped a link over at Café Whispers.

  2. July 18, 2011 at 6:16 PM

    Hi Massive. You’ve been linked to the Facebook group Australians for an Honest Media. Congratulations. You’re now famous.

    • July 19, 2011 at 8:42 AM

      Woo hoo! Thanks Migs…my name up in lights at last!

  3. Pip
    July 19, 2011 at 12:18 PM

    Now I’m only a rank amateur…I’m poor at fact checking, let my opinion run free and am not one for in depth analysis (whoa…I could actually be a journalist with that skill set!),

    That’s the funniest, truest sentence I’ve read all day !

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