Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The media circus and others

recently criticised our Prime Minister for making a trip to Iraq - and not informing the media or inviting them along. There were claims he was trying to "avoid scrutiny".
Perhaps he was. It is equally likely that, as he said, there were "security issues".
Although journalists are happy to "protect their sources" they are not good at keeping their mouths shut. It isn't their job to keep their mouths shut.
We now have a constant flow of news available from a seemingly endless variety of sources. As part of my work I am provided with a "news feed". It, supposedly, keeps me up to date on what is going on around the world. What it really does is give me the understanding/viewpoint/opinion of one or more people who happen to be in a certain location or have technical information about what they believe to be happening there.
There was an earthquake in New Zealand - or there were a series of earthquakes. It measured 6.4 on the Richter scale or perhaps it measured 6.3. It depends on who is providing the information - and where they got it from and what they believe about earthquakes and aftershocks.
Journalists are under pressure to make much out of a story, to keep the news flow constant and exciting. Accuracy no longer really matters. You need to be able to "sell" the story in a way which keeps the reader/listener on your website, your radio or television channel and your "app". 
Journalists will, of course, say I am wrong about that. They report the news as it happens. They do it accurately. They do not allow their personal views to influence their reporting - perhaps.
They know that, for the ratings, national security is less important than getting a story out - especially any story they can twist to make anyone in authority look even slightly foolish.  Journalists can report news, they can report a story from their point of view, or they can create a story out of  (a misapplication of) "the facts". After all, it costs money to send a reporter to report from another location. There was a prime example this week. Our SBS news service reported that two people were missing in the fires. This announcement was made at the beginning of the bulletin, despite the fact that over six hours previously the police had announced that everyone was accounted for. It was not until half way through the bulletin, after calls from a number of people, that SBS announced "breaking news - everyone is accounted for". My guess? They knew beforehand but they were manipulating the news in order to keep the story about the fires alive and "interesting" for viewers. Accuracy didn't matter - a good story did. Too bad if you happen to have a relative in the fire zone and you had not been able to contact them.
It is no secret that the media has been particularly critical of the present Prime Minister. They don't like him. He doesn't like them. They know he knows how they work and he refuses to play the game. They will create stories where there are none - simply to "sell" no-news.
But, if they looked carefully, they would have discovered that even the staffer who was filming the Prime Minister's visit to Iraq was asked to leave at one point. Yes, there were almost certainly good security reasons for not allowing the press to tag along. They can make a story of that too.

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