To whom it may concern,
A great deal has been said about the media in Australia of late, especially with regard to political coverage. Most of it has been necessarily and appropriately critical. Many Australians feel that the media has failed them and continues to do so. Not even the people’s ABC has been spared, and rightly so. Its coverage of the current election campaign has been little more than a failed social experiment in journalistic sloth. Essentially reblogging stories from other news outlets regarding polls conducted by those news outlets is hardly journalism. Nor is posting Twitter feeds in the place of actual analysis. But you, Fairfax, are not innocent in this or removed from the public’s critical glare. Fairfax News unashamedly joined the Julia Gillard lynch mob and cheered at the gallows. The negativity that the Gillard Government faced from the MSM, right across the board, was unrelenting. Your anti-Labor leanings have noticeably softened with her departure, but there is still a great deal of work to be done if any kind of balance is to be restored to the presentation of political information and opinion in this country. I presume you care about that.
You would be studiously aware, no doubt, that the main focus of the public’s criticism has been News Corp. The reasons for that are as obvious as the glaring and daring headlines, transparent and tenacious as they’ve been in driving the Murdoch agenda to seat Tony Abbott in the Lodge. It’s surely incontrovertible that the Murdoch press has fully embraced the philosophy and modus operandi of the Tabloid Press. Australia has been confronted for too long with the jaundiced jabbering of pseudo-journalists of the Gemma Jones ilk, who would be far more appropriately assigned to writing gossip columns. Mind you, the difference between that and what is presently being offered as news is one measured in yoctometres. That the Murdoch Media Machine has made this choice, taking some of Australia’s most respected print media outlets with it, is plain enough. What may not be so obvious is the potential benefit that exists for Fairfax in this betrayal of all things intellectually and morally credible.
The gleeful abandon with which the Murdoch Press has thrown off the shredded rags of any vestigial sense of journalistic integrity has been most unedifying. Aren’t there laws about disrobing in public? But whilst the journalists of News Limited indulge in their collective streak across the playing field of Australia’s media landscape, a task goes unattended. A void has been created in the news market in this country, as well as in the hearts and minds of politically engaged and concerned Aussies. That void is simply one of reasoned, objective journalism that does not ignore the code of professional ethics governing it, but instead takes pride, both professional and personal, in adhering to it with consistent authenticity. It is that of a media that does not attempt to obfuscate the difference or blur the line between journalism and commentary or opinion; a media that does not set out to manipulate the perspective or emotions of its readers when reporting news; a media that seeks to report news rather than be the news.
I put it to Fairfax News that they have an opportunity to take that market share and fill that commercial and emotional void. Yes, news is resource heavy and doesn’t attract the profits enjoyed by other facets of the media, but no price can be put on the status and pathos afforded a respected and trusted news service. I assert in the strongest possible terms that in what is commonly known as the Mainstream Media, no such news service exists. You only have to look at the social standing of journalists to know this is true. People simply no longer trust you. And that is nothing less than a cultural tragedy – one that we ignore at our peril.
The demand for real, balanced, ethical journalism is alive and well. Australians all over this land are crying out for it – into their beers and into their keyboards, or in some cases both things simultaneously. The market for it is genuine and not just something artificially generated by the ephemeral passion and pandemonium of an election campaign. The significant rise of alternative on-line information sources is testament to this fact. Rest assured that if the Coalition should prevail on September 7 much of the public is excruciatingly aware – and some of it dangerously and naively unaware – that the Murdoch media empire will not provide the sort of scrutiny of Government that the people of this Nation require and deserve. Current circumstances make that patently clear. Neither the Murdoch press nor the Coalition are going to look that particular gift horse of reciprocity in the mouth. If they did, the stench of the halitosis might well render them as catatonic as Tony Abbott in an awkward interview.
This is a defining moment, I believe, not only in Australia’s political history, but also in its media history. Fairfax has the opportunity to capture not only a specific share of this media market, but also a place deep in the spirit of average Australians. It’s an opportunity for Fairfax to reverse, or at least mitigate the trend of cynicism directed at Australia’s media with respect to news and political coverage in particular. This is not hubris, nor is it excess maudlinism. It’s real. The need is real. The demand for that need to be met is real. Can Fairfax enter that reality?
Now, you may feel you already have a place there, and it’s true that to some extent you do, but you must surely also appreciate that the larger market share for real news and real journalism is not a mere abstraction but something tangible and there for the taking. This particular market, made available by Murdoch’s deliberate and seemingly joyous relinquishment of it, doesn’t require capital investment; it requires intellectual and moral investment. All it takes for that market to be in your hands is to heed the calls of the people and to meet their demands for better quality political journalism. I believe Murdoch has handed this opportunity to you on a gold plated, solid silver platter. Even Bargain Hunt couldn’t put an estimate on its value.
You have before you the opportunity to be the news service that Australians trust uppermost. You have the opportunity to return the craft of journalism to a place of respect in our communities. Please don’t underestimate or dismiss the significance of the absence of that trust and respect in Australian society. It has been socially cancerous. Cynicism is cancerous. Who can the people trust? It seems not the politicians. Nor is it anymore those whose brief it is to cut through the jungle of Machiavellian Madness and give us some clear, unbiased and informed vision into that which effects our everyday lives. There was a time when journalists appeared to feel the moral weight of meaningfully and objectively informing the community. There is a certain sentimental yearning running through the Australian psyche right now with regard to that time. You can either tap into that sentiment and become culturally relevant, or you can strip off and let it all hang out with the cavorting clowns of the Murdoch Circus.
As far as I can tell, only one of those options comes at any real cost.
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