An Open Letter to the Mainstream Media
Dear Mainstream Media,
I know we haven’t exactly got along in the past, but I’m just writing to let you know the status of our relationship is now in an emergency zone. I’m no longer just pissed off. I’ve reached the point of contempt. It’s not like I didn’t already know you were a broken-record narrative, full of bias, inaccuracy and completely anti-balance, but now I have a fictional model of just how good you could be if you gave a shit. And this just makes the reality of your inadequacy even more obvious. Yes, I’m watching Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom and it’s completely depressing.
Since you probably haven’t watched Newsroom, and if you have you’re no doubt laughing it off just like your biggest defender, @sclark_melbs, calling it ‘fictional’ and ‘drama’, I thought it might be timely to let you know you could really learn something from this television series. And yes, you can learn something from fictional stories – they are just words formed into ideas which, after all, is your stock-in-trade.
In Episode 2 of Season 1, the fabulous Executive Producer of News Night, MacKenzie McHale, informs her staff of the standards they will be working to in her newsroom. These four beautiful rules are so simple, yet so ignored by your journalists day in day out:
- Is this information we need in the voting booth?
- Is this the best possible form of the argument?
- Is this in historical context?
- Are there really two sides to every story?
Do you ever think that maybe if you showed this sort of integrity in the news reporting process, you might actually do some good in our society? I realise this isn’t your ultimate goal, and not the reason you go to work every day, but wouldn’t it feel nice inside to actually know you were contributing to society rather than ripping it up and stamping on it? Standards of decency. Do you even have such a thing?
Let’s look at these rules in regards to your favourite topic of political reportage – Kevin Rudd and his shambolic quest to undermine the Prime Minister. Apparently this story trumps news of policy success, and pretty much anything the Labor Party wants to say on any topic which isn’t related to bringing Gillard down. And I can’t for the life of me work out why? Unless of course you are just hacks. I’m looking at all of you – from Murdoch’s unprofitable rabble, all the way to, upsettingly, the Guardian, which we all hoped was going to be above this bullshit Groundhog Day leadership tension story. But alas, the Guardian is not. And neither is the ABC, so the commercial interest excuse fails here. I would welcome a journalist explaining to us how Kevin’s white-anting antics are important information to the electorate. Do we need these stories to make up our minds in the voting booth? I’d say emphatically, no, it’s just Labor bashing. Based on the historical context, we already know Kevin doesn’t have the numbers after one challenge, and one aborted challenge. Based on these simple facts, which you are all very aware of, is there any relevance in the news that Kevin is still upset that he’s not PM anymore? My cat doesn’t have the numbers to challenge the Prime Minister, but if I started a rumor that she wanted to, would you run with that too? How about more historical context? Like the fact that Kevin was shit at being Prime Minister and was replaced by an extremely competent Deputy Prime Minister who has had ten times the policy wins Kevin had? This just doesn’t ever get a mention. How is this not relevant to your bullshit stories that weren’t relevant in the first place?
How about we look at all the times you break standards 2 and 4. When you quote ‘the Opposition says’ without actually giving any thought to the accuracy of what the Opposition says. I heard a cracker tonight on South Australia’s ABC news. Some of the relevant facts were, thankfully, included; South Australia’s Premier Jay Weatherill had confirmed his state’s support for the Gonski education funding deal. I’ll note here that when the ACT signed up, you made the story about a sandwich. Seriously, you did. But credit where it’s due, you reported Gillard’s success in reaching agreement with South Australia. And then you ruined it by adding that the leader of the South Australian Liberal Opposition had criticized the deal, saying it was not delivering an education funding boost to South Australian schools, but rather a funding cut. So here I ask, did anyone check if the Liberal Opposition Leader was correct in this statement? Because I actually think he was unashamedly incorrect- the whole point of the Gonski deal is that every school will be better off. But just the fact of reporting this inaccurate statement makes the electorate think it is true. When you do this, you’re not informing the public; at best you’re confusing them, at worst you’re lying to them. Does it really take very long to verify the facts of someone’s statement before quoting it on air? Is the overused knee-jerk technique of adding ‘the Opposition says’ to every news bulletin really the best form of the argument?
How about getting an expert in to speak about education funding if the Opposition don’t have anything relevant or truthful to add (in other words – if they don’t actually have an argument)? And are there really two sides to every story? I would say if the Opposition are just making shit up, they have no right to be included in the report. And if your journalists can’t verify the veracity of the Opposition’s statements before you quote them, why the f*ck are you putting them in your news story? This is not balance. This is lazy. Do you ever think that if you did hold politicians to a very basic, base-line standard of only reporting their slogans and sound-bites when they are factual, you might actually improve the quality of political discourse in this country? Never considered it? Didn’t think so.
It’s when you don’t bother to find out who else was at Brough’s dinner. It’s when you take the word of the restaurant owner over the chef’s evidence and you decide not to investigate the truth. It’s when you don’t ask why Brough apologised long before the restaurant owner said the menu was never printed. It’s when someone is lying and you don’t care.
It’s when you stalk Craig Thomson and ignore James Ashby. It’s when you beat up stories about Gillard’s ex boyfriend 20 years ago, but make nothing of Abbott’s current slush-fund court case. It’s when you report everything from the worn out, inaccurate narrative of Labor ‘chaos’ and ‘failure’ and you actively support Abbott’s teflon-un-scrutinised stunt show, that we know you are campaigners, not journalists. It’s when you forget that it’s your job to find things out and to tell us the facts, that we remember we can’t trust you. And if we can’t trust you, why should we bother with your words? It all comes down to integrity and respect for the audience. Of which I would question if you have any.
Ever noticed how the only people defending you on social media are your own members? Why is that? How can all of us be so outraged by you on a daily basis yet you still ignore the criticism? Time and time again we see you saying you’re getting disapproval from supporters on both sides of politics so you must be doing the right thing. This is bullshit. You’re getting criticism from everyone because you are doing a terrible job of reporting the news. This is why watching Newsroom is so sad. I’m watching a hypothetical scenario of how things could, in a decent world, work. But you, the mainstream media in Australia, do not belong to this world. So this world remains an unattainable fantasy.
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I’d best catch this show, sounds good. Even without having seen it, I find myself nodding in furious agreement. With a few exceptions, way too few, the media seems to be peopled by egotistical hacks with a, usually anti-Labor Government, barrow to push. They are not only guilty of publishing complete nonsense, being consistently and unapologetically wrong and too often leading with ‘the opposition says’, but are far more guilty of ignoring important stories that might actually have an impact on the baffling popularity of the Opposition. It makes you wonder, don’t it?
And NSW Finance Minister Greg Pearce still hasn’t been arrested and strip-searched.
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The opening scene of Newsroom (episode 1) is 10 minutes of the best TV writing you’ll ever see. Inspiring Arron Sorkan is one very clever dude, The West Wing was TV at its best. Sadly Jed Bartlett wasn’t the actual President, we got GW instead definitely not a case of Art imitating Life. Just as Newsroom is.
I switched off to MSM a while ago now for the same reasons in this blog. I just wish everyone in Australia would understand that the MSM will spin a story according to their own agenda, and I don’t mean with just political issues, it is with everything! Facts and unbiased reporting just get in the way of their sensationalism and their agenda.
bang on Victoria Rollison, so true, its a shame!!!! l still want answers about the menu!!!!! but the bastards wont keep at them. how come because tony says we should move on, the media just ‘move on’????? just how more f*cked can the msm get????
I am leaving comments on MSM pages. I just left one on Facebook 4Corners, praising them as the last bastion of integrity for ABC and asking them to do a story on Rupert Murdoch. Hope I get a response.
This is so well written. Bravo!
Any article which tries to defend Craig Thomsom and sweep the AWU affair under the table has no credibility. Not only is Gillard delusional about her chances of remaining PM, her perceived lack of knowledge about being under Vic police investigation is laughable. Theres been some great leaders (Hayden, Hawke, Keating, Beasley), Crean was a nothing but Latham, Rudd and Gillard are all unhinged individuals who are barely fit for society. Bring back the Labor party with people who controlled the union hacks instead of the other way around. The Labor party is lost and needs saving not defending.
Wow, I love this. You are absolutely spot on Victoria. It couldn’t be a more accurate analysis. You know I had ‘some’ respect for Barrie Cassidy until he came out with that statement about Julia not leading Labor to the next election which of course sparked the last frenzy feeding of media including as you say people I usually respect on the ABC. I was so disgusted with them I haven’t been listening this week. Julia herself nailed it (and I’m paraphrasing a little) when she said “it was journalists reporting on journalists who were speculating on speculation”. I will be sharing this far and wide.
An absolutely excellent article, and right on the money. It encapsulates everything I hate about the mainstream media at the moment. I swear, if I hear one more, “The Leader of the Opposition said today…” – as the very first news item of the ABC Radio News bulletin, I’ll rip the radio out of the wall and hurl it into the ocean.
Stephen, Gillard and Rudd are an unhinged individuals barely fit for society?? You know when you say clearly ridiculous stuff like that you lose all credibility. I quite loathe Tony Abbott, but I don’t think I would even say that about him. What are you basing your opinion on? Rudd is something certainly has been throwing a tanty ever since he lost the job as PM but Julia Gillard presents as one of the calmest and sanest people around whether you agree with her policies or not. You can’t call someone unhinged just because you disagree with them.
Sorry, again without the typos.
Stephen, Gillard and Rudd are unhinged individuals barely fit for society?? You know when you say clearly ridiculous stuff like that you lose all credibility. I quite loathe Tony Abbott, but I don’t think I would even say that about him. What are you basing your opinion on? Rudd certainly has been throwing a tanty ever since he lost the job as PM but Julia Gillard presents as one of the calmest and sanest people around whether you agree with her policies or not. You can’t call someone unhinged just because you disagree with them.
I have a policy now of only looking at MSM articles from recommended sources. Never through the front door of the website. At least then they can see the trend away from general brand oreinted news.
The only message they really understand is which articles are the most popular so we can sell the advertising banner space. And you bet they are watching for trends.
By the way Kevin Rudd is a very good campaigner. By reframing everything he does as a “challenge” or “white anting” the MSM, his opponents and even his supporters are nobbling the Labor Parties efforts by neutralising one of their best.
@Rob, I like your policy of recommended sources for MSM articles, I wonder if you could enlighten me/ us as to your sources, how do you go about reading on that which you deem necessary and appropriate?
Great article about the loss of journalism in our media,summed up by the phrase, “we know you are campaigners, not journalists.”
Stephen, you would fail comprehension in my primary school class because you think the article was defending Craig Thompson.
Great article – Victoria you have nailed it.
In total agreement Victoria, angry, frustrated and annoyed at being robbed of the truth thenation should be informed . This IS Australia not Zimbabwe
MSM have no code of practice and they believe that people will believe every word they write.It does not even make good toilet paper but is good for the dog to sleep on at least the rubbish they write does not rub off on him.
Terrific article Victoria.Thank you.I am Angry ,Upset and Sad about what is happening here.I was reading comments on The UK Guardian which number over 1100.We are the laughing stock of the World. Abbott should stop and think about what he and his motley lot have done to us.
What a bizarre article – basically campaigning for the media to become cheerleaders for the ALP, and the Opposition to “not be included in the report” if dear Victoria doesn’t approve. Dear god, you people have a sense of entitlement and a mindset that is downright dangerous.
And all this from a article-write who is a current member of the ALP, but who lacks the ethics to add this to her bio.
To the contrary, what a great article.
From a fellow advocate of censorship (and the source of so many amazing anonymous scoops that strangely never seem to get verified!), your view is hardly surprising Michael.
And as the owner of the website, publishing Victoria’s many articles with a byline that neglects to mention she is a current and active ALP member, reflects just as badly on you.
But let’s be frank, AIMN is essentally an ALP front-site (not “left”, I said ALP specifically…). Pumping out the propaganda, repeating the approved buzzwords, desperately hoping something goes viral….
Rallying the base, Michael? More like preaching to the choir. Or perhaps that should be feeding the chooks.
But the funny part is you have become a parody and a caricature. Your articles are so unbalanced that they would bemuse and repel the average person with their bitterness and strangeness.
But hey… I will admit there is some wry amusment in observing greying Baby Boomers write in a fashion as off-the-wall as undergraduates.
CS, I’m sorry we can’t offer the balance you’d prefer, such as the balance you see in the Murdoch media.
But, if it wasn’t for the Murdoch media then sites like this would have no reason to exist.
Then you’d be a happy little vegemite.
I find it really interesting how some commenters do not see what this piece is actually saying. They seem blind to the fact that it is only suggesting that there be fairness, not bias, as the media, and they are espousing. It is not saying that media should support the ALP, it is saying that the media should report on the failings of the Liberals NOT ONLY those of Labor. It is saying that when a true statement is made by one party, then a false statement from another should not be made in the same sentence to raise doubt. It is saying that there needs to be a balance in commentary about government and policy, both successful and not. It amuses me how peoples on bias comes out when they are trying to make an unbiased comment. Well written and all true Victoria. I am going to have to watch Newsroom now, West Wing was the best TV series I ever watched.
This writer does not just prefer fiction (where the good guys never act like idiots and fools) to reality, but is into paranoid fantasy.
Sad fact with the right wing John in that any amount of right wing bias and left wing bashing by the media is not enough.
I saw this through the Howard years when at one stage he was getting favourable and unchallenged interviews, and positive press though there were many questions about his failures that should have been asked. At the same time the opposition was getting bashed, “as they were the alternate government” and were getting a hard time in interviews.
Even then right wingers came out and complained that the media weren’t being hard enough on the ALP and were being too hard on Howard and the government.
And to illustrate their blatant double standards, in one very soft Howard interview with Kerry O’Brien complaints rolled in because O’Brien didn’t show respect to the office of the Prime Minister in not referring to Howard as Mr Prime Minister or Prime Minister Howard, instead calling him Mr Howard.
I have no doubt if thin skinned Abbott is in power any time he’s not referred to as Prime Minister, Sir or Mr Prime Minister Abbott there will be hell to pay from the right wingers.
Ah there is honesty and integrity alive in Australia still … thank you so much for this article .. I thought I was alone with these very thoughts. Take away message is . campaigners instead of journalists …. and I echo the guy … Four Corners only retains integrity and honesty.
And that is where your argument falls in a heap.
What you guys claim is true or false frequently bears very little relationship to actual truth. And many of you react to the mere expression of opinions you don’t like squealing “lies!”
Learn to seperate the subjective from the objective, John.
Wow! Victoria. That was fantastic. As I read it, I was imagining future students of politics and society, quoting from it in their analyses of what happened then and why. Why did the MSM in Australia implode? How did we end up with an extreme neoliberal and reactionary government that did so much damage to Australia at a critical time in global history?
Personally, I’d prefer to be dissecting this as a past event, rather than having to live through it.
You offer less balance than Pravda, and with ethics that a high school newspaper would raise eyebrows at.
I notice Michael you deftly avoid the repeated point – why does the byline under Victoria Rollinson’s articles fail to mention that she is an active and current ALP member.
I’ll be a happy little vegemite on September 15, mate.
How to falsely twist things around CS still censored.
More than falling in a heap this is where you fall in a heap:
Seems to me you take up the truths and squeal lies or sow doubt when the objective arguments point in one political direction, but are very selective in what you say is subjective or objective when they point in another.
Methinks you in typical right wing projection are being subjective and not objective.
The crucial point Mobius is that I would never allow prosecution or censorship of your many and varied silly inane opinions.
But there’s plenty on your side – who has an equally low view of my opinions – who would gladly censor people like me in a heartbeat. (Michael has done it on a regular though admittedly sporadic basis.)
I stand for freedom. You guys stand for coercion and oppression of liberty.
Voters generally repelled after short doses of your medicine.
I call bullshit CS still censored.
You only stand for your freedom and to suppress freedom that doesn’t agree with that.
If you really stood for freedom then you would be condemning the Murdoch media and indeed Abbott in the harshest terms as they are actively engaging in shutting down open freedom so only what they want is reported and revealed.
By the way that’s subjective.
Absolutely spot on. Nothing left to say really, other than to dream of mainstream media embracing journalistic standards like this.
Thank you for shining a light!
I just want to know where I can watch the show??? West Wing = Best.Show.Ever.
DonnaE, it was on ABC2 earlier this year. I think that it is now out on DVD through their retail outlets. It was a really great series (both 1 & 2) and all I could do while I watched was wish that was how journalists & journalism was today.
Michael, gosh I wish that right wing troll wouldn’t get so nasty & spiteful. Thanks John for calling him out.
Sorry DonnE, I think that I may have misled you with the ‘Newsroom’ info. Just looked at the photos at the beginning of this article. They look like Americans.
The show that I was referring to is English and was set back in the mid to late last century and was set in London.
Well said. It fully encapsulates the sense of frustration and anger I feel when I read the MSM. They have zero capacity for investigative journalism and no judgement. I get most of my news from social media and blogs now.
Great article, Victoria Rollison. Irrespective of where your political allegiances and affiliations may lie, your critique of mainstream media is important and accurate. Still Censored … I didn’t realize that Andrew Bolt had established a Centre for Trolling Excellence but you are obviously a graduate. Congratulations. What a great achievement for your life.
“I’ll be a happy little vegemite on September 15, mate.”
I find that attitude odd, to say the least. Assuming that LNP do in fact take the leadership on September 15, the only thing you will have ‘won’ is four years to show that they can convert their obtuse negativity into workable, rational policies which actually achieve positive outcomes.
Of course, if the MSM continues as is, they could be a complete balls up and nobody would know because they just don’t seem to be interested in doing their jobs – which is of course, kind of the point of this article.
Seems you missed it CS still censored.
Good call Rob M and Mobius. CS still censored you are obviously a clever pants. Perhaps a little too clever because you’ve missed the simple point of what we want. That is that journalists don’t ‘balance’ a factual statement made by one side of politics – whichever it is – with an UNVERIFIED statement from the other. We simply ask that they be verified as true before being reported because they very often turn out to be just plain wrong. The problem then being that those unverified statements go out there to the public and very often don’t end up being corrected at any stage. Hence the spread of misinformation. My objection to what the MSM has been up to over the last few years is that both sides have not been subjected to equal scrutiny. I think those in public office need to be scrutinised but all I ask is that it be evenly applied. The alliance between Rupert and Tony has meant that Tony and his mates have had a pretty free ride in the scrutiny stakes. Teflon Tony vs. Let’s stick to Julia because I (Rupert) want to get rid of her because she’s interfering in my agenda. Now don’t tell me that that’s not true. Rupert has made no secret of the fact that he wants her gone and will do anything to make that happen. No amount of you twisting what has been written by Victoria and calling our opinions silly and inane changes the underlying truth of it all.
Great article Victoria. Since JG became PM the culturally orchestrated outrage by the msm has enraged me and never have I felt so powerless in witnessing the ‘killing off’ of a PM. Of course the PM has made mistakes, show me a PM who hasn’t but this unrelenting stalking, abuse and hatred metered out by the msm/ABC toward JG and the Labor Party says to me our media laws need a serious overhaul without fear or favour. The level of integrity in journalism has sunk to an all time low because we have no antidote for the hateful and venomous media that dominates our country at the moment. Yourself, Independent Australia and some others are to be commended but it doesn’t get to the wider populous. As that wonderful man Lieutenant General David Morrison recently said, and so powerfully, “The standards you walk past, are the standard you accept’. I hope this discussion permeates our wider community and we lift the level of expectation of journalism such that the next female PM is never treated the way JG has been.
Kez Mar, the fact that the author mentions Thomson in the context of being stalked and feels the need to mention him in this rant at all is clearly an opinion that he is being mistreated. Effectively defending him. I realise that it isn’t the purpose of the article but it was there. Let’s hope you don’t teach beyond year one with your skills. Your comment is an example that schools need better teachers.
Have to agreee with CS about the disclosure of ALP membership. The despised msm even does this.
Excellent Victoria! You’ve put into words what many ppl are thinking. Shame you probably wont be published anywhere outside this forum.
And true to form, the LNP posters on this page, continue to post the very same vague, and unproven slander we hear and read in the MSM every day. They will never be troubled by articles like this one, because it’s obvious they don’t read more than a few lines before making up their minds as to just what the writings are about, before they re-type the nonsense they are brainwashed with every day in every way RM has at his disposal. Sad but seriously foolish!
The despised msm even does this.
No it doesn’t Stephen, not even the ABC all the time.
First ABC News Breakfast Virginia Trioli was picked up for not revealing a guest they regularly had on was a member of the Liberal Party and IPA.
Second Media Watch often reveals pieces written by right wing vested interests, including Liberal Party members, who do not disclose that fact.
Online MSM sites are notorious for not disclosing the affiliation of contributors.
Another case of right wing holier than though attitude.
Poor Stephen. I really do think you need to revisit and re-read the above article to assist your comprehension – it clearly is not defending Craig. I’ll copy John’s comment for you to help you comprehend what the article is about.
“I find it really interesting how some commenters do not see what this piece is actually saying. They seem blind to the fact that it is only suggesting that there be fairness, not bias, as the media, and they are espousing. It is not saying that media should support the ALP, it is saying that the media should report on the failings of the Liberals NOT ONLY those of Labor. It is saying that when a true statement is made by one party, then a false statement from another should not be made in the same sentence to raise doubt. It is saying that there needs to be a balance in commentary about government and policy, both successful and not.” – John.
Great article Victoria it would be great to see some truth test applied to the MSM content particularly the ABC.
One interesting development in this area has been the creation in the ABC of a fact checking unit by Mark Scott and the appointment of Russell Skelton to be its head.
The fact that Mark Scott was subjected to a virulent attack by Senator Abetz over this appointment of Russell Skelton in a Senate Estimates session alleging that he was biased against the coalition would indicate a “courageous” decision by who ever made it. We can only hope that the fact checking unit of the ABC lives up to its name.
It’s all been said very apt article in this MSM climate of non fact reporting.
As for the case of free speech for CS still censored (no comment)
Excellent piece – right on the money.
Ohhh, Victoria, Victoria, Victoria! Why can’t you be Main-Stream Media and leave the other dregs to sink further to the bottom than they already are! Between you, Margo Kingston, Barry Tucker, Mr. Denmore, and so many more I read with joy on Social Media we would all be well informed and able to live decent lives without despair!
Spot on. It’s incredibly frustrating to see, read and hear the rubbish we are being offered in the guise of news. If things don’t change I despair for the future of journalism. Maybe they’ll calm down when they get their way (if Labor loses the next election) but I wonder if they’ll ever regain their credibility
Maybe the Cons ARE indeed right.maybe if we DO go back to the fifties the media will onnce again regain credibility.
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Another great post and right on the money, How the MSM report on lies is killing truth and thus the country,This makes me VERY ANGRY everyday, and it is also backed by the RC church which is just criminal They are the MSM are tied in with the Liebrial party and the far right it’s plain and clear to see this rubbish must be stopped they’ve had it going for far too long. ANGRY VERY ANGRY.https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn2817-right-wing-governments-increase-suicide-rates/