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Our media is failing us

Our media is failing us. At a moment when one side of politics has abandoned the bases of democracy as an impediment to their grasp on power, we need journalists holding them to account rather than gaslighting the public, normalising the rot.

In the lead-up to the US midterms, national security expert Juliette Kayyem tweeted about the dangers of bad reporting, concluding, “It is 2022. Get it right. Or a new job.”

Kayyem contrasted evasive reporting about “voter fraud” claims with the kind that justly illustrates that such accusations are bogus while reporting that the claim has been made.

We face different political problems in Australia, although the media crises overlap. We too have “savvy style” reporters in the press gallery who share politicians’ cynicism. We too have access journalism (or friendship) that causes a journalist to hesitate to “burn” a source or pal. We have horserace coverage that doesn’t focus on the overview, at a moment when that couldn’t be more important. We have refuge-seeking journalism, particularly at the ABC, that cringes from examining the sordid quality of some political behaviour over the last decade. We have normalcy bias journalism that can’t step back far enough to see how radicalised one side of politics is becoming, still covering “both sides” as though both sides had equal merit. There are many reasons for this crisis, but they remain a cause for self-evaluation by self-respecting journalists.

The particular crisis for Australia lies in the fact that our two primary print media organisations – affiliated with television or radio platforms – are owned by corporate interests headed by figures who clearly see their corporations as political tools. Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch barely need detailing on this front. Peter Costello’s NineFax has been more discreet in its political deployment, and it retains some journalists who continue to practice their craft with integrity.

Print media, while an embattled format, is crucial. It is where most of the investigations and in-depth reporting continue to be carried out, providing the meat upon which the electronic media feeds.

The cooperation of Rupert Murdoch’s Herald Sun and Peter Costello’s The Age with a floundering Victoria Liberal Party in the final weeks before the state election has been a truly shocking display of the state of Australian “conservative” politics and its allied media.

The Age has deployed the leak of IBAC documents to hint at wrongdoings by the government. It is the Australian right in Victoria and federally that has fought so hard to protect the reputation of politicians, but when a strong enemy can be inconvenienced, reputational harm is suddenly desirable. IBAC reports at this stage are still being finalised: those individuals facing adverse findings are being given the chance to challenge aspects, and the findings can still be altered as a result. The purpose of this secrecy is to ensure that reputational harm does not take place until the fairest outcome is achieved. The way to achieve greater transparency is to remove the crippling limitation on public hearings only taking place in “exceptional circumstances.” You can be sure that Liberal Victoria would be crying foul if the positions were reversed.

This was exacerbated by the suspension of The Age‘s ban on “political actor” op/eds for the election period to allow a column condemning the Andrews government’s integrity by Roshena Campbell. She is a Liberal-member councillor, and wife of Murdoch mouthpiece, James.

In the Herald Sun, two appalling gambits have been played. Frontpage “scandals” have been mocked up about the car accident that was settled over a decade ago involving the Andrews family, and about Premier Dan Andrews’s fall in 2021. The latter is particularly loathsome: making hay out of the Premier’s injuries is not newsworthy. This story functions only to allude to the conspiracies that abounded at the time. The constant emphasis on the small size of the steps is intended to provoke a renewed flurry of gossip around the conspiracy that stated the injury was not a fall but the result of sensational fantasies of lurid violence.

The fact that, as Media Watch recounted, the broader media opted to chase these Murdoch non-stories relentlessly is an appalling breach of integrity and professional standards. All 17 questions at the press conference that followed were about the resolved bike event, and the evening news framed the coverage as the Premier’s refusal to answer questions, despite the fact he had given endless dutiful answers about the story at the time.

The Murdoch propaganda battalion has clearly decided that selling Matthew Guy’s opposition is beyond them; the only way to gain traction for a messy Liberal Party is to aim to destroy Dan Andrew’s continuing popularity in the state. Peta Credlin’s tawdry “documentary” about Dan Andrews will have compounded the demonising for the few who watch Sky.

At the same time as the Murdoch media chose those gambits, the Victorian Liberal Party released an advertisement directed to those conspiracy spheres that had spilled violence onto Melbourne’s streets, amongst whom the lubricious gossip had flourished. The party here allied itself overtly with that violence and suspicion of vaccines.

Throughout the worst of the pre-vaccine pandemic, the Murdoch media aimed to make our Victorian lives hellish by compounding the misery. Victoria was constantly under attack, while similar experiences in NSW garnered praise. The difference? The colour of the government. They followed this by insulting Victorians for our continued majority satisfaction with Dan Andrews and what he had worked to achieve with our cooperation. Credlin’s documentary and 17th November column in The Australian described the support as a “cult.”

The same voter-smacking agenda is underway in the American right-wing media in the wake of the midterms where the women who poured out to vote against the stripping of their reproductive autonomy are chastised for being too stupid to vote for the right in their own alleged interests. (This reflects the US’s dominant media consensus that reproductive justice would not be a midterm issue; apparently, women don’t set the news agenda.) This talking point was echoed in a pathetically trollish column for The Australian by the Menzies Research Centre’s Nick Cater. His tantrum might help drive more centre-right voters to Teal candidates.

At a moment when the east coast of Australia is once again covered in water, our neighbour Fiji is asking for the money to move dozens of its villages to safety and COP27 is taking place in Egypt, our media fails us with context-free reporting. Corporate media is barely covering the appalling revelations of the Robodebt Royal Commission. And that corporate media is working hard to grant a shambolic Liberal opposition government in Victoria, no doubt intending to capitalise on their baron’s goals in the aftermath.

We desperately need the Murdoch Royal Commission. We desperately need news media laws that balance the range of news available to Australians. Above all, we desperately need the journalists who work in these organisations to look to themselves, as Juliette Kayyem demanded. If they’ve lost the will to remain public watchdogs, they need to find themselves a new job.

This was first published at Pearls and Irritations


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  1. Andy56

    Totally agree, the media is failing us.
    Having returned to oz after 2.5yrs, i have had a shock at how down market and stupid our media has become. The age and ABC news were my rock so to speak now i just grimace at how amateur they seem.
    I get more solid news from the few youtube channels i follow. It just seems so “by the numbers”. Even their daily programming is so friggin 70s.
    I dont want to pump up people’s egos, but the guardian is now the standout. Oh how the mighty have fallen….lol

  2. Lucy Hamilton

    Agreed. I was listening to a Guardian unpicking of the cost of living crisis and it was so refreshing to see explanation and context of a much more challenging question than the usual supine replication of vested interest talking points we get from the mainstream media. Depressing and dangerous.

  3. Phil Pryor

    That spewinducing picture of the baby faced nazitype L Merde Dog, a chipolata of rancid shit, is horrifying, in posing with the old substandard loudmouthed superego Costello, our dud treasurer under Jack Howard (the fraud and egopolisher extraordinaire.) Why does it have to be us, a silly little nation of post imperial sausage suckers now passing over to uncle Sam, the U S of Anuses-ism, that most evil militarist nation ever, with the worst covid death figures, the worst incarceration rates, the worst mass murdering juvenile swine pox, and the spender of more than TEN TIMES the next nations’ totals of miltary spending on the devoted principle of Murder, intrusion, regime change, domineering. It is all covered, glossed, distorted, by a supine wormy media maggotry from Merde Dogs mainly, with Costello’s door to door garbage delivery and Stoke’s memories of Der Sturmer, now sadly gone.

  4. wam

    Is ‘us’ inclusive? Are there not millions of Australians who find the papers satisfy their political preferences?
    A journalist’s job, in order not to look for a new job, is to write with the bias of the editor. These rupert selectees can be zealous in pursuit of rupert’s ‘instructions’, as Rebekah showed. ps If labor could make a controversy about a scummo minister, the papers will print. But without a push it is ridiculous to think a right wing conservative organisation would be anything else?

  5. Andrew Smith

    Good article, cannot add much except we have a diversified media oligopoly i.e. diluting previous boundaries between sectors, Jane Mayer’s appraisal of how media ‘works’ in right wing political influence via think tanks, dog whistling & messaging explained by Prof. Ian Haney-Lopez and the broader impact on local media e.g. present state of ABC RN’s Late Night Live and Sat/Sunday Extra.

    Like the UK’s media laws were diluted due to lobbying and support by media proprietors, and in Oz, crossing over between print, radio and tv, now over to social media; The Age & SMH are now tv or entertainment supplements while at the UK Leveson Inquiry into media ethics etc., for media to be glibly described as part of the ‘entertainment business’.

    New Yorker’s Jane Mayer in her research for ‘Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right’ described how the Kochs supported ‘Freedom Works’ a project to do a mechanical engineering audit of how media and influence works. This resulted in the establishment of ‘research institutes’, preferably on university campuses (a la Menzies at University of Melbourne) &/or well known academic to produce the right research (often to stymie climate science), then ‘sell’ the product onto media e.g. favoured journalists for publication and MPs for lobbying colleagues or committees, now much social media reinforcement and astroturfing.

    Haney Lopez, in ‘Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class’ he researched ‘dog whistling’ (no, it was not an Oz invention but imported from GOP) of which we have seen much in Oz round race, refugees, immigrants and population growth, which he describes as:

    Good Reads: ‘…politicians and plutocrats deploy veiled racial appeals to persuade white voters to support policies that favor the extremely rich yet threaten their own interests. Dog whistle appeals generate middle-class enthusiasm for political candidates who promise to crack down on crime, curb undocumented immigration, and protect the heartland against Islamic infiltration, but ultimately vote to slash taxes for the rich, give corporations regulatory control over industry and financial markets, and aggressively curtail social services.’

    As bad, Haney-Lopez claims we miss how it is used against institutions e.g. NGOs such as unions, universities etc. and politics to create doubts about liberal democracy, without telling the public what the ‘solution’ is or outcomes eg. Brexit and Trump.

    Finally the ABC Radio National has become a metaphor through years of ‘szalami tactics’, slice by slice…. several years ago started with Sunday Extra, good journalist Jonathan Green was replaced by US citizen and now Exec Director of the Koch Network linked CIS in Sydney (IPA same network also), comments were removed, content also became more Anglocentric, anodyne and ‘conservative’ guests are not challenged (now with Chaser’s Julian Morrow); now one cannot download podcasts directly nor the player, so only streaming (ABC content to be profit shared with e.g. Spotify?)

    Others followed i.e. Phillip Adams* at LNL and Geraldine Doogue at Saturday Extra, both had vibrant comment sections, but were removed 1-2 years ago, and neither they nor their producers promote their own programs via Twitter (to avoid accusations of bias by giving ‘opinions’)? Yet commercial right wing media i.e. News, 9F & 7MW, is all curated to be spread further and reinforced by social media reach vs. ABC or centrist positions (unless of course the ABC person is a RWNJ &/or intimidated in promoting a la Rowland’s lax approach to using ‘baseball bat’ language vs Vic. Premier).

    One has gone off Adams as he now reflects what’s wrong with Australia, not being ageist, but out of touch with the world & urban communities locally, his heavy breathing/rasping through the microphone, claims he can stay forever thanks to Ita and he has indulged in infantile interruptions of guests’ narratives (Doogue too) if they are centrist e.g. he did this to one Brit, Runciman on lowering the voter age, due to ageing UK demographics being platformed by and benefiting from the right for elections (in Oz they would like non compulsory voting).

    One hopes it does not reflect a reality spoken about by many ageing white nativist libertarian males representing the 1% in the Anglosphere demanding dictatorship and permanent power, It’s no coincidence that many of the same Anglo players in right wing media and politics have respect (or don’t follow up on threats of ‘shirt fronts’) for Putin’s authoritarian white Christian nationalism, with antipathy towards education, diversity, liberal democracy, open society and empowered citizens.

  6. Lawriejay

    For the second Sunday in a row ‘Insiders’ was stacked with Murdoch lackeys – Mike Bowers is the only segment worth watching!

  7. leefe

    I think we’ve gone beyond a Royal Commission. We need to reinstate – and reinforce – media ownership laws that limited this sort of problem.

  8. Terence Mills

    I heard on the ABC this morning of a Labor candidate for Richmond, Victoria, Lauren O’Dwyer who describes herself as a single mum, a lesbian and “a proud Yorta Yorta woman”

    A member of Ms O’Dwyer’s family says they have never identified as Aboriginal. Yorta Yorta community members say Ms O’Dwyer has failed to engage with the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and the Elders Council.

    Remember the days when people stood for parliament when they had a burning ambition to serve the community ?

    It’s getting crazy out there !

    PS : O’Dwyer, now wouldn’t that be an Irish name, to be sure, to be sure !

  9. Roger That

    Legacy media is the Ministry of Truth circa 2022, not the picture-board version circa 1984. Facts are only treated as relevant if they suit the agenda of the Private Public Partnership (PPP) model which is by its very definition is ‘fascism’, the blending of the goals of corporations and government into an overarching principle – control of the masses contingent upon transfer of wealth to the ‘Corporation’, a loose conglomerate of sociopaths whose Mission Statement could well be:
    Shut up little people
    The world is too complex for you to understand
    Leave it to us
    We have you back – as a target
    The legacy media is George Orwell’s fantasy come to pass.
    How does anyone believe the media stands for progress or balance on any issue?
    Media/gov/big business might win and create a world in their own image, but it will be one with no appeal for most.

  10. ajogrady

    Australians need to start paying attention. Our democracy is under threat and it not from a invading marauding nation. Its from within. Our democracy is being stolen right under our noses by billionaire media barons, mining magnates and right wing politicians fulfilling their own agenda and self interests that do not benefit the majority of the Australian people. When over 30% of first nations people in the Northern Territory were either unable or prevented from voting something is very wrong. It is against the fundamentals of democracy. Where was the outrage from the Main Stream Media? This is straight out of the American Republican play book where known groups who vote for Democrats, different ways/laws are found to prevent them from voting. Having over 30% of first nations people not being able to vote brings into question Jacinta Price’s election. Preventing voters from voting or manipulating voters through medias continual disinformation and exacerbated by big money adding to the disinformation is not how a true and proper democracy works. Its not what those who made the ultimate sacrifice fought for. They fought for a fair go for all Australians. We are a lesser people and a corrupted nation for this interference. While politics can be boiled down to the integrity and character of the parties, perhaps it is not just the integrity and character of the political parties that are in question. It is also the integrity and character of main stream media journalists reporting on the those political parties that is also in question. Biased, prejudicial and suspect journalism is undermining our democracy. Journalists are not ment to make partisan political statements dressed up as questions or make unbalanced subjective reports across media outlets.
    Democracy is being gamed by influential right wing legacy media that is also manipulating social media played to benefit big business. Those of us engaged in the civic debate don’t pay attention to the hermetically sealed information sphere of the radicalising Right. We don’t understand that there is a borderless global nation sharing panic and fear and unhinged theories to the gullible.This is the group of people who brought Trump flags and wrote appeals to US constitutional Amendments on their Australian posters.Their civic education is formed in international Facebook or Telegram echo chamber chat rooms that are being manipulated by the likes of Murdoch and Palmer that only benefit Murdoch and Palmer and their business interests. If businesses pay large amounts of money to “influencers” to gain advantage over their competition then how much is the influence of the L/NP turd polishing media outlets of Murdoch, 7 , 9, the once was “our ABC” and money from billionaires like Palmer worth to the L/NP? The Main Stream Media are a life support system and cheer squad for a side of politics that has decimated Democracy. The MSM is the problem not the solution. Advertising with these media outlets should be counted as political donations to the L/NP. The Fourth Estate need to recognise that they have been given a powerful and privileged position in maintaining a healthy democracy. The job of the Fourth Estates journalists is to uphold and protect the core values of democracy. The role of the media is to serve the governed, not the the media owners business objectives.
    “Truth”, “accuracy”, and “objectivity” are cornerstones of journalism ethics.

    Worst debt blow-out in the developed world refutes Coalition claims of economic competence


  11. Clakka

    No rules rules in governance by hate and cringe. Apparently so in the quest for low-brow celebrity, toadyism and a parliamentary pay packet.

  12. A Commentator

    I think the influence of the media is overestimated, particularly in the current technological world.
    Everyone with a mobile phone has access to any media outlet in the world. The circulation of the print media is in freefall, traditional television news is in steep decline.
    Some of what we see are the death throes of the redundant system of media and ownership.
    These days people are more likely to choose the orientation that reinforces their preconceptions , rather than being influenced by the reporting

  13. Hotspringer

    It is THEIR media, not ours.

  14. Terence Mills

    Since Peta Credlin’s SKY hatchet job on Dan Andrews, ‘The cult of Daniel Andrews’ was first broadcast last Wednesday it has been on repeat daily on SKY ever since.

    I know that not many people watch SKY but with this type of constant brainwashing going on they wouldn’t do it if they didn’t think it works in changing peoples votes.

    And, yes the steps at the holiday home get very specific attention again as does his wife’s car accident nine years ago !

  15. calculus witherspoon.

    Andrew Smith , yes, But I would have swapped “class” for “race” in some cases.

  16. Phil Pryor

    Andrew Smith, A J O’Grady, useful in contribution, to feed us a little something in fact, view, opinion, direction, a future darkened by the greedy, brainless, heartless, gutless, coddled, opiniated, exclusive, supremacist, righteous, uncaring media maggots, especially the Merde Dog poopainting political perverts who trump away, ignore civilised behaviour and decencies, Scheisskerls of contemptible subsoil standards,all for the inflated glanspeniserectileinflated ego of just doing it and grinning at a camera. The new age of bacterial bastardry in controlling lying, issuing selfcentred propaganda and achieving nitwit negativity is vomitous. If we “need” such as the Bezos, Zuckerberg, Musk, Koch, Trump, Morrison types, forget that and get a haemorrhoid transplant.

  17. Lucy Hamilton

    Thanks for so much thoughtful, interesting and/or entertaining commentary.

    WAM – media that suits political preference is part of the problem. We can’t have democracy without a rough sphere of shared “truth.” The Right has abandoned any real interest in the truth which is why America is crumbling. The Dems are still playing the old game with all its flaws. The Right just don’t care about anything but power anymore. Their policy goals are so repulsive to the majority if clearly understood that they need a giant deceptive imagined world and a fostered “conservative” identity that hates the other “team.” Their media organisations are part of the “game.” You can “like” that but it is like living on fairy floss. Empty fluff. Sickening if consumed in large quantities. Not able to support life.

  18. Terence Mills

    Julian Leeser is Shadow attorney-general : yesterday using parliamentary privilege he made an extraordinary and false attack on Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus’ decision to end the prosecution of Bernard Collaery. Leeser alleges that Dreyfuss may have ended the prosecution because “Collaery was an attorney-general in the ACT Labor government”.

    Leeser’s claim is right in part, Collaery was an attorney general in the ACT but critically it wasn’t in a Labor government, it was a Liberal government under Trevor Kaine (from 1989 to 1991).

    You won’t read that is the MSM and I’ve yet to see an apology from Leeser !

  19. Bruce White

    Well said Lucy Hamilton.
    Media concentration and lack of independent thinking by ‘msm’ journos, reporters and ‘economics and finance analysts’ is so pervasive that it becomes sickening to listen to or watch.
    It is leading to this countrys’ downfall’ into becoming the ‘poor white trash of South East Asia’.
    Whilst the relative few become (or remain) filthy rich.

  20. Terence Mills

    Recently News Corp and Sky News heavyweight Peter Gleeson was caught out plagiarising or in more common terminology he was caught out copying other people’s work and evidently was a serial abuser. He has now “ended his roles” at The Courier-Mail in Queensland and at Sky News where he had his own program.

    Gleeson apologised to Newscorp : “I apologise for breaching News Corp’s code of conduct and instances where I have not met the standards required.” He didn’t apologise to the public or to the journalist whose work he copied, Josh Bavas of the ABC ( now 9News).

    After a 34 year career with Newscorp during which he held a number of senior positions, Gleeson seems not to acknowledge that the fundamental tenet of journalism is that you just don’t copy other people’s work. It doesn’t just apply until you get caught.

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