For a number of decades the Murdoch media have enjoyed an unbridled run as the major source for news, information and opinion in this country. It is a position, many would suggest, that they’ve protected without ethics or morals. Especially when it comes to opinion. Theirs, and only theirs counts and they’ve recently become fanatical at protecting it.
For example, anyone wishing to have their own ideas and opinions published on their media sites have had to contend with the editorial policies that are generally based on the ideology of the editors (or Murdoch himself, perhaps) and of course, on what is sellable. However, this regime of control over what content is allowed to emerge is now collapsing in today’s world of participatory media.
We have witnessed the internet create an arena where everyone can be a publisher. All a person needs is an opinion. Today’s audience want to be part of the media, rather than passive receivers. Not only do they want to comment on the news, they want to be part of creating it. They no longer rely on the Murdoch media.
Hence the rise of the citizen journalists, better known as the ‘Fifth Estate’ who are better suited to provide the diversity that today’s democracies need, yet which are often ignored by traditional journalists. The Fifth Estate advances the opportunity to expose doctored or omitted facts from mainstream media and point out the bias by particular reporters who do not provide such opportunity for his/her readership to give voice to alternate opinions. Aka Andrew Bolt, for example.
The Fifth Estate also encourages contributors and readers to think objectively and ask the probing questions that have blatantly been avoided by the MM; lending rise to the growing opinion that the Murdoch media is working to a particular political agenda. Their lack of scrutiny to the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, and his empty bag of policies, is typical of this.
Further, the Fifth Estate have the opportunity to analyse and disseminate the news and opinions thrown at them from the Murdoch media. Denis Shanahan’s interpretation of the opinion polls are good example, which are clearly based on his opinions, and not the polls. After each of his articles, the Fifth Estate is awash with a more objective and factual analysis.
Another direction we’ve seen the Murdoch media lean towards are those stories that are trivial, narrow, shallow and sensationalist. And often untrue. But the Fifth Estate generally has the meaningful intention of changing the direction of the media and exposing the shallowness and inconsistencies so evident in today’s Murdoch media. The events of the last week have certainly highlighted this. Following Margo Kingston’s explosive story EXCLUSIVE: Abbott forced to repay $9,400 he charged taxpayers to promote his book the Fifth Estate (and social media) shifted into overdrive to find out more about what could turn out to be one of the defining moments of the 2013 election campaign. The mainstream media was eventually swept up with the story gaining currency with Fairfax, the Guardian and the national TV channels. But not so with the Murdoch media. While the rest of the country was falling over itself providing their readers/viewers with the latest developments, the main story on news.com was how a surfing advert was considered offensive. Clearly more important than what is now called battlerort, but I’d prefer to think that the Murdoch media is just making it obvious that they don’t want Tony Abbott tarnished in any way.
The Fifth Estate, subsequently, has exploded in numbers and influence in Australia, not because they are the echo of dissenting voices but because the Murdoch media has created an arena for them to enter. If the Murdoch media was objective, impartial and committed to providing a quality service then in a modern democracy there may not be a Fifth Estate, or for that matter, the dozens of blog sites that exist purely to fill in the gaps exposed by the Murdoch empire. It is also fair to say that the Murdoch brand has been tarnished globally over the last 18 months thanks to the despicable phone-hacking scandal. Arguably, Rupert Murdoch is one of the most despised individuals in the developed world. He could also be considered the least trustworthy. So how can we trust his media outlets? It is becoming increasingly evident that his only interest in Australia is how much it can add to his bottom line and his newspapers are filled with stories each shaped to ensure that the profits head upwards. For example, could his loving support for Tony Abbott be motivated by Abbott’s promise to dismantle to Government’s NBN program? A move, as pointed out in Why Murdoch’s media is gunning for your NBN, that would keep his bottom line healthy.
There is no doubt that in a few short years the Fifth Estate has not only reshaped our view of journalism, but has unlocked previously unrealised publishing opportunities. The blog sites of the Murdoch media usually filter out contributions from bloggers whose opinion do not fit into their schema, so while independent blog sites provide some impact, the avenues through the Murdoch media have been providing none.
Then what are the impacts of the Fifth Estate?
This remains the unanswered question, or if you will, a work in progress. The Fifth Estate still has nowhere near the influence of the Murdoch media, such as being able to manipulate election outcomes or influence public discourse, but, the events of the last week show that the sway of the Fifth Estate is gaining traction. Independent Australia (IA) and the aforementioned Margo Kingston are now providers of news, but not only news, but on the stories that would be filtered out of the Murdoch media, and both IA and Margo are attracting massive audiences which one would expect is to the detriment of the Murdoch media. They lead a number of long-established independent sites such as Andrew Elder, The Failed Estate, The Pub, Café Whispers, The Political Sword, Grog’s Gamut and more recently here at The AIMN where alternate opinions are awarded some voice.
In a democracy we need these alternate voices. Margo Kingston sums up why:
“Journalists used to be a bridge between the people and the powerful. Journalists used to be outside the circle but now they’re inside the circle. They’ve joined the powerful and this very dangerous for a democracy”.
“It’s scary that the media are not doing their job. Many journalist friends have expressed the same concerns; they don’t feel as though they are traditional journalists anymore, they are simply writing what the powerful want them to write.
Very true. Hence we need to make the Murdoch media irrelevant. And that’s not beyond us.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!