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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

Media: lapdogs, watch dogs, attack dogs « Previous | |Next »
February 6, 2004

We live in a culture of media spin by the media companies (Packer, Murdoch and Fairfax) as well as a culture of political spin. Liberal democracy is a world of public relations as well as media wars.

Larry Sabato, an American political scientist, devised an evolutionary account of US journalism to describe what happened to US journalism before and after Watergate. His account is a three stage process of the meda: from being a lapdog (1941-66) to a watchdog (1966-84) to an attack-dog (1984 onwards).

Can we apply this account to Australian journalism? I'm not sure as I do not enough about the history of the Australian media. What I can do is give current examples of the different kinds of journalism.

This is the attack dog. More here.

A lap dog.

A watch dog

Each reader would have their own examples of the media's relationship to political power in our liberal democracy.

My own sympathies lie with the media as a watchdog since this connects with the role of citizenship in a democracy. I recognize that most of the media in Australia does not play this role anymore. Hence the narratives about the decline of traditional journalism the decline of the public sphere and the hollowing of citizenship.

The media are more concerned with their own power than truth these days with most commentators thinking of the media in market terms: the media are commerical enterprises and readers are consumers. Deliberative democracy is an alien concept for many.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:51 PM | | Comments (2)


You can understand the shock jocks getting caught up in cash for comments, but innuendo about innocuos commentators like Leon Byner makes you think.

I think the Australian media really hasn't left its lap dog era yet.

Perhaps if we had a less concentrated ownership we might see more independent views, and a greater willingness to go out beyond where the buses don't go.