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when news isn't news « Previous | |Next »
April 22, 2004

It is strange isn't it. News is generally what the politicians say on an issue. When they don't say anything it is not news. Energy policy is a good example of this. The journalists covering this story are waiting for the Howard Government to make an announcement on energy and greenhouse. Until then there is no news. So you wait for the peg or hook for the story.

An example of this is the current vaccum of news on energy policy, apart from the energy intensive industry saying no to green energy and they need even more corporate welfare to keep them internationally competitive. They always get their spin in the media as they seek to create policy in their sectors favour. The sping advocates a "new realism" in energy policy, where priority is given to clean coal above wind and solar. Wind and solar are "special interests" whilst the coal industry represents the "community." The government should not pander to "special interests" at the expense of the "community."

To understand what is going on here I've been digging around looking for some commentary on the way the Australian media works. In looking for the critical reflection on the Australian media, I came across this by Antony Loewenstein. He says that "Australia is currently experiencing a divergence in information dissemination, and a lesser reliance on the printed work to get informed." Then we have some choice quotes from Margo Kingston over at the innovative Webdiary:

"[We] are under constant pressure to write what the powerful want written, and not delve into what they don't...the spin-doctors have got us by the short and curlies at the moment. They understand how our news judgement works and how decisions are made and exactly what form news stories take. Mainly because they've all worked in the media and they're all bloody traitors. So they understand that if they actually don't answer or don't take calls or blow shit of you and hang up, there is actually no story, you're actually relying on them to get the impetus or the peg for the story."

It's called media management inside Parliament House. Don Watson in Recollections of a Bleeding Heart describes it this way:

"Hungry journalists need feeding. The bigger ones need bigger serves and more. Friendly ones need occassional rewards, unfriendly ones inducements to come over. The food is stories. Stories contain varyign degrees of factr and interpretation. Many require modification, known as spin. Some require both spin and lunch."

Margo then makes another point:

"I don't blame the journalists because they're dealing with massive structural problems....The main one is the sheer lack of space. The space problem has been growing in the last 10 years. It's all supplements and advertising ratios. Their main thing is how much profit are we making a page."

The journalist covering energy issues is stuck. They have little scope to question the rhetoric and spin of the intensive energy industry. That is not news.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:39 AM | | Comments (0)