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

media & democracy « Previous | |Next »
July 1, 2005

Sushi Day has an Op.Ed in The Age about media spin by the government and its management of the news. Sushi's account of her experiences of dealing with spin and management in Victoria highlights the role played by the media advisors. She says:

I understand they [media advisors] earn between $60,000 and $120,000 a year. In other words, the government uses our taxes to pay media advisers to obscure the truth, block access to ministers and protect politicians from scrutiny. It keeps the public in the dark. It's worth asking: what are the accountability mechanisms for media advisers? Can they be hauled before committees for questioning like ministers and public servants? Exactly who are these people?

Ex journalists Sushi. That then raises questions about journalism, does it not? These ex-journalists have few qualms about producing media-ised politics. That means they have been well prepared in terms of writing spin whilst they were journos. That suggests something is wrong with the media in Australia.

Let us pose the question: is the mainstream corporate media failing?

Sushi quotes John Lloyd, editor of London's Financial Times magazine on this issue. He says:

"We have created a system in which both parties (politicians and media) collaborate in producing media-ised politics. The problem is that the medias continue to report politics as if they were a neutral, almost invisible observer."

Lloyd argues that as the media co-command the stage with politicians, so any narrative of politics must also contain some kind of narrative about the media.

So true. Do we have that kind of narrative in the Australian media? If so, what sort of narrative would that be? Is 'narrative' appropriate here in a postmodern world?

Sushi rightly says an independent fourth estate is a vital component of democracy, and that ultimately, the news media are essential for our freedom. Just the news media? Surely it should be broader than than news media, if we are talking about narratives, power and political freedom? And where then is that kind of watchdog journalism to be found?

I reckon that many more questions need to be asked about journalism and the corporate media in Australia. Are the journalists asking them? Do they reflect on their own lapdog practices of being on the government drip feed. Do they reflect on how they talk about the news media but write interpretative op. eds?

Update: July 2nd
I've just noticed this op.ed in The Age by Margaret Simmons that defends fact-based journalism. The title says it all: 'Opinion is cheap. Facts rule, OK?' Simmons fails to see the usual contradiction of writng an op ed in defence a fact-style journalism. Her talk is cheap.

Simon's crude empiricism, which resolutely ignores the way facts are culturally constructed, continues the conservative media's attack on bloggers and the alternative media. Simmons says:

The cheap start-up costs of internet publishing have led to publications, such as New Matilda, which was established last year, in the words of the founder John Menadue, in response to "the greatest institutional failure of our time: the media's failure to take its responsibilities seriously".I have sympathy for Menadue but I worry that New Matilda has so far published mostly opinion and little research-based journalism. So too all the bloggers, radicals and others who criticise and attempt alternatives to the mainstream media. This is understandable. Most alternative media survive on the smell of an oily rag and opinion is in every sense cheap.

Talk is only opinion.

Is it? What about interpretation and analysis eg., of the crisis facing the ALP? Or the state of the economy? Or the way Treasury understands healthcare?

Simmons analysis of the Australian media is very confusing. She mixes up facts, news and information; collapses opinion and analysis and is blind to the idea of interpretration and public conversation. See Road to Surfdom for a more thorough account of the confusions. Simmon's dualism---a fact-based journalism that describes society to itself and opinion journalism that interprets society to itself---ignores the role of rhetoric in public life.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:07 PM | | Comments (2)
Comments

Comments

I think the mainstream media in this country is by and large too close to both the ALP and the Liberal Party for comfort, and part of that is due to the high degree of centralised ownership that exists.

There are only a handful of big players in news media in Australia and they have a worrying degree of vested interest in (and as a result of their power, influence upon) what political decisions are made by the governments of the day.


Representative Government is a pyramidical power structure, as is the media. Both interact incestuously to ensure they remain in the tip. Murdoch keeps a government in power, whether Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke or Howard. In return the government ensures the concentration of commercial media.


Government needs to get a dose of the "tail", if we have citizen auditors, then the government media managing, or the mass media producing propaganda does not matter. Our government needs the "publis" part in Republic, so that we, as citizens, can go in and audit any part of government we desire.


Because of the pyramid power structure, government and the media both gravitate toward the private space. This makes the unaccountable, and makes it difficult for voters to make informed decisions about their representatives. The only way we can blow that out of the water is by having more information, and citizen auditors (flashmobs) will give the raw information to be disseminated.