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

a question about the media « Previous | |Next »
March 12, 2009

A question. Journalists in the mainstream media conventionally understand themselves to be watchdogs over the political establishment, and see themselves as defending democracy. They stand for truth and enlightenment in the face of the lies, coverups and mass deceptions that further the vested interests of political power. They stand for, and represent, adversarial journalism and are responsible for the clashes of ideas in the agora or public sphere.

Is the political reality one in which these journalists are publicists for political power? And further, does the drip feed relationship (access journalism) mean that journalists are actually subservient to political power, not watchdogs over it? They are loyal spokespeople for political power because they are merged into the processes of political power and become part of the process of media management. Is access journalism the dominant form of journalism in Australia?

Glenn Greenward makes the following observations about access journalism:

what fuels "access journalism" [is] the willingness of politicians to speak only to deferential reporters, who stay deferential in order to ensure that those politicians continue to speak with them, a process that perpetuates itself ad infnitum. That has created a virtually complete -- and quite destructive -- accountability-free zone where politicians and pundits alike can simply avoid any form of adversarial questioning or challenges to their claims

It's the ability of politicians, journalists and pundits to avoid meaningful challenges to their views that, more than any other factor, degrades our political discourse. So we have a self-imposed cocooning process that is now pervasive and has become the norm. The gatekeeping that takes place in the media functions to protect both access journalism and to avoid any questioning of the structure of the political/media system.

Update
Access journalism---- in the form of the Canberra Press Gallery--- works in terms of the corporate model of journalism. The changes the newspapers are currently going through ( declining revenue, cost cutting, staff laayoffs etc) suggest that newspapers are failing as businesses and they are becoming a different industry.
By "different industry " is meant that newspapers will struggle to publish under something like the current corporate model (eg., Fairfax) but with somehow different content, eg., infotainment or lifestyle fluff. Escapes! Styles!----junk no one wants to pay for.

This kind of newspaper isn't going to be interested, or able to, produce the news that’s vital to a democracy----giving citizens the information they need to be free and self-governing. Though the newspapers (as old media) will still have great power, the internet has taught the public to expect to talk back to the mainstream media and to become content providers. That also changes the dynamics in the media---- the old model of daily print journalism is dying, and we are seeing the beginning of the end. The end of something means the birth of something new-- ie., the media as a platform for user generated content rather than a portal?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:04 AM | | Comments (8)
Comments

Comments

Greenward says that reporters and columnists should not only blog, but also regularly engage with criticism from others and interact extensively with their commenters.

Does that happen in Australia?

Nan
Maybe. it may lessen the tendency in our political discourse for people to stop speaking or listening to anyone who disagreed with them. It may ease the slanging matches in which people throw abuse at one another.

Cass Sunstein warned in his 2001 book, Republic.com, that the Internet would create polarized intellectual communities in which people could isolate themselves from what he calls "unplanned, unanticipated encounters" with opposing viewpoints.

It's unclear whether the rise of blogging in Australia is breaking these walls down. The current style is still one of theatrical anger, confected outrage, and the politics of disdain (ie., defining opponents as beyond the reach of reason). A performance for the core audiences that are seething with anger and outrage.

The Australian version isn't as bad as the American one. We have access journalism here (Glenn Milne) but we also have ALP politicians on Insiders. We have Janet Albrechtson refusing to engage with commenters, but we also have George Megalogenis.

In the US, Sunstein's warning has come true for Republicans more than for Democrats and there's a fair chance the same is coming true for conservatives here.

The Australian is our version of Fox News, but it's more influential with conservative politicians than with voters.

The News Ltd Gold Coast Bulletin has been getting stuck into Springborg over the past couple of days and its state political reporter gets stuck into everyone.

The Courier Mail in Brisbane is a different matter. Ministers have been refusing to speak with CM reporters for yonks because it would be pretty much like Obama going on Fox. Those reporters are more interested in evisceration than fact finding.

We also have Rudd talking over the top of media. We have Q and A which, apart from the young Liberals audience, is anything but stage managed. We still have the odd worthwhile Four Corners

The most obvious bit of drip feeding is coming from the Liberals over their internal problems, and that's not terribly advantageous. Lazy journalism is a problem, but debate isn't dead yet.

Our agora is really quite varied

"Is the political reality one in which these journalists are publicists for political power?"

I think that was true under Howard, not so much under Rudd. If so, why? Does it suggest that maybe the media is not as powerful as assumed? We know people are fast losing trust in media, so did it seem like media was more powerful under Howard than it actually was? Or did it have power because of the way real power was using it?

spot-on!

the Canberra Press Gallery is access journalism.

Chris,
we can push this a bit further by introducing the distinction between reporting and researching. If I mention what Costello said about the global financial crisis then I am reporting; if i read a paper by Treasury economists on it, then I am researching.

Access journalism is hostile to researching --academic or policy ---and so in being well -versed and knowledgeable about a subject. You don't need to be --you just need to report what an economist or two said.It's the writing that matters--clear concise prose. So access journalism downgrades the value of both academic and policy expertise and reduces the issue to the politics of the subject matter--Costello's leadership ambitions.