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

Jonathan Holmes on media bias « Previous | |Next »
July 15, 2010

Jonathan Holmes writes perceptively about current journalism--as illustrated by his he said she said journalism article. In his latest Balance the scales column at The Drum he says that ABC journalists will:

be trying to implement the managing director's recent exhortation to his staff: It is a legitimate role firmly and impartially to scrutinise the records and the promises of those who want elective office at the time they are directly seeking the electors' nod. That's more easily said than done...An ABC journalist who, in a Federal Election campaign, decides to scrutinise the claims that politicians make, and especially a journalist who reports that one side is making factually justifiable statements, and the other is not, is laying themselves wide open. For however carefully researched, and objectively presented, stories like that will be accused of being 'unbalanced'; and a large number of viewers or listeners or readers, as well, of course, as the opposing party, will undoubtedly blame the supposed political bias of the individual journalist, or the program, or the ABC as a whole.

No doubt that is an accurate description of the political pressure and constraints under which ABC journalists operate today. So what to do about it? What is the best option?

Hiolmes says:

The best they can do is to strive to set their prejudices aside. I still believe that's a better solution than the alternative that has becoming fashionable in some quarters: that the whole charade of 'impartiality' should be abandoned in favour of frankly partisan journalism. That's fine for the blogosphere, not for the ABC.

Partisan journalism is fine for the blogosphere. Really? Isn't the Murdoch press--both tabloid and broadsheet--- the classic example of partisan journalism in Australia? They are the gold standard for says:
discounting the Australian Financial Review - The Australian is the only truly national newspaper we have. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are fixated on competing for the same parochial turf as their tabloid rivals, so there's a huge demand for proper, discursive discussion of national affairs. Instead we have coverage which often can't be read on face value. Discerning readers need to pick their way through a host of agendas and perceived or real prejudice to work out what they find credible.

If the ABC is unable to firmly and impartially to scrutinise the records and the promises of those who want elective office at the time they are directly seeking the electors' nod because of political constraints, then who is to do it? Who performs the role of the watchdog for democracy in the fourth estate in Australia?

Isn't this the function in the online public sphere increasingly being formed by Crikey and parts of the political blogosphere --more frequently, than say the Fairfax Press whose business model is slowly collapsing? In the mainstream press, which offers us the option of partisan journalism and the junk journalism that has embraced recycling media releases and infotainment, there are a few scrutinising journalists.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:48 PM |