Philosophical Conversations Public Opinion Junk for code
parliament house.gif
Think Tanks
Oz Blogs
Economic Blogs
Foreign Policy Blogs
International Blogs
Media Blogs
South Australian Weblogs
Economic Resources
Environment Links
Political Resources
South Australian Links
"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

an ignorant media? « Previous | |Next »
December 18, 2011

As we know the mainstream media didn't do a good job of informing citizens about the global financial crisis. More often than not they acted as cheerleaders of the boom, free markets and neo-liberalism; and they failed to see what was coming, or even to realize its significance when it happened. When the crunch came the media failed its democratic function and didn't live up to its self-professed liberal ethos.

Many of us weren't surprised as they see the loss of advertising revenue resulting in the media by and large given up its fourth estate role and collapsed into opinion and infotainment in a digital world of online media convergence. As Malcolm Turnbull points out, whilst it is quality journalism that holds the government to account and shines a light on the dark corners of power, it is now a threatened species.

One of those journalists who continues to understand the media in terms of its fourth estate function is Roy Greenslade, and he spells out this function in this way:

We, the media, are the window into the arcane world of finance and economics, and what we report, and how we report it, is hugely influential. People may have all sorts of opinions garnered from their own experiences but when it comes to the esoteric topic of high finance, the vast majority rely on what they are told by journalists, politicians and a variety of talking heads granted either airtime or newspaper space.

For those journalists who are still interested in practising this form of journalism the key question becomes: 'why did the media fail citizens so badly with respect to the global financial crisis?

Greenslade says:

To be frank, most journalists were as ignorant as their readers and viewers of the range of financial products used to sustain the boom. When it was reported that the American investor Warren Buffett described derivatives as "financial weapons of mass destruction" in 2003, it made little impact. Why? Because it ran counter to the ongoing "good news" story, which was the major narrative of the decade. House prices were on the up. Retailers were raking in profits. Obtaining credit from banks was easy. The media itself was enjoying seemingly unlimited advertising revenue.It did not then appear necessary for journalists to get to grips with the credit markets, with their sophisticated instruments such as credit default swaps.

Well, we know that journalists are ignorant about most policy issues (eg., carbon pricing) and they generally cover up this ignorance by just writing about the politics of the policy from a partisan perspective or writing about Kevin Rudd vs Julia Gillard.

Greenslade basically offers a 'we were duped by the market' defence. What Greenslade should say, and doesn't , is that irrespective of the platform many journalists are lazy (they simply recycle media releases and publicity handouts); that many are basically ideologues acting on behalf of corporate interests (eg.,The Australian); and that some are happy to paid to be intense propagandists (eg., the tabloids on climate change). He also ignores the way that owners of the media (in Australia the Packers, Murdochs and Fairfaxes) have all used their media to run political agendas.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:10 AM | | Comments (4)


the Nine Network is on its last legs It is not earning enough to service its debt. Five years ago Nine was competing with the ABC to be known as Australia’s national broadcaster. Now it’s a basketcase.

the old platforms---radio, television, print---are converging online in a digital world. Content is now platform neutral as the media is becoming more diverse on the internet.

Will newspapers survive as the old classifieds have moved online and left print? Fairfax failed to move online with its classified and its advertising print revenue is declining. There will be not enough advertising base left to pay for the print newspaper.

Malcolm Turnbull argues in his recent speech at Melbourne University that the decline of print newspapers results in the decline of quality journalism. That is a threat to democracy.

Newsrooms have shrunk; the press gallery in Canberra has shrunk etc. The reporting of politics is now about personalities and the game of politics. Opinion is cheap as it requires no policy research. So we have little investigative journalism because it cannot be afforded. Hence the decline of journalism.

The newspapers have lots of online readers but little revenue. The online revenue is going to Google and Facebook who produce very little content. Yet it is the newspapers that have traditionally provided the news foundation which the rest of the media have built on and, more often than not, simply re-run.

There is also a strong press towards not rocking the boat by reporting too much "bad news", I think. That is called "responsible journalism", and though it may just be regarded as a rationalisation for ignorance, there is also a desire not to damage "confidence".

Headlines from the Roman Times, c. early fifth century:

"German barbarians likely to increase demand, lower labour costs, pundits predict!"

"Attila contemplates major investment in Roman property market - see Business Section"

"Vandals set to revitalise Hispanic economy!"