Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Not-So Naked Truth

Much of this week's news column inches and minutes was taken up by breathlessly reporting Tony Abbott's new campaign policy to have mandatory chastity belts on females aged 12-60.

You didn't read about that? Not surprising, because it's not true.

Nor was it true that Abbott wanted...lemme see how The Australian put it?

Tony Abbott warns women against sex before marriage

Err, no he didn't. Here is what he did say in the Australian Women's Weekly (published monthly):

“I would say to my daughters, if they were to ask me this question, I would say … it is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving and don’t give it to someone lightly, that is what I would say.”
So why the deliberate misreporting by the mainstream media?

There a few brief reasons:

1. The media have an unhealthy obsession with sex or perhaps that should be an obsession with unhealthy sex.

Don't think so? Just take a look at what greets breakfast readers at News Limited's portal this morning. While the story itself might be valid. The photo used is not one taken at the event and has no legitimate reason for being there other than titillation.

Titillation is not news.

2. It foments controversy which then feeds into several days of news.

It's an old trick. Print something that you know (or suspect) of being a lie and then appear magnanimous in allowing the person you've misrepresented (or defamed) the 'right' of reply.

Politicians use the same trick as well:

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard says comments by Tony Abbott that women should think carefully before losing their virginity will "confirm their worst fears" about the Opposition Leader.
What fears would they be Julia? Ah yes:

3. The media has an anti-religious bias - particularly anti-Catholic and anti-Christian.

Just take a look at religious reporting.

If it's bad stuff such as 'paedophile priests' and 'avaricious evangelicals' then mention of religious affiliation is front and centre. If it's about charity work, the focus is on the individuals and not the faith that motivates them.

The reason is simple as it is transparent. 'Godbotherers' get their worldview from something other than the media.

This is a threat because most journalists believe that they the only ones worthy of being information oracles. As the journalist's own union says:

Journalists describe society to itself. They convey information, ideas and opinions, a privileged role.
A privileged role indeed and one for which there is no recognised independent accountability - journalists police their own.

In the 13 years I worked as a print journalist (and union member) I know no one who was fined or thrown out of the union for unethical behaviour but I heard about plenty of such unsavoury behaviour and witnessed a few.

The censures which did occur were always done with a wink and a nod as if to say 'don't worry mate, this is all for show'.

If there is any good news that comes from this appalling piece of 'professional' gossip mongering is that people don't seem to be buying it.

Take a look at the comments on Andrew Bolt's column piece about this disgraceful affair.

If, as Jill Singer in the Herald Sun writes:

... it's kind of creepy for a prominent male politician to be rummaging around inside the underwear of young girls in search of political inspiration.
Then it is equally creepy for journalists to be rummaging around inside the underwear of young girls in search of newsworthy inspiration.

-- Nora

Think I was too harsh?

“I learned to slice and dice anyone who deliberately fed out misleading information, or who spoke to others and not me,” she says.

If a backbencher refused to leak information to her about party meetings, she never mentioned that MP’s name in a story again - “unless they had done something wrong, of course”.

Another confession: “As a journalist I lied often, usually about my sources, but about other things, too. Journalists can and do get away with lying; politicians and staff can’t. Nor should they.”
Read the context and the whole thing here.

Even ABC journalist Barrie Cassidy appears to agree:

In Cassidy’s opinion, the media tactics—which he says are unfair—of homing in on any socially conservative comments Abbott makes, could force the Liberal leader to stop speaking candidly about social issues.

“Look, it’s not fair, in a sense, to Tony Abbott.

“He is asked constantly about these issues whereas Kevin Rudd, for example, is not.

“Kevin Rudd hasn’t been asked the question, ‘What would be your advice to your daughters?’ And would his advice be any different any way? What would he say, ‘No, take a cavalier attitude, go for your life?’ I doubt it.”

Cassidy said Tony Abbott has complained about this treatment, “but it doesn’t seem to make any difference”.

“We admire him for his candor. Well, certainly in the media we like him for his candor, and it would be a pity if he suddenly, as a result of this experience, pulled his head in and we didn’t get the same Tony Abbott,” he said.

“He will be verballed and the media is on to this sort of angle that they want, that he’s a social conservative who wants to impose all of those attitudes on to the rest of the community.

“That seems to be their mindset and he was really badly treated over the Women’s Weekly article. He didn’t say anything of the kind, based on Julia Gillard’s responses to it,” Cassidy said.
If only other journalists were equally candid about the corrupt practices in their own profession.

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