Oz Blog News Commentary

The media’s job?

April 9, 2022 - 11:55 -- Admin

In the last day or three, while farnarcling around on Twitter, I came across an extraordinary exchange. One of the Twitterati, Antfarmer, stated

“Disappointingly [Katharine Murphy, political editor of the Guardian] just recited the misnomer [sic] that the Liberal party’s traditional strength is economic management. Really? On what basis is this furphy rolled out election after election? Which economic stats?”1

Astonishingly, Murphy replied with:

“It’s a reflection on public opinion, measured over a long period of time. Lots of field evidence. The interesting thing (as I’ve referenced in many different outings over the past few months) is those perceptions are shifting (at least in Guardian Essential).”2

The inimitable Ronni Salt replied to Murphy with:

“And part of the reason the public myth continues is because the media keep telling the public about the public myth and the public read the media who then . . . The idea that the media have not participated in the promotion of this myth is naive. chicken-egg-chicken-egg”3

It beggars belief that someone of Murphy’s reputation could be so bereft, as to think that repeating the public’s perceptions back to them is anything like the job of a journalist. Many members of the general public think Scott Morrison doesn’t lie. Should that be repeated as if it is fact, or should the many instances of his lies be used to disabuse people of that misapprehension? I’d be inclined to think that reporting the facts of his lies is more the journalist’s job, than reporting the beliefs of a part of the population.

This lackadaisical attitude to the truth and reality is symptomatic of the malaise affecting the media in Australia. It happened with Labor’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) which was referred to by so many in the media (not just the Murdoch media) as a ‘Carbon Tax’, which is what the Liberal Party erroneously called it. It was in fact an Emission Trading Scheme with a fixed Carbon price for the first three years4. 

Parroting the Liberal Party’s talking points does not constitute journalism. A similar thing happened with the Labor Party’s plans for dividend imputation refunds. The Liberal Party called it a ‘retiree tax’, and the media lapped it up, with people like Samantha Maiden and Fran Kelly parroting the term5.

Many of my colleagues are scientists and if they were as slack with their terminology or their data as many journalists seem to be, they’d be hard pressed to get published and they’d eventually be out of a job, as not being up to the task. In journalism, such laxity doesn’t seem to be a problem.