The title borrowed for this post is that of Tim Dunlop’s excellent article on the deathly grip the media and politicians have each other in. Read the whole thing here.
A couple of other excellent pieces on the performance of the political media, and its interconnection with pollies and political strategists, have come to light over the couple of two days. The first is an excellent piece by Laura Tingle on the misreporting of the RSPT stoush, and how much of the media swallowed the mining industry’s line whole.
Yesterday, Grog’s Gamut posted a passionate piece on his blog, critiquing the performance of the media pack in this election campaign specifically. You can read it here. Interestingly, the post sparked quite a debate on Twitter, with notable contributors being journalism academic and blogger Jason Wilson, Tim Dunlop, Greens web coordinator David Paris, and journalists James Massola, Samantha Maiden, Tony Wright and Latika Bourke.
Unfortunately, the debate is difficult to archive in the absence of a unifying hashtag. But the journos’ defence was partly that questions about policy were being put to the leaders, and, interestingly, that editors encouraged questions about the narrative. There’s a lot more to it than that, and I hope Jason Wilson follows up with a promised piece on it, which would better summarise a quite complex interchange than I am doing here. [The questions raised deserve some analysis and reflection, and all I’m really writing here is a very quickly composed set of night thinking observations!]
In the @GrogsGamut debate, then, there was a view being put that critics of the media didn’t understand the media as process.
On that point, one of the fascinating things about ABC News 24 is that you can see the raw material, if you like, as the entirety of both major party leaders’ press conferences are broadcast. We highlighted one grab from Julia Gillard’s presser in Perth here earlier, but my overall impression is that her fight back really didn’t flow through to the nightly news in any real way.
So, Labor Outsider’s point on a previous post about the real difficulty that politicians have in communicating messages holds true. Had you been watching 24 hour news, or reading blogs or the Twitter conversation, you’d have perceived the story moving on from the now stale talking points about leaks and polls, but that doesn’t translate (at least not immediately) into what most voters see.
The speeds at which the media cycle moves, then, are not unidirectional. And the mass communication aspect, the distillation of raw reporting into a product packaged up for most voters to see, is highly selective – not just via highlighting the narrative, but also by selecting particular policy announcements to report, and particular ones to ignore.
Talking about the nightly tv news, one other observation I’ve made is that ABC and SBS, in particular, are very meta. It’s not so much about reporting what’s being said, but about “analysing” its significance. That can be quite egregious, and for what it’s worth, I think SBS tv news is the worst offender. It’s very difficult to see Karen Middleton as ever being even handed as between Labor and the Coalition, and that bleeds into the ‘straight’ news.
All that’s by way of introduction to a roundtable thread were you can discuss any aspect of the media’s coverage of the campaign, and its role in the contest, you wish.
Elsewhere: An Onymous Lefty.