Deep Throaties

It’s 9pm in the Daily Telegraph bunker and Gemma Jonestown is screaming herself hoarse.Her nationwide scoop about fatcat asylm seekers scoring free taxpayer-funded microwaves to heat up their 2-minute noodles is held up in production.

“For chrissake, Woodward and Bernstein would KILL for this story,” she screams, between hurried sips of her Hungry Jacks large chocolate shake, “It’s only a photo illustration, mate!”
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Excess Baggage

Politics is a television medium. It has been for nearly 50 years. But TV has changed in that time. Artifice in the aid of the entertainment was formerly tolerated. Now, thanks to the ‘reality’ TV phenomenon, we seek out representations of ‘authenticity’. Guess what happens to politics?
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Head Bangers

Old and experienced editors (are there are any left?) will tell you the best stories write themselves. Answer the who, what, where and when in the first paragraph. Tease out the why and how. Then add background and quotes to provide authority and colour.

But with so much competing noise out there, that template is rarely sufficient anymore. So journalists take every piece of news, however routine, and stick it through a Marshall stack turned up to 11, stomp on the adjectival overdrive and invite jaded readers to stick their heads inside the PA.
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Anti-Social Media

The Nine Network’s recent staged live crosses to a helicopter “in flight” tell you all you need to know about the state of much of our mainstream media¬† – cynical pretenders that see news as entertainment and their audiences as idiots.
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Squeezing Every Last Drop

Like any disaster covered by television news networks, the Queensland floods bring together stories of drama and heartbreak and courage and strange twists of fate. For journalists, there’s not much to do, other than show what is happening and get out of the way.

But that’s not enough for our networks. After all, the story isn’t really about the floods. The story is about Kochie at the floods or Mel at the floods. The awful events are merely a backdrop for the stars, as they roll up their Country Road chinos and stand in the sludge for 10-minutes for their piece to camera before jumping in the helicopter back to Palm Beach.

The showbiz element of commercial television might be acceptable if these professional poseurs had some worthwhile observations to make. But as always, nearly everything that comes out of their mouths is a either a pious platitude, a statement of the bleeding obvious or a banal and condescending paen to all things Aussie Aussie Aussie.

Journalism used to be about the story, not about the journalist. Instead, as has become depressingly obvious, these momentous news stories are merely another branding exercise. Are you are watching the floods on Seven or Nine or ABC24? And just to prove that our coverage is the best, we’ll put together a heart-rending little tele-movie promo, with slow-mo footage, an echoing narration, a pleading piano soundtrack and stick our logo all over the top of it.

Surely, it can’t be long till they hire Kennedy Miller, or the modern equivalent, to begin pre-production on ‘Deluge’, a three-part mini-series with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Oh, Australia.

See Also: ‘Addicted to Disaster P*rn’ – Michael Mullins (Eureka Street)

Itchy Triggers

The possibility of instant global publication, the growth of social media and the commodification of facts are accelerating the media’s drive to offer ‘analysis’ around news events. More ominously, and knowing reporters are looking for a point of differentiation, agents of power now routinely use social media to manipulate the official record in their favour before the facts are clear.

Of course, the problem with this is there is little evidence that asking ‘why’ before the traditional questions of ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ are answered is a recipe for good journalism. But commercial pressures, such as they are, encourage reporters to explain before they describe. And there are¬† plenty of voices out there feeding them lines to help them meet those pressures, while generating more heat than light. Continue reading