Idly watching the ABC’s idea of news one evening and hearing for the thousandth time how man’s greed and indifference were provoking ever more terrible ‘extreme weather events’, I began to wonder when it was that journalists stopped telling the truth, the unembellished objective truth as far as they could establish it. When did they start to twist or ignore facts as if to try and force reality to come into line with their views and prejudices? When did they stop reporting natural disasters without tacking on an ideological sermon against industry and capitalism? We have always had ‘extreme weather events’ in this country – witness Dorothea Mackellar’s ‘flood and fire and famine’ – yet beyond the cyber-theorising artificially generated in the computer labs of the CSIRO or weather bureaux there is no undisputed empirical evidence that they are getting worse or that we humans are causing them. If we were, who caused the fires and floods of the distant Australian past, before we came along to shove, allegedly, a spanner into the smooth working of the natural order?
Objectivity was dumped when journalists appointed themselves interpreters of the news rather than reporters of it. Preening themselves on ‘speaking truth to power’ the ‘quality’ media have adopted a leftist view on just about everything. On climate they have drenched themselves in anthropophobic Green mythology, which leads them (the ABC and SBS especially) to betray journalistic principles by omitting evidence that doesn’t fit that view and making up things that do, like polar bears dying when they’re actually thriving. (Did the ABC deliberately ramp up its quota of climate scare stories to coincide with the Green’s absurd assertion that this was a ‘climate election’?) In politics, journalistic bias against non-leftists can be shameless. Look at the Four Corners hatchet job on President Trump, portraying him as hand-in-glove with Russia to ‘rob’ Saint Hillary of her rightful destiny in the White House. This libel was nailed by the Mueller Report but the ABC has never retracted it. Then there’s Islam, to which leftist journalists accord an obsequious respect. I watched a reporter in Sri Lanka (flapping her hands around as all ABC correspondents do on camera as if they were simultaneously transmitting in Auslan) declaring that the suicide bombers who killed around 250 people were ‘foreign’. She didn’t want to say ‘Muslim’ – bombs being difficult to reconcile with the cherished leftist myth of the ‘religion of peace’.
‘All the news that’s fit to print’ proclaims the masthead of the New York Times, a slogan expressing a contract with its readership. Nowadays it ought to read ‘All the news we invent to print’. For that ideologically-driven paper has become a fount of lies, half-truths and distortions – ‘fake news’. Our local imitators plod unquestioningly in its steps, sifting and suppressing information, especially in fields of leftist obsession, which used to be – apart from climate – feminism and race but have been extended to include ‘privilege’ as a white male attribute, Christianity as a force destructive of freedoms and personalities (or as an object of ridicule in the form practised by Scott Morrison) and of course a kaleidoscope of genders, each to be regarded (just ask Mr Joyce) as ‘normal’. The condition of journalism in Australia is now such that a fair-minded person wanting to stay informed about current events cannot rely exclusively on the ABC, SBS, the Guardian or the former Fairfax titles. The Murdoch press is less partisan, yet high standards of objectivity used to be the norm to which all journalists aspired, irrespective of their own personal opinions, or those of their proprietor. Newspaper owners have always had political prejudices but these were not supposed – and strong editors would put their job on the line to ensure that they didn’t – intrude into the paper’s news reporting. The boss’s bees in the bonnet stayed in the leader columns.
‘Fairness’ was thus a quality which all newspapers that were not unashamedly partisan in the manner of the Daily Worker regarded as integral to their function of conveying information.
And reporters and sub-editors strove to respect it even when owners and working journalists were on different sides politically. Leftist reporters, probably always the majority in their trade, were still able to write impartial copy. Why can’t they now?
I have before me a copy of the Style Book issued to its staff by the Herald and Weekly Times in 1969. It begins: ‘Accuracy, clarity, balance, brevity, speed – these are the essentials of our news requirements.’ And they were drummed into young reporters by cadet supervisors, tyrannical chiefs of staff and older journalists. Are they still? Most young journalists learn their trade at university now, and this, I suspect, is where the rot sets in.
‘Balance’ in particular is not a virtue on the modern campus. You can’t have balance, you can’t be impartial, a Marxist lecturer will tell his students, between a hegemonic capitalist class and the ranks of the ‘exploited’. Too many university teachers (who in the case of ‘media studies’ are ex-journalists who should know better) see the promotion of ideology as central to their influence on young minds, all in the cause of social revolution. Are student journalists taught that they will be in a unique position to bring about that revolution, to help change society for (the leftists’ idea of) the better?
It would be reassuring to think not, but a thousand media pages prove the answer is yes. As for ‘accuracy’, no need to strive for that since it’s chimerical, says the lecturer, just part of the ‘narrative’ imposed to prop up notions of white supremacy, whereas journalism students know, courtesy of their cultural theory elective, that all narratives are valid and hence ‘accurate’. Just write your story as seems accurate to you, and if that means blaming unspecified ‘foreigners’ for Isis atrocities, you’re striking a blow against ‘Islamophobia’. (Though when whites are guilty, as at Christchurch, the perpetrator’s race must be ritually reiterated with the rote-like regularity of yesteryear’s primary school pupils learning their ten-times table.)
No ideology should be allowed to contaminate news reporting. Individual newspaper owners having their pet beliefs does not justify the ABC having them since its owner is the pluralist Australian public. It can’t reflect everyone’s opinion and it should reflect none. The best way to stop it thumbing its leftist nose at taxpayers who don’t share its prejudices is to fund it, like Netflix, through a user-pays system, where those who enjoy its tedious dramas, vulgar ‘comedy’ and tendentious cliché-ridden news can do so at their own expense.
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