Flat White

Why the special social media sensitivity come election time?

16 May 2019

6:56 PM

16 May 2019

6:56 PM

Destroying the careers of political aspirants has become a national sport and is a far cry from the role media should be playing during an election campaign.

The last three weeks of political reporting has been the equivalent of a whack-a-mole sideshow; in some cases, some moles needing multiple whacks to force resignation and dis-endorsement. Timed mostly too, of course, following the close of nominations; when candidates can’t be replaced.

The line up of the offended covers most of the electorate; Muslims, Catholics, Jews, the LGBTI community and women.

During my journalism major, I have found most journalists to be fun, colourful, and irreverent – certainly not the types to be peddling moral outrage. I can’t help but wonder if the latest obsession of ‘who’s getting whacked’ may be coming from the desk upstairs.

It is almost impossible to grow up in the digital age without having at least one embarrassing mistake recorded online. Heaven help young people who talk about sex, drugs, make crude jokes or voice strong opinions on current affairs – as everyone does in real life.

As a Catholic woman, I found the former Labor candidate for Melbourne, Luke Creasey’s comments vulgar but they shouldn’t define him. He is a young guy who had the courage to run for parliament and the ability to win preselection in a major party – both achievements greater than indiscretions from years ago.

The former Liberal candidate for Lyons, Jessica Whelan isn’t a hater; she is a talented, hardworking woman who is in her own words is guilty of ordinary ignorance and posting ‘ill-informed’ opinions’ two years ago.

All candidates stood down recent demonstrated heartfelt remorse. Yet it wasn’t enough as crusty old career MPs piled on to exploit their mistakes – citing abhorrence, disgust and extremism.

Terms best suited to deeply held and sustained prejudices, not emotionally motivated slurs, tasteless jokes or online gossip.

The reality is, the hyper-partisan nature of our major newsrooms has brought about an unhealthy fixation of the ‘who’ rather than the ‘what’.

If political reporting continues on this path the electorate will remain flooded with sensationalised headlines instead of policy debate. Nobody wins, as the caravan moves on voters tune out, and whacked candidates struggle to put their careers and lives back together.

Australia needs to learn to accept an apology otherwise the fourth estate will make pariahs of us all.

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