The spheres of media and politics will, I think, always be intertwined to some degree. If, like me, you believe that any meaningful objectivity in the social sciences is a delusion, and any claims to objectivity merely strengthen the status quo, this idea becomes even more challenging. My question is this: are the media simply reporters of the news, or are they genuine producers of the news? Do they have a role to play as simple bystanders, or do they actually have a role in making the news?
Let’s look at an example. Recently, a local Penrith Paper (which shall remain nameless, simply because I have no wish to give them any publicity at all) trumpeted loudly that they had a reporter from Sky covering the Federal Election for them (again, this individual will not be mentioned). Fair enough, so far, I guess, and congratulations to the paper in question for seeking to elevate the level of public debate in Penrith above house prices and escort agencies.
In a not entirely surprising move, this reporter wrote an article demanding to know answers about who was going to lead Labor to the next election. In a stroke of quite breathtaking irony, she commented that the ‘leadership speculation refuses to die.’ I read the article through, despite myself, intrigued as to why that would be her lead. I figured there must be more news related to Rudd, perhaps even a challenge in caucus. What I got, instead, was a mix of gossip and garbage, rehashed since the last leadership challenge – which was more than a year ago, I think.
So, if you ask me, this was not reporting. This was a genuine attempt to ‘make’ or produce news. There must be little going on – or this was an easy target – and so the reporter in question basically put together a dirt piece for want of doing any real journalism. Why? Perhaps because it sells papers, although this paper in question is free. Perhaps because she has her own political agenda to push, and she is abusing her position as a reporter to push it. Perhaps because she’s serving her masters’ political agenda.
Regardless of the purpose, I don’t think this is a rare occurrence. Unfortunately, too many people read papers uncritically – they trust what they read, and when the reporters have specific agendas at hand, it leads to bias.