Good journalism is getting hard to find and especially in the news media. All over the world.
In the U.S., major media outlets have cut back staff and produce (fewer pages of magazines and newspapers, for instance), and refashioned what they offer in a marketing attempt to retain readers/viewers/listeners. It’s now ‘news as entertainment,’ and packaged for the shorter attention spans we now have.
But the good news is that there’s still pushback to this capitulation. Some people are paying closer attention, and they have higher standards for what constitutes good news coverage and compelling analysis. They want good jouranalists to research well and ask the right questions.
A short while back, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a piece called ‘Fears for the future in 7.30 Report-land’, and it caught my attention. I think like writer Anne Summers, I guess. Regarding US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Australia and appearance on a popular talk show hosted by ‘amiable funsters’ with ‘a mostly youthful audience’. All of which sounded rather emblematic of the times and all…
The most powerful woman in the world thanked the boys for giving her the gig by saying, “I especially appreciated the chance to talk to the two of you because I think it is through popular culture that people can feel connected.”
Feeling “connected” with the Secretary of State was all very nice but it would have been even better to have had a serious interviewer such as Kerry O’Brien try to pin Clinton down on how she really feels about, for starters, the Chinese – the country, not the food.
The news that the ABC is reviewing what its flagship current affairs television program, The 7.30 Report, should look like once the long-term presenter and hard-hitting interviewer O’Brien departs at the end of this year is cause for alarm…
Word from within the ABC, however, is that the program’s ratings are falling, and that this is being put down to the format being “old” and the program too serious. The incisive political interview is being talked about as having outlived its usefulness. No one else, the rationale goes, could do it like Kerry…
It would be a step backwards to have a “presenter” who was just the face of the program, rather than its anchor, the person who gives it authority and intellectual heft rather than just a handsome (or pretty) face.
But it is also a mistake to view the decisions about the future of The 7.30 Report as just a choice between entertainment and journalism. More to the point is the key role it plays in maintaining a healthy democracy.
There is even speculation that the ABC is looking at The 7pm Project as a role model – meaning the only prime-time program where political leaders feel obliged to explain themselves would be replaced by a light-hearted and humorous “take” on the day’s events. Please say it isn’t so.
Please. It has been happening in America for a long time now, and it is wearisome. Please, someone, ask some tough questions. Do your homework besides what the staff and producers hand you to read. Don’t be flippant about the news that affects countless individuals and families and their daily realities. Don’t be full of yourselves and the celebrity status of big TV news personalities.
Come to think of it…..this recounts most of what we see on American television news (though not all). Look at how the Aussies see it:
We have something special with the tradition of the tough political interview. They do not have it in the US and they clearly do not want it. Clinton made that clear with her choice of television interviewers.
Mark Scott, please don’t make the same mistake.
Please. My sense of journalistic integrity knows no boundaries or borders. Wherever it is still preserved, hold on to it. Don’t cave to pop culture media as entertainment. Raise expectations. People will respond. They hunger for truth and clarity. When they don’t get it in big media, they know they can in alternative sources of information, and they will find it.
Be there, where people seek truth and authenticity. There are still plenty of intelligent, engaged adults who will be grateful consumers. But young adults keenly sense who is telling them the truth, and who is challenging them to think through their assumptions. Be there for them.