By Christopher Testa
Over the course of the year, this column will focus on the media, our relationship with the press and critical issues and challenges affecting the Australian media landscape.
I’ve volunteered and contributed to various outlets (most of them respectable) and from day one I’ve understood the responsibility of publishing or broadcasting a story.
The responsibility of a journalist, or indeed anyone with a media profile, cannot be overstated.
Because the bottom line is when you say, publish or broadcast something under the authority of a respected media brand, people will listen and many will believe you.
Reputations are at stake.
The media can make a mere mortal of a God and can tear a world idol down to the status of a pauper.
An unfortunate phenomenon which seems to be becoming more of a problem in these times is that of the media ‘entertainer’.
The media entertainer is a profit-making machine.
Tabloids and commercial radio use them to rake in the dollars, a not unimportant gig in these tough economic times which are bringing even our most respected mastheads to their knees.
The media entertainer’s task is to draw a reaction, whether it’s by boiling the blood of the masses or by sparking a hate campaign from within the coffee and crumb covered pages of the morning paper.
The target in the crosshair will cycle between the favourite subjects of Australia’s mass media.
Muslims or ‘boat people’, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, the sport of soccer and its fans, welfare recipients, religion and climate change take turns to be lynched by the unrelenting media entertainer.
By now, your mind has surely already conjured a series of names and faces which make up the Australian media’s finest team of baiters and trolls.
However, the profile of the shock jock is not confined to aging, white men with Anglo-Saxon surnames; these days professional trolls can be absolutely anyone, from right-wing writers of Dutch parentage to women of Iranian descent on the radio.
The write-with-impunity spiteful scribe or the shock jock with the venomous tongue will, when pressed to be held accountable for the vitriol they incite, cry, ‘I am not a journalist, I am an entertainer.’
That word ‘entertainer’ is supposed to imply they are not bound by the same ethical codes by which journalists should abide.
Given the power of the media; allowing high profile stars to write so free of any ethical obligations is akin to handing a troubled child a handgun.
We all know that quality journalism costs a lot of money.
It is understandable that financially challenged media outlets will resort to pimping fury in order to make a quick buck.
But why must we allow outrage to become our national sport?
This is not to say opinion or debate should not be encouraged; it absolutely should be, as debate is the catalyst for social improvement.
However, the media and the public share a symbiotic relationship so it is in the public interest for the media to set a civil tone of discussion.
This is why it is so important media outlets thrive financially once again; there’ll be no need for these ‘entertainers’ to ruin the media’s name.
Image courtesy of The Punch