Media fragmentation is already a problem for democratic governments in countries without compulsory voting, but now increasingly even for Australian politics. How do voters learn the truth of an issue if media won’t report news that does not fit their narrative? Once reporters prided themselves on understanding their audiences. Now they are rewarded for hectoring them with opinions, many poorly thought out.
Source: Chris Mitchell, News Corp
From horse racing to ALP post mortems, there’s no pleasing lazy left journos
Older viewers felt distinctly hectored during last Monday night’s Q&A, which theABC is investigating and has foreshadowed removing from all its platforms. Stand-in host Fran Kelly lost control of her all-female panel as, unchallenged, three called for more violence in political discourse — up to and including advocating murder of rapists. It’s an unusual position for feminists who usually criticise violence as an instrument of the “patriarchy”. One of Kelly’s guests, Hana Assafiri, even took to the Q&A Twitter account on Thursday to reject the pro-violence statements of the other three panellists.
A couple of other clangers showed just how out of touch journalists are with their audiences.
Guardian Australia led the pile-on against theMelbourne Cup. It did not stop the Guardian from filling a slab of its website with Melbourne Cup stories last Tuesday afternoon. In the middle of its Cup coverage it ran a piece by Amanda Meade calling out News Corp for being so out of touch as to continue to support the Cup.
Meade said the ABC’s “animal cruelty scandal” — a program by Caro Meldrum-Hanna on 7.30 last month — had not diminished News’s commitment to the Cup. She admitted the Fairfax papers also covered the race. The Age published a 20-page wraparound on Cup day.
Meade’s piece claims the News Corp papers run racing form because they are paid to by the TAB. And they are. But more importantly, racing sells newspapers, and that — in print and online — is the business. It’s why her own masthead covered the Cup.
Yet Guardian and ABC types took to Twitter to look down their noses at Australia’s fascination with the race. Like the Guardian, ABC radio and television news and 7.30 on Cup night focused heavily on the race. Retired Mike Carlton on Twitter acknowledged his own brilliance with regular updates about the number of “likes” he had received for a Tweet saying racing was not a sport.
Still, this is just a horse race. Worse was the media chorus ahead of the release last Thursday of the findings of the Labor Party’s inquiry into its May 18 federal election loss.
The usual suspects spent the week piling on to the party for not campaigning far enough to the left. They were reacting against sensible comments by up-and-coming Labor stars Claire O’Neil and Treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers on the need for Labor to connect with traditional Labor suburban voters.
Greg Jericho, a former public servant treated as something of a ‘‘seer’’ by Guardian Australia, proclaimed on November 3 that the real problem was Labor had tried to stay too close to the centre of politics. He even claimed, against all evidence, that the Coalition had presided over the “cancelling” of progressive taxation.
In fact, Australia has one of the world’s most progressive tax systems. Half the nation’s households pay no net tax after benefits. Jericho also claimed the Coalition had cancelled public education, despite education funding being at record levels. Older readers may think Jericho irrelevant but Guardian Australia has 4.5 million monthly readers, compared with this paper’s 3.5 million in print and digital. The work of its commentators is circulated widely on social media.
“The ALP is devoid of the one thing that stamps out all progressive parties around the world — inspiration,’’ Jericho told his readers. This feeds into the wider left media narrative that the voters got the election wrong and Labor should stick by things such as its franking credits hit against retired Australians, which former leader Bill Shorten has acknowledged was a mistake.
Still if the Guardian can’t even acknowledge we have a progressive tax system why should it do the hard work to find self-funded retirees with superannuation nest eggs paying around $40-50,000 a year for a couple who were set to lose $10,000 a year under Labor. It was a regressive and divisive policy that won uncritical support from lazy journalists. They only had to talk to accountants to understand what low income self-funded retirees were facing. Wealthy retirees have much of their money in investments outside super and would have been less affected by the withdrawal of franking credits than those with modest means.
All media have their target markets and that’s fair enough. The Guardian is not first port of call for readers of retirement age. Older people rely disproportionately on the ABC in regional Australia because they have less choice of commercial media. This makes balance at the ABC all the more critical.
Smug denunciations of the values of ordinary readers and viewers, many of whom love the Melbourne Cup, don’t approve of violence even by oppressed women and Aborigines and are proud to have saved enough super to pay for their own retirement, only provide fertile ground for populist rejectionism.
Driven by the hunt for digital clicks the media is more focused on opinion that reinforces the views of its audience segment than it is on reporting what is actually happening. Most US media missed the alienation of traditional mid-Western Democrat voters, many of them Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables”, who gave Trump victory in 2016. In Britain, elite media misread the 2016 Brexit referendum. Yet the rejection of the globalist agenda of high immigration rates and capital mobility was there to see for journalists who looked. This column forecast a Trump win twice, including the day before the 2016 election.
Earlier that year a similar media failure affected an election here. In the July 2016 Turnbull election, most journalists failed to pick the rebirth of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, even though papers such as this one have reporters across the nation. Last May most political journalists failed to anticipate the damage Labor’s anti-coal rhetoric was doing in ALP-held provincial mining seats. All media failed to predict the Labor rout in Queensland where the party polled only 27 per cent of the federal primary vote.
Think what this says about the national media. None correctly assessed on-the-ground sentiment that Labor in Queensland was heading for a primary vote 3 per cent down on Tony Abbott’s 2013 rout of the second Rudd government. They were expecting a Labor win. Much was written about the failings of Newspoll, but what of the failure of reporting?
On the right, voters who now distrust mainstream media, are willing to throw their electoral support behind populists prepared to acknowledge that what’s good for society’s wealthiest knowledge classes might not be so good for workers.
Activists, especially about climate action, in reaction to this populism increasingly reject liberal democracy. Yet as much as they might hate Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ruminations about cracking down on protesters and corporate secondary boycotts for political reasons, how would their protests fare in non-democracies such as China or Russia?