The ABC's Annabel Crabb published a long, informative, entertaining piece at The Drum the other day, characteristically witty and meaty, in defence of journalists and their current behaviour and reportage on the campaign trail.
Much of what she is says is fair enough. But nothing she says can possibly excuse what I've just heard on the radio.
I got into the car and turned on the radio and there was Julia Gillard in Queensland, mid-speech, announcing the Government's seniors policy, after what I imagine was a somewhat stressful morning meeting Kevin Rudd for the first time since she became Prime Minister. The seniors stuff sounded pretty good, mainly the improvements to the pension situation but also several other things. Jenny Macklin followed up. And then it was time for questions.
I listened for a total of just over half an hour, apart from the four and a half minutes it took me to duck into Dan Murphy on the way home, and I heard one, and only one, question, right at the end, about the policy announcement. Every single other question, asked mostly in an aggressive, smartarse, gotcha tone of voice by what sounded like a bunch of extremely young journalists (with the exception of -- wait for it -- Mark Latham, who was "working as a guest reporter for a commercial network"; is there no scrap of venomous fuckwittery of which the man is not capable?) was about her meeting with Kevin Rudd, except for the ones about the presence of Mark Latham.
Wah wah wah shrouded in secrecy (actually, said Gillard, there was a TV camera and sound gear in the room) wah gotcha wah wah why didn't you make eye contact (actually, said Gillard, just because you didn't see something doesn't mean it didn't happen) wah wah gotcha blah are there really two leaders wah wah wah knifed blah blah assassinated wah wah doesn't Mark Latham upset you blah not helping wah wah aren't YOU having a hard time wah wah gotcha blah Kevin Rudd Kevin Rudd Kevin Rudd.
Gillard answered every single one of these aggressive, repetitive inanities with humour, patience and grace.
As someone with an 83-year old father and an older sister recently turned 60, I would have quite liked to hear some questions about the seniors policy. I didn't think it was too much to ask. Perhaps the baby journalists thought Julia had spoken about it so clearly and in such detail that there were no questions left unanswered. But it seems more likely that they didn't hear a word she said and were filling in time tweeting and texting till her mouth stopped moving and they could start yelling But we need to talk about Kevin!
Can anyone tell me what this appalling crap is all about? Has journalism become a matter of goading someone until they lose their temper or burst into tears? Exactly when did loss of control or bodily containment become the stuff that "news" is made of? Did any of them even realise that there were policy announcements being made? Is this the kind of scrum that produces the kind of rubbish we're getting in the papers and on the news? Do journalists really think that public life is a soap opera in which the only thing that matters is emotion, personalities and gossip? How much of this is being driven by the Rupert Murdochs of the world? Can you really blame the obviously extreme youth and inexperience of some of these journalists when Kerry O'Brien is doing more or less the same thing every night on The 7.30 Report? Now that journalism is something you need a university degree for, what on earth are they spending those four years teaching them? And is the Australian public really only getting the media it deserves?
Whatever the answers to these questions may be, I am bloody glad I'm not a journalist. I would be hanging my head in shame, mortification and sorrow at the untrained flea circus this once noble profession has become.
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