Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sorry, Annabel, not good enough

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.


Addy Lake said...

I too was disgusted by the utter shambles of this press conference.

Journalists have become so bloated with their own arrogance and self-importance that they forget their core edict is to investigate what is going on in the world. They are there to report the news, not create it.

However, do I believe you have something when you ask whether the Australian public is merely getting what it deserves.

It could be argued that this country's obsession with futile garbage (reality television, Hollywood, gossip mags) and it's increasing selfishness is what's fueling the media's current obsession with 'style over substance'. I can't think of a better term that more aptly describes modern Australia at the moment.

So in a sense, yep, the public's getting what it deserves. Thus it's not just the media that needs to shake itself up.

I do however feel a pang of sorrow for journalism students today. Any chance of receiving any future respect or credibility in their chosen profession has just gone out the window.

Lord Sedgwick said...

Many journalists would be better placed and better qualified as panelists putting their poultry (sic - referencing Joh's "feeding the chooks") questions on 'So You Want to be a Prime Minister', 'Farmer Wants a Member' or 'Dancing with the Omphalosceptics'.

As I type George Donikian has just asked uber hack Hugh Rimmington about the "Julia and Kevin love fest"

I rest all our cases.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

See, this is what's really freaking me out -- both of those two blokes used to be more or less serious TV journalists. It's not just the young ones growing up hopeless -- the experienced ones are Going Backwards.

Edward O said...

What annoys me is how a glorified caricaturist like Crabb is now considered a serious political analyst.

Bernice said...

I see it as 'southparking" - being antagonistic merely for the sheer snickering fun of it. Come back Alan Ramsey.

Lord Sedgwick said...

The Ramsay and Faulkner interview/chat I saw on ABC24 made me think that all is not lost.

Good non dumbing down, no cheap shots, mutual respect entertaining and informative banter.

Then I remembered that both of them are retired or semi retired and realised much is lost.

Then I realised I'm also a retired old fart and such geriatric Pollyanna idealism is foolish and pointless.

Now I'm off to watch the big footy match during which I can rant and rage unnoticed by Nurse Ratchett.

Lord Sedgwick said...

"It's not just the young ones growing up hopeless -- the experienced ones are Going Backwards."


"It's the ultimate girl-meets boy encounter, Julia and Kevin, surely the great moment of the campaign so far." Michelle Grattan. FFS!

Nici said...

In answer to all of your questions Kerryn, the answer is yes.
The older ones have to do it too because that's the kind of crap editors think viewers/listeners/readers want and that's what they demand from journalists.
yrs in shame Nici (but happily I don't have to do this kind of shit - yet)

Anonymous said...

Hear bloody hear.
Dismayed about Kerry's decline. My worst fears were confirmed when he smirked all over Bob&Blanche and took two entire fucking nights to tell us very little we needed to know.
And now, as with Gillard this week, he's all point-scoring and pugnacious, trying to trip up his victims and outwit, outfox and outsmart them. Who cares if Kerry wins?


paul walter said...

What's really gone wrong with media and press the last few years relates to Labor's slowness in repairing the damage done to public broacasting during the
Howard era.
As the standard has dropped at the ABC, the pressure for other media to produce broadsheet rather than tabloid has lessened.
I often wonder what these little chats election candidates have with Murdoch, before an election, are about. For example, the content of that meeting in America between
Rudd and Murdoch, following Rudds ascent to Labor leadership before last election.

clarencegirl said...

Bravo! Time some stern words were spoken concerning MSM's reporting of this federal election campaign.
What I also dislike is the fact that some regional newspaper published articles are simple verbatim copies of local candidates' media releases - which also fail to address policy.

Helen said...

It's the ultimate girl-meets boy encounter, Julia and Kevin, surely the great moment of the campaign so far." Michelle Grattan. FFS!

Aaargh Sedge. I'd declared a moratorium on the news today although I read Pav's great post, now I'm back in "HULK SMASH" mode after yesterday's "White Knight Kevin rides in to Rescue Damsel in Distress Julia" effort.


Frances said...

The ABC's coverage has been shameful: the election reported like a sporting contest, spruiking virtual goals, penalties, scrums, injuries and NO discussion of the merits of policies.
Or, as Hugh McKay said: like a boxing contest, with who won this bout being the only point of media interest.

Helen said...

And Frances, we all know which one has the track record WRT boxing.

Margaret said...

Fabulous piece, Kerryn. Can I urge you to submit it to ABC online?



Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

Thanks, Margaret. It's already been cross-posted at Larvatus Prodeo, so although they can use it if they want to, I wouldn't ask them to run something that had already appeared online in two other places.

Richard said...

I just read the transcript of the press conference. The only response I can muster is the old Woody Allen line:

“It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham.”

M-H said...

Thanks for this so much. I am so disappointed with this election, the very first one I've been able to vote in. I've been very reticent to speak since I moved here in 1998 because I hadn't become a citizen so couldn't vote, so I just observed. Now, the first time I feel I can really enter into the debate, and it's all this sh*t. I couldn't even tell you what the main policies are, although the Sydney Morning Herald isn't doing a bad job of listing the main promises in a box on its election page. But no-one's talking about the Real Issues. I am especially disappointed in the ABC, which I've generally found to be the only reliable, backgrounding, intelligent commentator in Australia up till now.

Pull your fingers out, journos, and show us what you can do. You've got less than two weeks.

Tatyana said...

Some contrast to this frustrating state of affairs was offered in yesterday's Q&A with Julia Gillard. I watched it on iView ( This still doesn't help with obtaining sufficient information on policies (and I find I need to spend an hour a day, at least, browsing through different sources just to get basic facts and snippets of relevant intelligent analysis), but it was an occasion to see Gillard perform in a live audience setting. Abbott is appearing next week, so that'll be fascinating.