TUMBY BAY - In a recent article by Australian journalist and provocateur John Pilger, there is an interesting observation about the state of the world’s media.
Pilger was writing about the trial of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a piece published on the Counterpunch website:
“Of course … there has never been a ‘free press’. There have been extraordinary journalists who have occupied positions in the ‘mainstream’ – spaces that have now closed, forcing independent journalism on to the internet.
“There, it has become a ‘fifth estate’, a samizdat of dedicated, often unpaid work by those who were honourable exceptions in a media now reduced to an assembly line of platitudes.
“Words like ‘democracy’, ‘reform’, ‘human rights’ are stripped of their dictionary meaning and censorship is by omission or exclusion.”
Pilger is an acerbic and bellicose writer at the best of times but he has a point.
Like many other inconvenient truths that have been uncovered during the current pandemic the sorry state of traditional media has been exposed for anyone intelligent enough to see it.
The phenomenon of pandemic fatigue has been greatly abetted and enhanced by the constant and repetitive reportage to which it has been subjected.
Indecipherable and largely meaningless statistics have been showered on the public like so much confetti in an attempt to convey a sense of urgency and suspense while the slightest nuance in their interpretation have been blown out into doomsday articles that all resemble each other.
It is no wonder, as Pilger suggests, people have been looking for alternative sources of informed information such as those found on the internet.
What he doesn’t point out, however, is that the internet is a veritable quagmire. Finding informed and intelligent information amongst the otherwise putrid mess takes considerable time and effort.
However, if you have the patience to persevere it can not only be rewarding but refreshing. The “honourable exceptions” speaking truth to power that Pilger refers to are there to be found.
There is no doubt that traditional media has been captured by vested interests, both corporate and political, and this accounts for the “assembly line of platitudes” that Pilger refers to but it has also been captured by what is referred to as the 24 hour news cycle.
This cycle, by its nature, thrives on a quick turnover of information delivered in rapid fire bursts which preclude any form of rational analysis. This is especially so on television but has also permeated the print media where big headlines are followed by minimal reportage.
In the quest to keep up with the 24 hour news cycle where something new has to be reported to maintain people’s interest at regular intervals there has been a conflation of fact and opinion and it is often difficult to distinguish between the two.
When a story captures the public interest it is nauseatingly repeated ad infinitum until every small drop of life has been squeezed out of it.
It is not only the commercial media that is doing this, it has also crept into public broadcasting, including the ABC. Opinion is now being passed off as analysis.
The ABC is an interesting case because it shouldn’t have to compete with the commercial services to prove its legitimacy. However, in the current political environment it is in an invidious Catch-22 situation.
If it is seen not to be keeping up it runs the risk of being seen as irrelevant and not worth funding but if it keeps up it comes under pressure from the commercials because it is seen as too competitive and should have its funding cut.
Where the ABC really excels is with its digital services, particularly its news services. Try watching the ABC television news and then compare it to its news webpage.
On the former you will get commercial style 30 second news grabs and on the latter you will get well informed news accompanied by useful analysis.
It may be that even ‘Aunty’, or at least part of it, has joined Pilger’s fifth estate.
If you are interested in quality journalism there are only a couple of worthwhile weekly newspapers worth buying. The dailies are all a dead loss, including their digital, pay wall versions.
As for television, forget it. Free to air or subscription they all relentlessly hammer the same messages dictated from on high by their corporate or government masters.
Television is now solely about entertainment and that includes its new services.
Pick a few reliable sources on the internet and stick with them.