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John Pilger and Julian Assange
John Pilger and Julian Assange at a rally in London, 2011


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.


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Lindsay F Bond

Firstly, it needs be said, 'I know nothing'.

Yet as a named person is reportedly found guilty of intrusion to information deemed essential to be kept secret, what now for the folk who read and communicated 'it'?


Bernard Corden

One of the better tactics is to listen to the ABC and SBS news or read The Spectator Australia or The Australian and then adopt a diametrically opposed view, which is often much closer to the truth.

Using Mary Douglas' worldview on Cultural Theory with grid/group analysis is also a worthwhile exercise:


Lindsay F Bond

Spelling the faults of commonplace news grits and trolls
smelling the salts of 'ammonial' phews truth extols
telling assaults met morally on a few kiap patrols.

William Dunlop

My dear Bernard - On Journalism, I am in complete agreement with you and Phil.

A couple of weeks ago I acquired the autobiography of Flora Shaw, by Enid Moberly Bell, one time editor of the Times of London.

All 1 kg of it is due tomorrow all the way from Galway in the auld sod.

Arthur Williams

Thanks for that Phil. I sometimes feel I'm the only guy left on earth till I hear my phone ring.

I am sad to see the BBC is broadcasting News like your ABC.

My daily routine: I get into dining area put kettle on. Turn on BBC for news headlines (today tale of Tory sleaze is the lead). So quickly tune to Al Jazeera or Russian TV.

The former amazes me with the width of news items that they broadcast. The latter to get another perspective from the BBC, ITV or Sky that are the main domestic channels in UK.

I have about eight news channels readily available including ABC Australia. Once tuned into the USA's ABC it is like watching Laurel and Hardy doing a skit on a TV station's News Hour.

Away from News the BBC does produce some good documentaries and Stephen Sakur, an interviewer on its 'Hardtalk', often does ask the hard ones you or I would ask. Both my two more favoured News Channels that I mentioned above do turn out some good documentaries too.

In any event I try not to accept any item at face value from any source and if really interested will spare some time to research it. Had a go last week at a CO-26 item sent me by GreenPeace. I felt they 'gilded the lily' to say the least. Got a good reply from them in few days.

Thank goodness I'm a lone surfer and have no partner, spouse or anyone else to tell me to, "Get off the computer!" Only my doctor does that and I can't argue with him.

One old man's ninth decade grouse I have is that in my PNG days you could reset your watch by the BBC News broadcasts. Now they will overrun by over a minute talking and laughing about trite items or with the Weather-woman or man.

Bernard Corden

PNG Attitude, Counterpunch and Truthout are about the only websites that provide any skerrick of integrity.

I have switched off ABC and SBS and much prefer the 24/7 TVSN online shopping channels.

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