Great tabloid scandals develop their own lives; like bushfires they move on from the original outrage to the cover-up to the failure of institutions, as the hand wringing becomes a form of interpretive dance.
The scandal provides the spark, the media the oxygen, but the real heat comes from our reaction as paying customers who keep the issue rolling as long as we keep buying the papers and tuning into the news.
The News of the World scandal has tightened this loop by cutting out the middle man, the tabloid coverage of a tabloid scandal driving a tabloid reaction: demands that someone should pay and that this should never happen again.
Australians have been watching the News of the World saga unfold with special interest; after all, Rupert Murdoch has been wearing the yellow jersey in the media world since before Cadel Evans was dreaming of his first BMX.
The vindication of Lindsay Tanner’s thesis that the Canberra Press Gallery has turned politics into a celebrity blood sport may be the fact that his key argument is being largely ignored.
Behind the war stories, Tanner’s thrust is that the trivialisation of politics is a natural function of a media industry fighting for its very survival under the pressure of technological change, increased competition and dwindling audiences.
With so much focus on our twin domains of media and politics we couldn’t resist using this week’s Essential Report to test some of these propositions.
First, we tested people’s level of interest in politics, finding that while older Australians are highly engaged, younger people increasingly are not.
This week in Sydney, EMC client Early Childhood Australia launched the report Our Future on the Line examining the progress being made towards the National Quality Framework by every state and territory.
The National Quality Framework is a landmark reform agenda for the early childhood education and care sector.
The report also made a public pitch for the first time to do away with the ‘c’ word.
Of course we’re talking about ‘childcare’, an antiquated term that many involved in the sector feel is outdated and not encompassing of the education and learning involved in this growing industry.
Here is the word cloud that will prick a thousand egos – and restore some reality to the debate about the future of the media.
In an era of celebrity journos building Twitter empires and media business models inspired by the porn industry, the truth is that very few members of the public have any idea who is writing or reporting their daily news.
That’s what Essential Research found while working with the Media Alliance’s Future of Journalism Project – when asked to name a journalist, the vast majority of respondents could come up with only one name: ‘Don’t Know’.
Sometimes a response to a polling question comes along that makes you re-evaluate your preconceived ideas, where the public’s refusal to confirm your gut instincts forces you to have a fresh look at the evidence before you.
Asking people to cast stones at the media’s reporting of the federal election seemed like a simple enough exercise, the public would confirm the media did a poor job and we could all wring our hands about democracy once again denied.
But hold the presses. Something is amiss. Fewer than a quarter of respondents to the Essential Report join the party. One third rate the coverage at election time ‘good’, a further 40 per cent ‘average’. And far more say the media ‘gave fair coverage of all parties’ than thought they favoured a particular side.
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