Wednesday Whinge -Newsrooms around Australia – Report the news, not the fluff

Dear Australian media,

Why do you feel the need to post story after story during the Melbourne Cup Carnival about people and in particular (for some unknown reason) women behaving badly? From drunkenness, to loads of rubbish being left on the ground, to people doing stupid things with bins, there has been a story about them all over the last ten or so days. Why has it come to this? Why as a nation are we reinforcing these actions by reading and watching this rubbish and enocuraging more of the articles to be written?! So someone got a little out of hand at the races. Who cares. This is simply not news.

Below are just a few examples from the last week or two – Some good exhibits of embarrassing and simply irrelevant journalism. And of course a lot of this has now been picked up by overseas newspapers and outlets too.

Nine.com.au, November 1 2016

The Daily Telegraph, November 2 2016

The Age – November 2 2016

news.com.au – November 2 2016

news.com.au, November 4 2016

I get it. The media are a business. Newspapers want readers, websites want clicks and television networks want viewers. That is the aim of the game. However we are entering an ever-increasing world where the basic fundamentals and qualities of journalism are being thrown out for the sake of a viral story. Social media allow people who do silly things to get attention they really do not deserve. For some reason people like watching other humans do silly things. Perhaps it makes them feel better about their own lives. I am not entirely sure. News networks like people clicking on content that involves people doing silly things and hence a story is written.

The Melbourne Cup should be about two things. Horses and fashion. Horses provide the racing and sporting part of the day, the fashion is the occasion and glamour part. Sport and fashion. No more, no less. I have seen more news articles about people getting drunk than who won Fashions on the Field or who, heaven forbid won the Melbourne Cup. What was the name of the winning horse again? By giving airtime to people who go to the races to do nothing but get blind drunk and then do stupid stuff is an insult to journalism worldwide and sure as hell not something we should be proud of. And almost everyone who does stupid things is given the time to shine as there is not actually that many of them. This is sensationalism at its best. According to police reports only nine arrests were made and seventy-eight people kicked out of the 2016 Melbourne Cup. In a crowd of nearly 100,000 people, 78 is a very very small percentage.

Every network is to blame as they feed off and then try to outdo each other. Online news sites wrote articles about people leaving rubbish lying around and published opinion pieces about how a few women behaving badly is a true reflection of all women in Australia and how they are perceived. Right. So it is just women who do silly things is it? Television networks then reinforced the point. Network Ten’s The Project did a follow-up interview with a girl who rode a wheelie bin as a horse on Melbourne Cup Day. Yes, you read that correctly. I am not sure if they realise that there is currently an US Election on or that interest rates remained on hold or that you know a million other things were happening on the day that were far more interesting and newsworthy than a girl riding a wheelie bin. Some other drunk woman gate crashed a Channel Nine live cross on Cup Day. Rather than play down the incident and condemn it, Channel Nine played it over and over again and encouraged it to go viral. She then appeared the next day on The Today Show flaunting her new-found fame.

Perhaps journalism and media students are doing it all wrong. Perhaps studying for years and paying massive amounts of money to finish courses is not the right pathway to take. Maybe going the races, getting blind drunk and making a fool of oneself is the door in which to enter the industry. Is this where the future is headed?

Sure I get it. From time to time, by all means give us a fluff piece of news, but for the sake of journalistic integrity and the integrity of everyone who has to consume it, limit the nonsense. Report the truth and do not create celebrities out of people who should be given anything but attention.

Yours Sincerely

Liam Thompson 

Picture – Newcastle Herald (Notice it is of a horse and not a drunk member of the public).

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