Media Watch

January 12, 2007 at 2:33 am (Uncategorized)

I think we’re all savvy enough to realise that information distribution is organised around sales potential. It’s not that information that doesn’t sell never appears, it’s just that there’s less of it, occupying less prominent places. There’s nothing objective about reportage. One of the first things you learn about writing for any publication, from the school newsletter up to the national broadsheet, is that you have to write for and to your particular reader. That simple fact alone largely helps determine content. The tenor of the content is also shaped by the reader, and they way they like to acquire their information. We’re saturated, bloated with choice when it comes to media, and many niche publications and programs exist for the sole reason that they have correctly identified a set of readers whose tastes they can accurately predict and to which they can therefore specifically cater. It’s a difficult thing to do consistently well, and some of our major networks and newspapers regularly suffer from identity crises that leave viewers and readers confounded or, worse, looking elsewhere for their information.

Because that’s what news is. Information. For many, once they’re out of school, the regular consumption of various media is probably the main if not the only way they continue to acquire knowledge. Knowledge through information provision. The thing that concerns me about that is there’s very little transparency about exactly what information is being provided by the media and why. In the case of a lot of mainstream media in this country and, I suspect, others, the ‘why’ is settled largely by what sells best.

“Why would Nicole Kidman ever grace the front page of The Australian?”

“Well, she sells through the roof. It’ll be a bumper crop.”

Will it be positive or negative coverage? Well, everyone loves a wedding, but other than that, happiness and contentment are intrinsically dull bedfellows. They don’t sell so well. No one needs to know that on top of everything else, Nicole Kidman’s permanently blissed. Good for business in the lead up to the wedding, GREAT for business on the day and in the week of the wedding, and even pretty special for a few weeks after the wedding when we can all sit around fondly reminiscing, keeping our eyes peeled for those intrusive beach shots direct from the honeymoon to your door. Other than that, BORING, so, so BORING, and no one wants to know. Until, that is, there’s some dirt, a bit of grit in the teeth, and a bit of grime on the lens. And then we’re back on. Big time.

It’s not complicated, but it’s creepy. I just can’t be the only one who thinks that Bindi Irwin going on Ellen Degeneres and saying she feels she is Steve Irwin, that she wants to be Dad, is ALARMING. She’s a child, for goodness sake, and she should be allowed to be one. The media shouldn’t encourage this replacement strategy, first because, um, it’s CREEPY, second because she’s a kid, and third because their own reasons for jumping on the Bindi Bandwagon are cynical in the extreme. No one gives a shit about the psychological effect all this is having on that little munchkin. And being a stratospheric child star will have an effect. Drew Barrymore, anyone? She was junked up to the eyeballs before she was even in double digits. I think she’s an absolute legend for just making it out of her WARPED childhood alive. Bindi Irwin is going to burn out. She has to. She’s a child. And it makes me sick and sad that she’s being trotted out like a circus act. Watch Bindi impersonate Steve! Watch Bindi become Steve, right before your very eyes! Come one, come all, to the greatest show on earth!

It’s really yuck. And so is the recent fetishization of Prince William’s girlfriend, Kate Middleton. Have we learnt nothing in the last decade since his mother died in that perfect storm of Paris, piss, and paparazzi?

Supply is determined by demand, so we as consumers aren’t just part of the problem, we are the problem. All those media outlets are catering to us. We’re their bottom line, so they have to. Give the people what they want. So how do we kick this insidious habit? How do we wean ourselves off this sweet, sweet heroin? How do we stop being dirty, filth-ridden crack whores, with an appetite for scandal, avarice, and vice that knows no bounds? Withdrawal ain’t pretty, but then, neither is this.

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3 Comments

  1. Mike said,

    Relates back to my earlier comment re: your friend who works for AP in Gaza.

    Pretty much all mainstream media these days is trashy, one-eyed and unreliable. Not necessarily the fault of writers, the blame rests higher up the chain usually.

    I now view media as the light entertainment that it is: good for a bit of story telling entertainment, but that’s about it. That’s why the only media I pay for is NW – and I usually read it in the most appropriate place (it helps to take a load off)!

  2. Mike said,

    Hello again,

    Just thought I’d share another of my fave blogs:
    http://postsecret.blogspot.com/

  3. doctordi said,

    I think that’s what scares/annoys/frustrates me about much of the mainstream media these days – and about the appalling cross media laws in Australia, which basically clear the way for Rupert Murdoch to own, well, pretty much everything he wants – entertainment is FINE, healthy, essential, even, but don’t purport to be something else. Don’t pretend you don’t have an agenda. Don’t pretend you are objectively presenting reality. If the media would just be more honest about its own machinations, and if there was some effective regulatory process within the media culture, I’d feel much more comfortable.

    As it is, you really might as well read NW – at least it’s totally obvious about just making stuff up!

    And thanks for the link to the other blog, I will definitely have a look-see!

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