Home' Aurora : Aurora August 2011 Contents 7
www.mn.catholic.org.au | Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle |
REPAIR THE DAMAGE SUMMER
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120 Mount Pleasant Street, Maitland
T: 1300 588 494 F: 1300 030 498
ENSURE YOUR FAMILY HAS A BRIGHT FUTURE
TO LOOK FORWARD TO...
At CatholicCare, we offer a range of support and specialised
services to families in the Hunter and Manning to help ensure
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CatholicCare can assist families with challenges, concerns
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If your family is experiencing diffcult times, don't leave it too
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THE NEWS OF the World phone hacking
scandal has exposed newspapers,
police and politicians to uncomfortable
questions about relationships at the top
of British society. One question less aired
but equally relevant (in Australia, as much
as the UK) is the nature of the relationship
between the public and the media
The media often present themselves as
lenses on the world, upholding the public's
'right to know'. They can be right. For some
time, however, people have suggested that,
even in a democracy, media outlets can be
quite selective about what they report and
how they do it.
In 1988, Noam Chomsky and Edward
Herman stated that the interests of
advertisers, political elites and media
owners (among other factors) have a
disproportionate influence on the media
and its focus. Drawing on an essay by
Walter Lippmann in 1922, they used the
term 'manufacturing consent' to describe
It is certainly true that in this internet
age, we rely on the media not only for
information ('if it's not on Google, it
doesn't exist'), but often also for our
opinions about the world around us. In
short, the (print, broadcast and electronic)
media all too often tell us what to see
On the other hand, it is too easy to
wring our hands and blame the media
for bias and shoddy practices. There
is a symbiotic relationship between
media and the public. The brutal fact
is that media present to their readers/
viewers the world that they wish to view --
whether it's 'sleb' gossip, football or
We like our fix of gossip and outrage --
viewed, of course, through our favourite
political spectacles -- and are not always
too concerned how we get it. That is
notoriously why tabloids sell. As Billy
Bragg puts it in his recent song about the
scandal, 'Scousers Never Buy the Sun',
'Everyone who loves that kiss and tell,
You must share the blame as well.'
The tabloids may try to boost this demand
but they do not create it.
Indeed, it was only when the scandal
reached a level where the lurid details
would sell newspapers (alleged hacking
of the phones of relatives of dead
soldiers and a teenage murder victim)
that it came to the forefront of British
national consciousness. Previous
enquiries into phone hacking (and even
an apparent admission to a Parliamentary
committee of payments to the police for
information back in 2003) did not have the
While we in Australia may not have the
same issues as Britain, it is not hard to
find media outlets which both manufacture
and pander to consent.
A 2010 parliamentary report notes that
Australia received 0.6 per cent of the
world's asylum seekers in 2009. Fewer
than 50 per cent of these arrived by boat.
Of those who did, 70--90 per cent had their
claims to refugee status upheld. However,
rhetoric and policies aimed at asylum
seekers have been an accepted part of
political life in Australia for a number of
Some of this may be due to media
misreporting. But, uncomfortably, there
is evidence that the papers and the
parties know that this rhetoric both
sells papers and wins votes. As recently
as 27 June, The Australian reported a
Lowy Institute poll claiming that 72 per
cent of Australians were concerned
about the arrival of boat people; of
that number, 88 per cent believed they
'jumped the queue' and 86 per cent
believed they were a security risk.
Given such a high level of misconception
and mistrust, it would be surprising
if there were not media outlets
willing to capitalise on it. Doing so, of
course, allows them to enhance the
mistrust -- which, in turn, makes them
What to do? We live in an age where
24-hour news makes it hard to stop and
think critically about the endless stream
of sound-bites. Yet, in the final analysis,
we have a right to decide what we buy or
watch and whether we check facts and
question assertions or unethical practice.
No one can take that from us. We allow
bad journalism to flourish if we do not
demand good journalism.
This article was published in
Eureka Street. Please visit
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