Walkley awards separate the cream from the crock in Australian journalism

After a year of controversial Australia journalism, with the ongoing Julian Assange / Wikileaks saga, Four Corners’ live cattle trade expose and most recently the Andrew Bolt defamation case, the cream has been officially separated from the crock at this year’s Walkley Awards.

Winners at Australian journalisms night of nights were described as having ‘warmth, intelligence and a genuine spirit of inquiry’, ‘courage and initiative’ and ‘real craftsmanship,’ and of their pieces, ‘movingly written, creative and original, [striking] an emotional chord’ and ‘[o]ne of the best stories of the year, with huge political ramifications.’  This is the cream of Australian journalism.

Sadly, the most popular, powerful and widely read Australian journalists are not described in such endearing terms.

Last month 2GB loudmouth Alan Jones was found guilty of broadcasting ‘factually inaccurate’ and ‘unbalanced’ claims against the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC).  There are six similar claims awaiting adjudication.  The Jones ruling comes after Melbourne’s own Andrew Bolt was found guilty of being ‘grossly incorrect’ and producing ‘significant distortion of the facts’ in the Aboriginal defamation case.  This is the crock of Australian journalism.  It was therefore no surprise to see these two names absent from the winners list at the Walkley’s.

This does raise some questions though.  Why, if the quality of journalism Bolt, Jones and others like them is of such low quality, so low as to not even be nominated for a Walkley, are they the most read, popular and powerful media mouths in the country?  What effect does having such low quality, widely read journalism have on the hearts and minds of Australians?  What effect does it have on the accurate reporting and representation of issues and groups?  Finally, does Australia not deserve a better quality of mainstream journalism?

To look through the list of Australia’s most powerful ‘media megaphones’ (Source: The Power Index), is to find some of the most self styled defenders of morality and crusaders of free speech in the country.  Many of them dress themselves as such, however what they really peddle though is bullying and misrepresentation, mostly of minority groups.  By continually painting themselves as defenders of the Australian way of life and as leaders of a shrinking majority Albrechtsen, Devine, Hadley, Jones and Bolt easily manipulate their followers to their viewpoints.

Supporters of Bolt will no doubt play the free speech card.  He has, to some extent, successfully martyred himself in the wake of the defamation ruling.  However, free speech was never the issue in the court case.  If Bolt wants to be racist and dress up his racism as journalism, well, he is entitled to his views, no matter how disagreeable they may be, all the court was saying is that he had better get his facts right, which in that case he did not.

The most common pastime of these journalists is the misrepresentation of Islam and Muslims, feeding the fire of Islamophobia in Australia.  Common tactics include presenting extreme views as the norm, continuous talk of Koranic law or Sharia law being introduced to Australia, the ‘inherent evil and violent nature’ of Islam and a general tone that Australians should be fearful of Muslims.  Alan Jones was so successful at this he started a riot in 2005.

Another favourite victim is asylum seekers.  If we listen to and read Jones, Bolt et al we would be led to believe Australia is being invaded by hordes of boat people who have come to leech off us and destroy our way of life.  Language is essential to the warped reporting on asylum seekers, terms such as ‘illegal’ and ‘queue jumpers’ are not only inaccurate and incorrect, but move asylum seekers from victims to perpetrators.  There is also a common simplification of presentation, for example reporting riots in detention centres without also reporting about the shocking mental health problems and delays in processing which often lead to the riots.

Currently, gays and lesbians are feeling the heat as they push for marriage equality.  The Telegraph’s Miranda Devine, somehow links lesbian marriages with riots in London, while Albrechtsen does not seem to know why she is against same sex marriage but just is and Bolt verges on the ridiculous with his slippery slope suggestion that same sex marriages will open the door for polygamous, sibling and other incestuous marriages.

With such proliferation of mistruths, falsehoods and exaggeration in this lowest common denominator journalism it is no surprise that Australian are hostile towards Muslims, have a gross misunderstanding of asylum seeker issues and are not overly enthusiastic about gay marriage.  Not to mention Aborigines, climate change, welfare recipients or the Greens.  Now, if the work of the most widely read journalists in the country were described as the Walkley winners were, perhaps we could feel ok about our national views.  At least feel properly informed.  But when our most powerful and influential journalists are ‘factually inaccurate’, ‘unbalanced’, ‘grossly incorrect’ and fabricate stories it is worth seeking an alternative, accurate and factual viewpoint on important issues.


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Categories: Beliefs, Morals, Multiculturalism, Politics, Law

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6 Comments on “Walkley awards separate the cream from the crock in Australian journalism”

  1. Anonymous
    December 3, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Welcome stublogs, great article and look forward to reading more of your opinions.

    Well done.

  2. December 5, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    Stu enters Intentious with a bang! Brilliant article. Very honest and holds up the looking glass to us all.

  3. rich
    December 5, 2011 at 1:47 pm #

    Firstly, congratulations on your first article. I think we will be sparring partners in the future.

    There is a sinister part in your article in the question I will leave here: who decides what is “balanced”? Who decides what view is “lawful” and not a thought crime? Bolt cannot even reply to his critics with his views and their inconsistencies because of a view that a judge has ruled “unlawful.” I read his original article and I didn’t find it racist at all, it was mean spirited but he had a point in holding people accountable… I can’t even outline why without breaking the law. It was not that his facts were incorrect, it was that the judge did not like his tone, and that tone broke the Racial Vilification Act.

    How does one make a point that may be pertinent when they are shouted down with “islamaphobia” or “homophobia” or “racism” cards to shut them up? The idea of thought crimes is a totalitarian one and I don’t want it to stain anywhere on democracy.

    The beauty of free speech is that the words you say are a noose that you can use to hang your critics, or a noose with which they can hang you and make you look foolish. It means a position should be defensible. Just because one does not like a person, it doesn’t mean that person is wrong, especially if they lay their cards on the table for you and everyone to fact check. And someone will be offended… no one has a right “not to be offended”, especially if they are not deprived of liberties offered to every other free man in this society.

    Reporters giving their mates awards for being the best at following a politically correct meme sounds a little stuck-up to me.

    On your last point, Hadley’s reply. I think it’s petty gossip spreading myself, but it’ll have to be settled by a court it looks like. It’s not as cut and dry as picking a side as you have (the side you picked being, “the story was fabricated.”)

    Anyway, glad to have you aboard. Entertaining!

    • December 5, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

      This larger issue of free speech, political correctness, censorship and offence is increasingly becoming the focus of articles on this website, from both sides of any argument. We do indeed have journalists here who have opposing views, also ones who write views that are the opposite of what they personally believe. I think Richard makes a good point that, quality of well researched facts aside, opinion columnists are increasingly smothered by the political correctness machine. Yes to say that we’re being “overrun by immigrants and terrorists” is hugely inaccurate and doesn’t get you a Walkley nomination, but it certainly shouldn’t be unlawful to say it, just as it isn’t unlawful to say that “gay marriage is just as natural as heterosexual marriage”. They’re both merely points of view, at the end of the day. I found out yesterday that Australia is the only developed country left in the world, however, to not actually have a written clause that guarantees free speech. You can bet I’ll be reporting on this at some point.

  4. December 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    Hopefully I address all the points of Rich and Andrew here, first of all on the balanced and unlawful question, the ACMA (acma.gov.au), decided on those points, so I am quiet comfortable to defer to them. The unlawful point in Bolt’s article was that he said the subjects had chosen to identify as Aboriginal when in fact they had been raised black their whole life, thus they identified in every way as Aboriginal. While the tone was distasteful to many, that was the key point which was unlawful.

    Secondly, we agree on free speech, I certainly will defend the right for someone to express their opinion, however if the way you express that opinion leads to or incites violence (eg. Alan Jones / Cronulla 2005) then there is a problem. Also, if what you are saying in blatantly untrue, mischievous (omitting or twisting facts) or exaggerated to suit a political position (left of right) then problems can also arise. We also agree that no one has the right not to be offended, but again if groups or individuals are being misrepresented either purposefully or accidentally then we all reserve the right to be offended and correct those who are wrong.

    I also agree that we should have opposing views, debating of issues is healthy and fun. I think there is a difference between political correctness and some of the articles opinion columnists produce. And the Walkley’s are certainly not awards for being politically correct. Being a victim of political correctness is a common cry from those who write hateful or distasteful pieces. The Xmas article on here is a good example of political correctness gone too far, however inciting riots (Alan Jones), defamation (Bolt) and other plain wrong facts or representations are not in the same league, they are far more serious.

    • rich
      December 7, 2011 at 10:48 am #

      Thank you for your response.

      I am not comfortable with the ACMA deciding what is balanced. What if they decided balance is not to allow any debate on climate change because “the science is settled?” What if the review board of the ACMA has appointees chosen by the minister of the day that all agree with that view? This is the same ACMA that will monitor an Internet blacklist that you do not know you are on because it is unlawful to discuss. I am reticent to hand over more censorship power to the bureaucracy because I do not trust them to decide on politically contentious topics. This is particularly with observing the Labor govt and how it has compromised many bureuacratic processes with political interference, such as the ABC international tender, the media inquiry and Gillard’s previous relationships.

      On the Bolt case, I would defend Bolt using logic on this issue, but to put that in print would make the defense itself unlawful based on the Racial Discrimination Act, even though the defense is not based on race at all. Perhaps of Bitto organises a garden party, I will outline it to you then verbally. But I can say this: Bolt was not stung on defamation (a separate construct of law altogether), he was stung on a poorly constructed racial discrimination law that doesn’t like how he said something. You shouldn’t base a law on whether someone has a right not to be offended or not, because someone, at some point, will use it to stifle legitimate debate as a godwin card.

      As to Alan Jones expressing an opinion that leads to violence. Isn’t he allowed to say, “I am angry, I find this shameful” but did he specifically say, “go out my pretties, run riot, teach them a lesson! Show them your anger by bombing them!” I somehow suspect not, or he would have been convicted by a court of inciting violence, laws to which effect exist to prevent terrorist acts and firebrands calling for stirring up mobs to violence. If Jones is guilty, let them drag him before the court and have him tried under existing law; it’s not like there’s a shortage of witnesses. I wonder why that hasn’t been done yet; is it because the evidence is circumstantial, or because the meme “Alan Jones incited the riots” is so popular among those at the Walkley awards.

      For blantant mistruths and spin, that is what free speech is for: you point out the hypocrisy, the spin, the mistruths and combat the falacies and sophistry with empirical fact. A hint is, just because you do not like a person it doesn’t mean what they say is untrue. Misrepresentation is also easily cleared by this, because the person who misrepresents looks foolish when the facts come to light, so if you take issue to a graph or a particular statistic (e.g. it has been cooling since 1998), qualify it and cite better statistics and avoid using fallacies. In that way the person who propagates falsehood loses credibility and popularity because their positions are not intellectually defensible. Issues should be decided on statistics and measurement, not one person’s word against anothers.

      Finally, in your opinion of what you find hateful and distateful, I see a piercing logic where the cut is mean, but the point is keen. To me the logic and reason are sound, even if the tone is brash or strident.

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