There are many issues I am passionate about. Human rights, equality, politics, war, injustice, Nepal and culture.
But if there’s one thing that gets me going more than anything else, it’s journalism.
The role of the media.
The fundamental right of free speech.
Obviously I am biased to this topic because I am a journalist and I did my honours degree in journalism.
I’m very defensive toward people who carelessly shrug off its importance and bag it because of all the bad journalism out there (which I agree there is a lot of).
I really don’t like it when people say issues are a “media beat-up”. Just because journalists do their job and put an issue in the paper or on TV doesn’t mean it’s a beat-up.
We are doing our job to get the issue out there. It’s then up to the people to decide what they think.
Case in point number 1: Australian Opposition leader Tony Abbott.
This week a journalist discovered an old video where Mr Abbott was speaking to Australian soldiers about the death of one of our soldiers killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.
The tape recorded him saying “well sometimes…shit happens”.
The story went to air and while Abbott got a lot of ‘shit’ over his insensitive remarks, it was the journalist and overall media that copped the brunt of the criticism.
I couldn’t believe it. A lot of the public said it was the media trying to take things out of context. Umm, how? The journalist didn’t skew the video. It was real. Abbott said it.
Yes, the video was old, and no, we don’t all believe he is a gutless, unpatriotic Australian but the fact is, he said what he said even if it was just in a moment of weakness. This man could be the future prime minister of Australia so it is newsworthy. The people deserve to know what he said. If the public feel sorry for him or if they think it’s disgusting, that’s not a matter for members of the media to determine. It’s simply up to us to inform.
Additionally, the dead digger’s father was extremely upset by the remarks which shows that while some may think it was a beat-up, there was still an important story to be told.
If I’d found that video would I have done a story on it? Hell Yes! Any good journalist would probably want to sprint naked up a mountain for it.
And it’s not for the fame or the attention (yes we all want the thrill of chasing a good story), but it’s because us journos have a burning desire to get the truth out there.
We don’t have any desire to see someone’s career flushed down the toilet because of a 5-second video.
But we have a job to do and we have to take the emotional side out of it and report what we see.
So now I have had a big rant, I’ll also say this.
I can understand why people get negative impressions of the media. They give comments to a journalist that get blown up as a front-page story in the headline. They say they are misquoted and misrepresented. They say the journalist is biased and changed the story to make it how they wanted it to sound.
I can’t disagree with this. It happens.
I’ve printed front page stories where I’ve had a 5am call to be told “I’m one f***** bitch”. But I don’t care, the story was about misuse of taxpayers funds so I think I was doing the right thing.
I’ve reported on a gang to then have my car broken into.
I’ve spent many sleepless nights wandering if I’ll be sued with defamation the next day.
I’ve done a death knock even though the family didn’t want me there.
And yes I’ve made mistakes, had to print corrections and caused a lot of shit for some people.
But I’ve also made a real difference to a few people’s lives and informed people about things they may never have thought about before.
In a few specific circumstances, I’ve gave them something to smile about before they died; helped them talk about the worst days of their life; shined a light on topics others haven’t, and been willing to tell a story bad people have tried to hide.
Those people remember and they appreciate it.
At the end of the day I will always defend the overall role of journalism and its importance in the world.
I see a lot of failings of current journalism and I hate the newsroom staff cuts and alternative agendas some media outlets have.
No matter how far technology moves forward in the future, the truth is there will always be a place for good journalism if the public remembers and values its role.
This is my fave quote about journalism:
“Journalism is not just some consumer product like cornflakes or cars. At its best, it is a noble profession and a public service. It helps to right wrongs, it gives strength to the powerless, it informs and enlightens readers, viewers, and listeners about events outside their direct experience. But at its worst, journalism becomes the bait for the commercials. It distorts reality, inflames passions, reinforces stereotypes, marginalizes dissenting views, and functions as a mouthpiece for the powerful.” -Juan Gonzales, NY Daily News columnist, quoted in “The Exception to the Rulers”.
Stay tuned for part 2 on Julian Assange and wikileaks.