May 032012
 

The Drum is always a good read. Sometimes contentious, sometimes fatuous, and often thought provoking. Today’s effort by Jonathon Green falls within the first & latter categories in my view.Yes, the attention span of the general media commentariate equates to that of a hungry goldfish. That is, or rather has become, the nature of the 24/7 media cycle, especially political media. Unless there is something new, different and salacious for the Parliamentary gallery and newspaper opinion piece writers to constantly tweet about, blog about or facebook about on the conveyor belt of so-called news production, the poor dears will simply wither away for lack of self-aggrandisement. One only needs to follow a few of the squillions of news media ‘journos’ on Twitter to grasp what I mean. Not only is there seemingly endless repetition by individual journalists, each tries to outdo the other with subtly different 140 character twists on a similar theme. Then there are those, who Jonathon Green makes a passing allusion to but doesn’t actually button-hole, who deliberately seek to drive the cycle in their preferred ideological direction.

I’m referring in the main to the twitterverse here as it seems to be the single most active format for news breaking, advertising, promotion of self and journalist-employer outlet that journalists like to use. Yes, of course, they all have their main stream outlets, but who has the time to constantly scan any given journo’s op-ed column to see if they’ve written anything worthwhile consuming? More pointedly, who really cares? Media punditry naturally see it as their job to ensure that we care because our caring ensures their employment in one form or another, hence the need to self-promote, which is what they all do. In self-promotion they are all effectively granting their employer free use of their time and Twitter account. Some, and there are too many to name outright, even go to the extent of equating their own personal, political and ideological standpoints with those of their employer. This is particularly noticeable within the Murdoch stable, but also from within Fairfax & the ABC, to be fair, but to a much lesser extent.

So, my point is this. What makes up this ever-increasing pace of media cycling, if it’s not the constant bombardment of anyone who can see, hear or read the self-aggrandisement journalists undertake in their bid to be seen, heard & read. It surely cannot be said to be the drive by their employers for bottom-line profit, else the Murdoch press, for instance, would not have placed itself behind pay-walls. Go behind a wall and you won’t be seen, heard or read, at least by those who refuse to pay. In the case of Murdoch, the line is blatantly conservative which I for one will not pay to peruse. I can see all I want to see in the tweets of Chris Kenny, et al who hide absolutely nothing in the promotion of the own TV slot or latest newspaper hosted blog post in regard to their ideological views. I’m not interested in their ideological views, I’m interested in policy discussion. I certainly won’t be paying to read 140 character-plus versions of bile-driven, penny-ante, frothy-mouthed polemic behind paywalls. It is this urge to drive the direction of the public conversation, which I believe is principally responsible for the pace and direction of the 24/7 news cycle. In short, vested interests pushing ideological barrows – and this comes from both sides of the divide – are polluting what would be under normal circumstances a steadily flowing stream, not the seemingly raging and ill-directed torrent this news cycle has become.

As happens in any flood event, individual stories become swamped in the tragedy of the whole. The tragedy insofar as government in this country goes is the inability of the minority government itself to sell its achievements and reforms amid the onslaught of goldfish-minded, self-interested ideologues posing as journalists. Main stream media refuses to focus on principle or policy, instead preferring sensation and innuendo. That is an indictment on that profession. Journalism, as such, has become the great whore having sold itself, to itself. We, the unwitting and all too often unwilling consuming public have little interest in this masturbatory exercise but we’re driven to endure the process because the entirety of the mainstream news media appear to have banded together into this self-perpetuating cycle of sensation masquerading as news of the day. Akin to being trapped in a swampy morass, we must wade through the slime & muck if we’re to have any chance of finding the genuinely firm ground of real policy discussion upon which to stand and base our own views. Sadly, there is a great portion of the consuming public now so confused as to what is policy & what is politics, that seems all too content to continue wading through the stench of political commentary believing it to be genuine policy discussion. This mindless contentment speaks volumes of the intellect of the waders, and equally damns the purveyors of the slime-ridden nonsensical unspeak who continue to pump out their drivel on a constant basis.

Is it any wonder the voting public, in particular those genuinely interested in public policy debate, tune out?