I enjoyed this post from Margaret Simons on Crikey about the gloom brought upon us by ‘he said, she said’ journalism – particularly in politics.
Last week I was driving home when I heard a report on ABC radio about the Climate Change Commission report. The report began by telling me that the government and the opposition claimed it endorsed their policies.
By the end of the report, I was none the clearer about what the report had actually said, and whether either, both or neither of the political parties were correct in their assertions.
This is what has been described by others as the “lame formula” of he-said-she-said journalism. To quote:
He-said-she-said journalism means…
- There’s a public dispute.
- The dispute makes news.
- No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story, even though they are in some sense the reason for the story. (Under the “conflict makes news” test.)
- The means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims, but for whatever reason the report declines to make use of them.
- The symmetry of two sides making opposite claims puts the reporter in the middle between polarised extremes.
She goes on to look at political reporting in Australia….
The trivialisation of politics by the media has been spoken about by others, at greater length than I intend here. Lindsay Tanner’s book Sideshow is but the latest spray.
Yet every day we get fresh examples. Just last week the Herald Sun had a front page about politicians allegedly working less hard because there was a move to alter federal parliamentary sitting hours. The Herald Sun had dug up a mother holding down three jobs to compare and contrast.
Does the paper take its readers for fools who don’t realise there is more to an MP’s job than sitting in parliament?
At the other end of the scale, so called quality journalism isn’t really cutting the mustard either. Before we go into mourning for the past we should acknowledge that much of broadsheet journalism has for some time amounted to little more than metres of badly written, repetitious copy about the minutia of public life, written as though politics is a spectator sport.
We read about the voters and the electorate and how things will play as though the people referred to are a very different bunch to those reading or listening to the media outlet.
She talks about how it could be different, refers to ideas such as the Citizen’s Agenda as articulated by Jay Rosen and OurSay Australia and much more. Simons’s post is well worth a read. One for journalism students to read too, I think.