There’s a lot of talk about how Australian pollies of all persuasions love to blow the dog whistle and quite rightly thoughts often quickly turn to that rabid master of fear and hysteria, our beloved St. Tones of the Boats.
But this ignores the fact that without the electronic, digital and print media his words and those of his ilk would drift away and quickly disappear – remembered only briefly by those who actually saw him verbally levitating at the time.
So it's probably worth mentioning that the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute released a peer reviewed report in April called The stigmatisation of social housing: findings from a panel investigation which points out that large mainstream media outlets play to what editors and journalists think are community prejudices and chose what becomes popular reality.
Here’s a taste of the report:
“There is considerable commercial pressure for journalists to provide entertaining stories that will appeal to large audiences. It is an inescapable fact that negative stories of social housing are more likely to appeal than those that frame it in a positive light. Perhaps this is because negative depictions convey an alternative reality that elicits an emotional response. In the area of media research, writers such as Entman (1993) and Van Dijk (1997) make use of the term ‘framing’ to explain how media construes social reality. They point out that media is not just a conduit of information but actually provides a narrative from which to interpret this information. Media reporting in practice selects aspects of reality and then makes this reality salient to advance a particular interpretation (McCullagh 2002).
The media is not neutral, but embedded in the political/social nexus, and as such reflects the dominant power relationships that exist within society. This is why groups with limited access to resources are rarely able to challenge these hegemonic narratives. Cohen (1980) has used the term ‘moral panics’ and media ‘amplification’ to interpret the way that specific social groups are imbued with negative pathologies, noting how these panics often surface in periods of insecurity and social dislocation…..
good news stories about social housing are not as interesting to the audience or as profitable to run as negative ones ”