Sunday, 23 March 2014

Journalist John Birmingham asks "Will you miss us when we're gone?"

Brisbane Times 18 March 2014:

When protesters do emerge in significant numbers, however, it is the job of the news media to report them. It is indeed one of our most basic functions and one which we abjectly failed to perform on the weekend, first ignoring the twenty-thousand citizens who rallied across rural and regional Australia, before ignoring or underreporting the much larger numbers who rallied in the state capitals on Sunday.
Again, these were not mass protests of the size and style of the Vietnam era. They weren’t as large and certainly not as violent and disorderly as civil rights protests in Queensland in the 1970s and 80s. But they were large enough to be worthy of more basic news coverage than they received. They were arguably more important to community record keeping than a bit of colour and movement on Paddy’s Day. And inarguably more important than the other 'top' stories which enjoyed more prominence; the 'attack' of a body boarder by a dolphin, the "Real Housewife's Toy-boy All-Nighter", and Lara Bingle's insta-boob shot.
This is not a reflection on the politics of the events. If they had been organised by, for instance, a conservative talkback radio demagogue to protest a progressive government’s re-engineering of traditional social values, they would have been just as important to record.
The total disconnect between what might be termed citizen-initiated reportage on social media and mainstream coverage of the weekend’s protests was in no way mitigated by the scramble of the MSM on Monday to play catch up.
Stepping away from the all of the issues captured by a thousand different placards on Saturday and Sunday, the systemic failure to recognise the significance of the story speaks to a deeper fear I have about the news media, which is not that we might die out as Google gorges itself on the last scraps of our advertising based business model… but that it won’t matter.
That you won’t care, and that there will be no reason to care.
Because we failed you, long before we failed to do our jobs. There's a case to be made that new media, in the form of professional blogs and even some of the better amateur sites, have already embarrassed us in a dozen different specialist areas that used to compromise the various desks of the old metro dailies; sport, fashion (the 'ladies pages'), entertainment, science and tech, international politics, maybe even national politics. But the meat and potatoes of local coverage? No, that still belonged to us. Or I thought it did. Increasingly, however, I wonder whether the question, "Will you miss us when we're gone", is one which answers itself.

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