One has become used to the frequent recycling of this meme from the Luddite-and-Loving-It Brigade who at times resemble direct descendants of those who once railed against the telephone or telegraph - the ones who said such fangled technologies would destroy the possibility of sensible discussion.
But it is such a disappointment when a respected mainstream media journalist like George Megalogenis lazily opines -in his blog no less - that the biggest blight on current discourse is not the professional journalists or their admiring mainstream audiences, but the fringe-dwellers on Twitter and other social mediums.
"The problem isn’t us, or our loyal audiences, but the know-it-all," George writes. "He, and is almost always a he, is the lefty who complains that journalists don’t get enough time to do the necessary research for serious, witty, policy-focused, investigative reporting anymore. He also tweets that he no longer reads my serious, witty, policy-focused investigative reporting anymore because he won’t give Rupert his credit card details to buy an online subscription."One can understand George's reluctance to sink the boot into his employer, but his bland dismissal of complaints about Murdoch's misuse of his power and the malignancy of his influence ("just don't buy the papers") sit oddly with his excellent record as an economic journalist. Forget about the phone hacking. How does he feel working for an organisation that in its supposedly straight news coverage routinely and wilfully misrepresents policy positions of the governing party to suit the ideological ends of its proprietor?
In keeping with the now legendary "view from nowhere" espoused by so many legacy media journalists, George is careful to slate critics of both the right and left, and position himself in an imagined sensible middle (the elusive "centre") that offends no-one.
Indeed, his blog entry reads as a rather desperate rearguard attempt to blame the disintegration of the mainstream media business model on a few "cyber bullies", as he calls them - crazed keyboard warriors of the extremes whose cap-locked SHOUTING is drowning out attempts by legitimate journalists to tapdance for a loving and largely passive readership. Has there ever been a better example of an otherwise astute mainstream journalist completely missing the point about what interactive media means?
"Rupert is right about blogs," George writes. "Those who don’t like what we write should set up their own and see how they go."That's right. If you feel aggrieved by an institution that owns 70 per cent of the metropolitan print media, half the national news agency, much of the nation's suburban press, a chunk of its monopoly pay television provider, magazine publishing, market research, film and DVD distribution, you had better just shut up and start your own blog. Either that, or inherit a multi-billion dollar global media and entertainment empire.
Reading Megalogenis' espousal of a sort of bland neutrality and avoidance of the real issues in media echoes the frequently heard defences by the ABC, which seeks to defuse criticism of its own editorial performance by saying that because it is being criticised by both sides, it must be doing something right. The reality is that it is doing everything wrong, saying nothing, revealing nothing and hiding behind a worthless "objectivity".
"The View from Nowhere is a bid for trust that advertises the viewlessness of the news producer," writes US journalism professor Jay Rosen. "Frequently it places the journalist between polarized extremes, and calls that neither-nor position 'impartial'. Second, it’s a means of defence against a style of criticism that is fully anticipated: charges of bias originating in partisan politics and the two-party system. Third, it’s an attempt to secure a kind of universal legitimacy that is implicitly denied to those who stake out positions or betray a point of view."In his recent book, George Megalogenis wrote a coherent narrative of Australia's recent economic and political history. It is a shame he has such a poor grasp of our political present and the poisonous role of the behemoth that employs him.
George has kindly responded to my post on his blog.
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