Sunday, April 22, 2012
Sex Text Pest Bests Rest Test
As with dramatists, journalists thrive on sex and conflict. We love to weave narratives around contested, err, positions. And the more passionate the partisans, the more drama we can wring out of the contest. You could say that without sleaze and conflict, there is no story. Which is why the Peter Slipper saga is heaven for hackdom.
By contrast, sleaze and conflict didn't figure in the federal government's $3.7 billion aged care reform package. Sold as "more choice, easier access and better care" for older Australians, the package was warmly welcomed by a broad cross section of aged care providers, consumers and unions. Policy academics also gave it the big tick. Not even the famed Tony Abbott's "Noalition" appeared to want to put up a fight. The website of his shadow minister makes no mention of the report.
Confronted with a major policy initiative that, while affecting millions, offered little potential for partisanship or prurience, the media was a little flummoxed, although the Australian Financial Review had a go by intimating that the sacred "family home" was under attack. Its headline BTW contradicted The Australian's very straight take on the story..
infamous London speech on our entitlement culture. But never mind, the businessman's bible saw an opportunity to spin the class warfare line and went with it.
Ir didn't matter anyway, because two days later, the aged care story had been shoved under the editorial bed like a used chamber pot. There was a much more colourful yarn to pun headlines out of. Instead of creaking tales about hospital beds and home care, we had one that yielded "Sex Text Scandal" and "Gay Sex Pest". Corr! So saucy, even the perpetually randy UK tabloids picked it up.
Even better, the Tory regime changers of News Ltd could spin the Peter Slipper story into an imagined constitutional crisis and provide yet another reason to call for an ELECTION RIGHT NOW! to fix the mistake made two years ago and to "put an end to what many view as a dysfunctional government". The News Ltd goons had Slipper in their sights anyway, having used their 'news' pages recently to depict him as a rat. (That there was no manufactured outrage over Slipper in the 18 years he served as a Coalition MP spoke volumes. A classic stitch-up, then.)
You see, what matters for our partisan press is not how many people a story affects (as in aged care, the NBN, health reform or improving disclosure around financial advice - all good reforms under this government), it is how a story can be spun to suit their chosen narrative and ideological imperative - in this case confecting a climate of permanent outrage to force regime change.
If it involves someone taking their pants off, that's a bonus.
'Slipper's Media Attack Dogs' - Ben Eltham, New Matilda
'The Curious Timing of the Staffer Against the Speaker' - Benjamin Thomas-Jones, Independent Australia
Posted by Mr D at 4:19 PM