An unquestioning media

Sorry there was no post yesterday – my students have their websites due on Monday so there’s been a rush of consultations after class. So I didn’t get around to reading Ruby Hamad’s opinion piece in the SMH until late last night: Too many men still see women as sex objects.

This is the thumbnail they are running with it online:

Image of woman's naval and crotch

I’m guessing that illustrating an opinion piece about women still being seen as sex objects with a shot that reduces a woman to simply the place where the penis goes isn’t meant to be ironic.

Hamad’s point is one we obviously have to repeat over and over again:

Women are told to cover up to avoid the gaze of men. Warned that the mere sight of their skin can cause uncontrollable desire, for which the man cannot be blamed, they are not to walk alone at night, not drink too much, not stay out too late, not be in the company of men to whom they are not related.

The message is clear: should you fail to heed these warnings, whatever happens to you is your fault. And the punishment is severe.

Which brings me to the way Kristy Fraser-Kirk was treated by the mainstream media. As Ian McIlwraith writes in today’s SMH: No winners in DJs harassment case:

Fraser-Kirk lost the public relations war – which, when you think about, it is extraordinary on two fronts. First, that so much effort seems to have (successfully?) gone into discrediting her motives and character (often using the media as more than willing tools) and, second, that there should have been a ”war” to be fought.

After all, both her former employer, DJs, and boss, Mark McInnes, have never contested that she was subjected to behaviour that was inappropriate in the workplace.

And from Ian Verrender earlier this week: Spin doctors preserve boys’ club status quo:

Step 1. Soften the perpetrator’s image. And so it came. Mark is a great guy. Mark is one of the best bosses around. Mark’s pals, the movers and shakers, are sticking by him. Mark is swimming at Bondi beach.

Step 2. Downgrade the offence. He only touched her bra strap (after reaching under her blouse). Who hasn’t done that at a work function to a colleague? It was such a minor offence every company in town will be overjoyed he is on the market and will be trying to hire him.

Step 3. Turn the victim into the perpetrator and denigrate as much as possible. Fraser-Kirk was a ”junior publicist”. She had form. She has complained in the past. She is just after cash.

You can’t blame the spin doctors. They are merely doing a job. The sad reality is that those who should know better, who are supposed to inform us, not only listened to this garbage, but swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

Journalists work hard to sustain the myth of the larrikin journo who delights in asking annoying questions of those in power (Frith and Meech, 2007), but the reality is that these days we hardly even ask the most basic questions: why, and how. Those with power are usually our primary sources of information and we don’t even bother checking the truth of their claims. Case in point: the Coalition’s “we’ll stop the boats” slogan is dutifully reported without asking “how?”. Oh, and pretty much anything the Coalition says about the economy.

Decades of research shows that “sources with habitual, privileged access to the media tend to heavily influence the framing of both issues and individual stories” (Romano, 2004, p. 49). Romano’s study was on how the (Howard) Government controlled journalists’ framing of stories on asylum seekers and refugees, but it applies just as well to the Fraser-Kirk story. It is just astounding that every single news story painted her as a money-grabber making a big deal out of nothing – exactly what Mark McInnes’ team wanted. So much for a questioning media.

Australian journalists like to think we’re superior to state-owned media organisations in countries like China and North Korea, because we aren’t simply mouthpieces of those in power. But since we clearly believe that anyone in a position of power is telling the truth, I’m struggling to see the difference.

Frith, S. and P. Meech (2007), ‘Becoming a journalist: Journalism education and journalism culture’, Journalism vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 137-164.

Romano, A. (2004), ‘Journalism’s role in mediating public conversation on asylum seekers and refugees in Australia’, Australian Journalism Review, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 43-62.

6 responses to “An unquestioning media

  1. oh dear.. it gets worse..

    so the SMH publishes Ellis comments.. but then goes back to the standard “she’s a gold-digger” comments and finishes off with the “fact” that DJ’s and McInnes denied the claims..

    I thought they admitted to it.. didnt we see text messages from McInnes saying as much?

    so yet again we have MSM just quoting, re-quoting its on stories and little to no analysis. pathetic.

  2. I was always annoyed at the ‘junior publicist’ label every time I read it. The word junior is in one breath superfluous (she is a publicist is sufficient) and in the other breath heavily laden with denigrating meaning.

    By junior, they mean she is…not very important, they mean she is not very bright or successful, they mean she is not as worthy as him, they mean she is not earning much cash in her lowly job and this opens up the gold digger argument.

    The whole case has been appalling and sadly will have the affect of making more women shy away from outing and prosecuting harassers, bullies and inappropriate employers.

    Shame on the complicit journos.

  3. ps I read some of the comments ( mostly male). What a mistake-a to make-a. Even the ones who start somewhere good trail off into blaming women. Apparently it is still women’s fault for being stupid enough to wear tempting clothes and hang out with sports stars. We deserve it. sigh.

  4. Pingback: Removing men from families | the news with nipples

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