No, not women. You’ll never hear me say that. (Have you noticed that those who say women are their own worst enemy do so whenever the topic is sexist attitudes and behaviour? It’s a convenient way to deflect attention.)
The most noticeable thing about #grogsgate and #twitdef has been the silence from other journalists. Regardless of whether we are in the Massola/Mitchell camp or the Jericho/Posetti camp, journalists have stayed out of the public discussion about journalists, journalism and ethics, and this is a mistake. Our silence implies we’re siding with the journalists; siding with what looks to outsiders to be The Australian trying to discredit People On The Internet.
Bloggers are not a threat to journalists. Without journalists, we’d all be blogging about cats and Doctor Who, which would eventually get boring (the cat part, at least). And most of the bloggers who write about the news industry are writing about how it can be better. We don’t want journalists to be out of work – we want to know about what’s going on in our world and we need journalists for that.
But here’s the thing about that silence: journalists aren’t allowed to comment on stuff like this. I can only criticise the SMH because I don’t work for Fairfax. And, as a result of this blog, am unlikely to ever work there. (Although, in my defence, it’s the only newspaper I read which is why I blog about what’s in it.) As far as the print media goes – and by print, I include online because that’s where most of the content comes from – Australia is a two-company country so sticking the boot into the other mob is a career-limiting move. News organisations also have very restrictive social media policies that control private comments we make outside of work. They own our names.
The other reason journalists are quiet about this is because it’s drummed into us that we’re not allowed to have opinions, unless we’re specifically writing an opinion piece. We’ve adopted the idea of objectivity from American journalism and we hide behind it. I don’t buy the view from nowhere argument as reason to keep our opinions to ourselves. Firstly, because it doesn’t exist – bias shows in the people we choose to interview and the way we write the story. (Further, the idea that there are only two opposite sides to each story means we end up giving equal time to nutjobs). And secondly, because expressing an opinion about our industry is very different to, say, an environment reporter keeping quiet about being an active member of the Greens. Having an opinion about what we do is not a conflict of interest.
And so the conversation goes on without us and we look like we think we’re too good to discuss what we do with our audience. It makes us look arrogant and out of touch.
What are the organisations we work for so afraid of? That one single journalist, or even a dozen, might say in public – gasp! – that they disagree with what another journalist at the same company did? Are we, the journalists at the bottom of the food chain in these organisations, really that powerful?
At the moment, discussion about what we do matters a hellava lot. News organisations are spending a lot of money trying to find a way to make their audience pay for something they’ve always received for free. With news websites full of AAP copy and re-written AAP copy, they’d better include some free porn if they want us to pay for it. Oh, wait. Porn is already free on the internet. In that case, news organisations had better improve the product.