Sexing the news

I meant to post this yesterday but an impromtu dinner with McDonkey and Jen meant more wine, less internet.

Anyway, this: On the job compo taken to new level: worker hurt during sex in hotel:

The lawyer representing a woman who was injured while she was having sex in a hotel room during a work trip in rural NSW says his client was undertaking “normal behaviour” akin to bathing or sleeping and is entitled to compensation.

The woman, a Commonwealth government employee whose name has been suppressed by the Federal Court, suffered injuries to her nose and mouth, as well as a psychiatric injury, when a light fitting attached to the wall of the hotel she was staying in fell on her head during sex.

It doesn’t matter if she was sleeping, shagging, painting her nails, reading or watching tv – a light fell on her head while she was somewhere for work. End of story. But the way its been reported by News Ltd and Fairfax, you’d be forgiven for thinking she’s claiming compo for a sex injury.

Several lawyer friends have said that news reports of court proceedings are rarely accurate reports of what actually happened. Journalists focus on the one minor point that gives them a sexy headline. She was in bed when it happened? I don’t suppose she was having sex, was she? Bingo! That the mention of sex is considered to be the most important part of any story shows how immature our journalists are, and how immature our news editors think the rest of us are. (I feel the urge to giggle and say “boobies”.)

Most of the time, journalism is routine. Someone says something, so you call someone who you know is going to disagree. It’s the same person you always call for that topic. If they’re not immediately available, you write the story – 10-20 formulaic sentences – while you wait for them to call back, just leaving spaces for their quotes. The first sentence is always the colourful yet meaningless quip, or anything that mentions sex or drugs. That first sentence is supposed to sum up the entire story, and every other sentence after that is just additional detail. The result is adequate reporting, but it’s rarely good reporting. One saucy quote is rarely the most important part of a story, yet if you’ve still got your reader by the third sentence, it’s considered a fascinating article.

The thing that interests me most about journalism is how we make everyday print journalism better. (I include online news in my definition of print journalism because online news is just, as Nyugen (2008) says, “shovelware content”. It’s old wine in new bottles. What a waste to simply slap the print version of the story on a website, often with a video of the tv version of the same story, and say “ta da! Look at our online news”.)

And to start making everyday journalism better, journalists and editors need to stop creaming their pants every time sex is mentioned. Then the rest of us might start taking the MSM seriously again. In all of the talk I’ve heard about paywalls, it’s always been about how to make people pay for something they’ve been getting for free. Sadly, I haven’t heard anyone talking about how to improve the product so people want to pay for it.

Nguyen, A (2008), ‘Facing the “Fabulous Monster”: The traditional media’s fear-driven innovation culture in the development of online news’, Journalism Studies, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 91-104.

10 responses to “Sexing the news

  1. You’re so right, mate. I’d been under the impression that it had been a “sex injury,” too. Thanks, media!

  2. Yes I came to the same conclusion as you very quickly. I expect many people did once they looked past the headline and thought about spending a night in a hotel. Regardless of what you are doing in the bed a light fitting falling off and causing injury is not an expected part of the experience and if you are there only because of business then it should be covered by the employers insurance.

  3. In this case though the sex is the central issue. Specifically whether the employer should have foreseen such an event occuring therefore making them liable to ensure a safe facility for the conduct of coitus.
    Frankly I think she has a stronger cause of action against the motel owner but then they don’t have a seemingly bottomless pit of money.
    They don’t seem to answer a question I have posed to myself – what caused the fixture to detach from the room? Was it poor workpersonship or was it dislodged accidentally by some limb or appendage during said coitus?

  4. How exactly does a falling light fitting cause ‘a psychiatric injury’?

  5. I felt quite enlightened by this story.

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