Media Opinion

Media sets up protective barrier to seal Morrison's victory

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Cartoon by Mark David/@markdavidcartoons

We must note the Prime Minister and his Government, beleaguered by poor performance and mismanagement, is still in contention this election because of Australia’s media coverage.   

In 2017, we were having the semblance of a debate over the national energy guarantee (NEG) and a realignment to a new global environment under Donald Trump's leadership, and despite his public pledge of allegiance, Scott Morrison was part of a party coup that saw the Coalition replace Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The broad church was straining under the pressure of an ideological divide that the party chose Morrison to repair. Today, some in the party openly admit they got it wrong, yet not so much the press gallery.

In three short years since the fire and rain really started to make an impression, the tentpoles of the Coalition have bowed under the pressure of political ideology and division enflamed by Morrison, to a point where a swathe of the Coalition have openly challenged the core fundamentals and integrity of their leader. That of course includes Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce

The press, still, not so much.

Members of the Coalition are openly displaying their discomfort with the PM and his leadership; they are openly denigrating him in the Senate on the record and leaking texts.

Why has the press, certainly the public broadcaster, struggled to capture this, as it looks to deliver a fair and balanced product in the interest of Australians?

It looked to be going the other way from the start. On the morning of the Election announcement, Patricia Karvelas (formerly of The Australian) was filling the boots of the absent Insiders chair. She directed some strange questions to Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles.

Karvelas had an opportunity, on the day of such an announcement, to ask some genuine questions on behalf of the nation. After a decade of Coalition Government, she could've explored what alternatives could provide.

But instead, it was a flurry of “gotchas” scrutinising the viability of Labor policy announcements, some “how are you going to pay for it” style questioning,  followed by an entire line of questioning about Marles' leadership aspirations.

This missed opportunity to inform us of our nation's alternatives following ten years of a failing Government utterly disappointed.

Karvelas chose to pursue these questions, seemingly uninterested in the possibilities of such an important interview, was unwilling or unable to create a space for her viewers beyond the "horse race journalism" she learned down at the Murdoch stables.

Her final thought before crossing over to election coverage was that Anthony Albanese didn’t know where the Government House was.

There was no public interest journalism yet on the day of a highly anticipated election campaign.

Then it crossed to Greg Jennett and Jane Norman to make sense of it all, flanked by Andrew Probyn (formerly of The Herald Sun) and all of a sudden it felt a little bit strange.

The coverage truly felt like a poor coverage of a royal wedding, the hosts had less personability than Koshie and Nat, and all the ABC staff involved in the crosses, the motorcade filming, Matt Doran on the lawn and Casey Briggs with the new touch screen. 

All of them were diminished by their involvement in this presentation.

Probyn genuinely tried to offer Jennett some “piddly” analysis, but he was having none of it, cutting the political chief to talk of the autumn sun, the tea and scones, the 20 minutes of anticipation, and then he asked Doran if there were any “political tragics” that had joined the cookers who were disrupting the whole telecast in the background with loudspeaker and upside down flag aplenty. Even Probyn looked upset.

No public interest journalism on that day.

Later that day, Albanese got a couple of numbers wrong, and they tested their election algorithm, the entire apparatus reported it all day.

The great News Corp craftsmen in situ and the ones on sabbaticals at the ABC all got to work divining the stars.  

Other full time corporates jumped a bit further, but that was to be expected from them on day one. Quite the day to behold.

How about a cheese platter metaphor, or a tie review on day two?

This was only a week after Michael Towke spoke of Morrison's racist campaign against him, saying that he wasn’t actually a strip club owning Moslem, all of this backed up after Fierravanti-Wells "mic dropped" in the Senate. The press picked up the gaffe as the perfect segue.

The talking heads continued to play Cludo with Kitching’s cause of death, while in plain sight, you have Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells calling Scott Morrison a bully, Towke backing it up on national television.

While the Party denigrate Morrison in the open, the press trudges on. As members of the public confront him more frequently, with a passion born from real desperation, and while they are escorted away, the PM is surrounded by dozens of journos, uncomfortable and bewildered by the public's disappointment. 

In between the endlessness of depravity seeping out of this Government, the taxpayer-greased early election campaign, the character attacks against Morrison, the ABC still fails to report substantively in the public interest.

The ABC can no longer orbit the gigantic corporate forces that wish to shred it into oblivion, driven by the commercial executives on board that seal its fate.

The ABC must generate the standard, knowing it has wide support in this country, and maintain a presence that ensures the corporates have no choice but to moderate themselves in shame.

The ABC should be training the best investigative journalists in the country and enforcing an elite standard of journalism that puts the tabloids to shame, not with the aid of ex-Murdoch talking heads driving the horse race and talking the odds on the few portals of truth left to all Australians. 

Joel Jenkins is a writer. You can read more from Joel on Bogan Intelligentsia and follow him on Twitter @boganintel.

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