Sunday, 7 July 2013

Media Gone Nuts (National)

The following is the text of my speech, Media Gone Nuts, that I gave at the national finals of the Plain English Speaking award. 

There is not a hole in the ozone layer. Despite years of having this idea shoved at us by our media, there is not a hole in the ozone layer.

In reality, what we are experiencing is something called Ozone depletion. We are not as well protected from solar radiation and therefore, the temperature rises. If there were really a hole in the ozone layer, as we have been lead to believe, we would be exposed to the full wrath of the sun. Now, I can only speak for myself, but I’m not on fire—are you?

How has an entire nation been lead to believe something so outrageous? Is it only sensationalised rubbish that we are being fed, or is it worse? When did journalism lose its moral core in the pursuit of money?

This is a somewhat light-hearted example of media gone nuts. The modern media has ditched its moral responsibilities for nothing more than financial gain.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We should expect the media to try to make money. But it is the methods they are using to do so that are worthy of our attention.

Long gone are the days of sensationalism. Back then, it was simple. A bit of dramatization, misinformation and fear mongering lead to a healthy serving of public anxiety, and that public anxiety converted itself into a nice wad of cash in the media moguls’ pockets. Kaching, kaching for the media!

Unfortunately, one day a particular media mogul decided that sensationalism wasn’t quite enough. He decided that to sell his newspaper, he must rely on the truly immoral. His name is Rupert Murdoch and he is the man at the centre of the news of the world scandal.

In most of our pockets is a mobile phone. It’s a fairly simple device. It makes calls, sends texts and may do any number of things for you.

And sometimes, it seems, a phone is the only way to reach the outside world—the only way to let our friends know that, well, we are still breathing. At least, this is what Milly Dowler’s parents thought.

Milly Dowler is dead.

In 2002, Milly Dowler was abducted on her way home from school. Soon after she was murdered in cold blood. Before Milly’s parents learned of their daughter’s death, they submitted a missing person’s report and quickly set out to find her.

For seven months, police, family and friends searched far and wide for Milly, but no luck. The only shred of hope for Milly’s family came from her phone company—somehow, she was deleting her voice mail messages! Milly must be alive.

She wasn’t.

News of the world journalists were hacking Milly’s phone. They listened to her voice mail messages, and then deleted them. They heard her family’s desperate pleas. They stripped Milly’s family of their privacy and gave them false hope.  

Milly’s family isn’t the only one left devastated by News of the World Journalists. At a recent parliamentary investigation into media ethics, countless witnesses came out of the woodwork to stand up against the unethical, immoral and inhuman standards of the media in Britain.  

Surely, this isn’t happening in Australia though? Our media has always acted ethically, right?

“A dingo’s got my baby”.

Thirty years after the death of Azaria Chamberlain, the words her mother cried out at journalists still manage to strike a chord. In fact, her story was made so huge by the media, that jokes about the death of Lindy Chamberlain’s daughter even made it onto TV shows like Two and a Half Men.

But who was Lindy?

Lindy Chamberlain was born in New Zealand, but soon moved to Australia. She grew up here and had a family. After some time in Tasmania, Lindy and her family moved to Queensland. There’s nothing particularly interesting to say about Lindy. She was just an ordinary person with an ordinary life, like you and I.

It was only after, well, a dingo got her baby, that her world changed. Soon she became a household name in Australia. And after that, the story became a media hit around the world, selling newspapers left right and centre.

But what about Lindy? What about her family? What about thirty years of trial by media? Eh, who cares, she’s only one person.
One person’s life completely ruined by the greed of the media.

It is this attitude that leaves families in ruins.

Nobody can escape. The sports stars, the writers, the humanitarians, the academics, the musicians, the artists, actors, actresses, chefs… ordinary people…Lindy and Milly….you and I.

Regardless of who you are or what your circumstances may be, if you’re going to sell papers, then the media will stop at nothing to tell your story.

But, who’s to blame for this?

Perhaps the easiest way to go would be to stick it on the government? They are responsible for protecting our interests, so why have they failed us here? They must be responsible for fixing the media!

But what if, we just said that the media were to blame? That makes sense. They are the ones who are robbing people of their privacy and acting immorally. Surely they should be held responsible!

The media and the government do have a roll to play in this, but what about us?

We are, after all, the reason the media exists. If we didn’t buy their product, why would they go to the effort to distribute it?

In fact, today we are actually a part of the media. We call it social media and the only difference between it and the rest of the media is that we manage it.  

On websites like Facebook and Twitter, we can read and discuss everything from the political situation in Mozambique, to declining breakfast cereal to box ratios—whatever we choose really.

Social media does not stop at that, however. Much like our own “every day” media, it is driven by immoral and unfair invasions of privacy. Social media is full of gossip. Whether it be about people in the public eye or Jimmy Stevens from Bacchus Marsh, there is a constant stream of images and snippets of information being uploaded each day.

Despite this, despite the cyber bullying of celebrities and ordinary people alike, we still choose to indulge. Each day, more and more people connect to these websites.

Social media is defined by our choices. Content won’t spread unless we choose to share it. In fact, content won’t even be there in the first place unless we choose to publish it.  

So it raises the question, is it the media’s standards that are declining, or ours? Are they really just immoral, unethical and unfair, or are they just giving us what we want?
And if we are the media; what can we do to stop media gone nuts?

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