Topic: big media
What this means for the media
Margaret Simons writes [Monday 26th Nov 07 crikey.com.au]:
I’ve never been entirely convinced by that saying of Keating’s that has become political cliché – change the government and you change the country.
It seems to me that the changes of the last eleven years have been mainly do with what gets articulated, rather than with fundamental changes of national character. The nation itself changes much more slowly than the political cycle.
I argued this with Robert Manne once, and he replied that a change of articulation is a change to the nation, and I agree with him to a point – but can’t forget all those legions of Australians who have never heard of Robert Manne, or of me, and for whom there is no culture war, let alone victors and losers in that war. Just their lives and the pragmatic, close-up politics of lived experience.
Nevertheless, there will now be at least a change in what elements of the national mindset are articulated in the public sphere, and this will mean a change in the networks of media power.
I am not talking here about proprietors – although the fact that News Limited newspapers split in their pre-election editorials signals that Murdoch gave no binding direction - perhaps a measure of his lack of interest in the Australian branch of empire these days.
I am talking about individual journalists. I have seen the type of change that is now likely once before. When Howard came to government in 1996, over the succeeding months individual editors and journalists were eased out. Canberra Press corps were recast to get rid of those who, rightly or not, were seen as having been too close to Keating. Over the following years editors changed too, and of course new stables of columnists were brought to the fore.
It took at least 12 months, but it happened, and the battlefield and the cultural warriors were established.
No newspaper that wants to be on the Canberra drip can continue with a line-up of reporters and opinion writers which, rightly or wrongly, is seen to have closed its ears to the ideology of government.
The line-ups are allowed to be critical, certainly. But they must at least have ears to hear and understand the new tune.
So we can expect a big shift in the journalistic world over the next year. This will open up opportunities for some, and close careers for others.
Watch for the changes. This will be the hint to what gets articulated in the future.
There are a few words and phrases I hope will die, or at least be challenged. One is “mainstream”. So many columnists in sympathy with the Howard Government have declared themselves to articulate “mainstream” Australian opinion, which includes enormous hostility to the so called left wing “elite”.
I doubt that these people ever articulated the mainstream. Certainly I don’t believe the levels of intense hostility towards intellectuals expressed by columnists and shock jocks have ever been echoed among ordinary people in the suburbs and regions.
And now look at how out of touch, how old fashioned, these people – the Alan Jones’s, the Akermans and others – are looking.
The so-called articulators of the mainstream largely failed to catch the mood of the nation on David Hicks, or Dr Haneef, or Iraq, or workchoices.
But what, in any case, is the mainstream? How do you divine such a thing among all the rivulets and backwaters of Australian life experience and opinion? The truth is the mainstream is taken to be the thing that those with the power of publication decree it to be – until reality rises up and bites them in the bum.
Meanwhile most Australians get on with living their quite diverse lives, with political points of view arising from their lived experience.
The Rudd Government has as one of its defining polices fast Broadband Internet. This carries symbolic as well as practical importance. The power of the op ed writers, the journalists and the commentators is not as complete as it was in 1996.
As we have seen in this election there is always an alternative, published, point of view, accessible to anyone who wants to look for it.
So watch for the players of the media game to change – but watch, too for the game itself to alter.