Crying wolf, crying terror and fanning the media flames of disquiet


The reckless and inflammatory reporting on terrorism and national security in Australia makes ABC columnist Jonathan Green wonder whether we'd be better off without a media apparatus that can sink so low.

OPINION: HAVE we reached a tipping point where, with its mix of anxious desperation and crazy-brave self-confidence, our mainstream corporate media does us more harm than good?

Everywhere it's under pressure from declining markets and battling business models, a situation that is as pressing for newspapers as it is becoming true for TV.

The response of news producers has been trapped somewhere between the sentimental and the self-serving. How will journalism survive, ask the journalists. Maybe we ought to wonder both whether it matters and whether something better might not evolve to replace it.

It might be that journalism is just a writing style.

I should declare here that I've spent my working life as a journalist, from 1979 to now. But now, reading the newspapers and watching the news, I can't help but wonder if this is a craft that is not only losing its centre of corporate gravity and support, but also some fundamental sense of its mission and responsibility.

What sentient members of the Fourth Estate could ever set foot, for example, inside the offices of the Courier Mail? This is, let's not forget, Brisbane's only morning newspaper, a monopoly provider, and, by dint of journalistic volume, the most significant newsroom in Queensland.

Fairfax managed to splash the face of an utterly innocent man across the country after the Numan Haider killing. This is the newspaper that in recent times advised its readers of an "AUSSIE FATWA" just days after it reported on the terror raids that swept through the suburbs of Sydney and Brisbane on September 18.

"Terror Australis: Cops foil horror attacks," said the Courier Mail, blending the journalist's fatal instinct for a pun with the paper's absolute commitment to distortion, amplification and the propagation of fear to sell papers: for commercial gain.

It would only be days before a man was shot dead in Melbourne after the brutal, angry stabbing of two police officers. Did the Courier Mail report the simple and sufficiently horrifying facts? Well no, it reported the most sensational peak in the sea of supposition surrounding them: "Gunned down after PM terror threat: POLICE KILL ABBOTT JIHADI."

There was of course no plot against the Prime Minister, unless what is described here by the Courier Mail constitutes an elaborate conspiracy:
"Slain teenage extremist Numan Haider googled Prime Minister Tony Abbott's movements in the days before being shot dead during a knife attack on counter terrorism agents."

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