By Conal Thwaite
A year of intense reading of mainstream media has taught me journalists need to push for closed shops in their workplaces as a matter of urgency.
This would mean journalists at a publication control the hiring and firing process, instead of the employer.
This freedom should be articulated against interference from both employers and the state, whereas the media debate so far, including the Finklestein report and convergence review, has focused on either the state or employers regulating the media.
But journalists need to be independent from both of those groups, that is what “self-regulation” should mean; the only independence that counts.
Academic who write for The Conversation were supportive of Finkelstein’s suggestion for a government-funded regulator in March. This type of criticism calling for government regulation is too often concerned with journalists calling people names or dumbing things down.
This is the wrong focus.
If there is one thing commercial media excels in it’s entertainment, including being crass on occasion – and I enjoy a montage on Facebook’s security settings to the tune of Rockwell’s Somebody’s Watching Me on Sunrise this morning as much as the next guy.
While it’s entertaining, there are also plenty of examples of the commercial press blatantly pushing the conservative agenda of their wealthy financiers and the people who buy their product (you) – the advertisers.
But that is opinion, and at least it is a recognised as such.
The subtle effects of patrimony – choosing who to hire and who not to – more dangerously effects what ends up in the headlines in the first place.
The worst example I saw recently was on Channel 10’s The Project, when they gave a summary of eleven years since the September 11 terrorist attacks. It chronicled the political impact of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars – without mentioning the huge anti-war movement it provoked.
Down the memory hole.
Who knows why that particular story on that particular day was made in that particular way? Only the journalists and staff working on the story.
That is why journalists’ own democratic control over standards, ultimately expressed in the right to hire and fire, are the only people capable of regulating the industry. Perhaps if they had that freedom the story would have been different, but perhaps not. No system is perfect.
Journalists are also the only people you’d want regulating the industry, instead of them being subject to powerful vested interests, both government and commercial.
Thankfully Rinehart has backed-off on her bid for a seat on Fairfax’s board for now, but the issue of editorial interference by conservative elites, both overt and subtle, is not going to go away.
Journalists should look to their own collective organisations and industrial strengths (and assess their weaknesses) if they want to improve standards.