How ya’ going? Thought I’d write a little about media, and reporting objectively on politics. Ooph, that seems to be unheard of in this day and age… Where do you get your news? Contact me on Twetch, as I’m needing more succinct and reliable outlets. So many independent journalists are jumping online, but with it comes subjectivity and a lot of noise.
Objective media reporting of politics matters greatly for the benefit of public access of information and for one to make an informed, balanced decision on parties or events.
For the best interests of the general public, multiple private media entities must report on governments via watchdog functions and processes based foundationally on the claim of truth. With media commonly referred to as the ‘fourth estate’ protecting ‘democracy’, this watchdog concept is a key principle of conventional media. The concept seeks to prevent the suppression of important information and truths, dissuade censorship, and incorrect ideas or falsehoods.
Such a principle must be maintained in reporting methods from private or state-separated media institutions in order to uphold a respectable democratic government for its individuals. As John Stuart Mill states, ‘It is the duty of governments, and of individuals, to form the truest opinions they can; to form them carefully, and never impose upon others unless they are quite sure of being right.’
The processes currently in Australia’s media institutions align somewhat to this principle. Informed opinion in the public sphere of political discourse has grown, yet issues remain present. It is important to note the heirarchical and cultural problems within our media systems can prevent the general public from creating well-informed political decisions or sentiments. Tiffen (2006) states although our media institutes play an incredible role linking the public to the state’s affairs; they come with issues surrounding market share competitiveness, hidden agendas and journalistic subjectivity. This can lead to sensationalism and encourage corruption.
Also, unlike regulative legislation in The United States, Australian legislation has given government the opportunity to censor certain information from journalists and researchers. There are strict jail sentences on anyone disclosing or obtaining data to relay to the public.
Ruby (2020) outlines the legal barrier for researchers and the public in knowing about information regarding US military nuclear operations within Australia under government supervision. America holds a freedom of information legislation allowing the request of CIA or NSA documents. But down under, the National Security Legislation Amendment Act 2014 in Australia can impose up to five years jail time on any journalist or academic researcher attempting to access similar information.
This is a problem in the realm of public interest as it does not provide a transparent agenda on the motivations of Government; especially in times of unstable relationships between the US and nuclear armed countries in our region such as China.
Tony Kevin, former Australian ambassador to Cambodia, believes no harm can be caused by providing such transparency and holding what governments say or do to public and media scrutiny. This is especially true between US, China and Australian diplomatic or strategic negotiations.
Although Australia is held highly in the top 30 countries in media freedom agency rankings, research has suggested decline and erosion over the last decade (Pearson Fernandez 2015). I am now questioning the freedom of expression that Aussie democratic values are meant to uphold.
I have to say, Australia must not succumb to a slow erosion of gradual censorship from state and government entities over time. Are we heading down this route?
On another note, for media to remain vital to the decision making of the public, ethics surrounding journalism reporting must be addressed. Especially when reporting the available information surrounding the nation’s political environment. I feel that Problems can arise in the profession that are ambiguous in nature. Such as the level of privacy one must respect, protection of confidential sources, decisions on withholding information for the greater public good and perspective bias. These occupational hazards can create a highly difficult system in which a journalist must navigate.
The journalist must decide what constitutes public interest in such a vast and dynamic environment of domestic or global politics. To report facts independent of personal values and bias also proves a difficult task, yet the public interest must always remain key to their occupational methods. Not easy for a rookie YouTuber or Joe Blogs on ya’ mum’s Facebook. Not easy for bigger corporations either, apparently. Perhaps objectivity is a unicorn. I know I’m subject to bias all the time and it probably comes out a lot in my writing.
I believe it is the greatest responsibility of a journalist and reporter in politics to vigorously learn the ethical guidelines of their trade. Consistently reflecting upon their writing in the name of truth and public interest. Oh to be young, I’m glad I’m not too cynical yet.
The reporting of politics in our ‘democratic media system’ (far-stretch, I know) is of utmost importance during our current epoch. It is the responsibility of private/independent reporters to maintain a high level of transparency regarding the state reporting and its available information. It also remains a states responsibility to uphold fair legislation regarding access to such information for reporters, journalists and the public in general. The principles of a true democracy are reliant on the importance of citizens accessing true and abundant information through its media institutions.
Allan, S (ed.) 2009, The Routledge Companion to News and Journalism, Taylor & Francis Group, London. p. 214.
Errington, W & Miragliotta, N 2011, ‘The liberal democratic tradition and the media’, in Media and Politics: An Introduction, Oxford University Press, pp. 1-19.
Mill, J. S 1966, On Liberty, Palgrave, London, p.221.
Pearson, M & Fernandez, K 2015, ‘Censorship in Australia: Intrusions into media freedom flying beneath the international free expression radar’, Pacific journalism review, no. 1 p. 40
Ruby, F 2020, Silent partners: US bases in Australia, Australian Foreign Affairs, no. p. 8 29-53.
Tiffen, R 2006, ‘Political economy and news’, in The media and communications in Australia, Allen & Unwin, pp. 28-42.
Thanks for your time. On a semi-related note - I’ll leave you with a photo-journalist being arrested by Victoria Police the other day.