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Monday, 2 June 2014

It Is Journalism Jim, But Not As We Know It.

As a former member of the fourth estate I have been continually disappointed by the decline of what was once an honourable craft.
Yeah, I know. For years journalism has ranked somewhere between Nigerian on-line financial advisors and being Stephen Conroy on the ‘trustworthy’ rankings, but it wasn’t always so.
There was a time, believe it or not, when being a journalist, no, a reporter, carried with it a hefty cache of personal pride.
I was a university student when an old-school journalist sent me out into the world with the following words of advice ringing in my ears.
“Journalism is not a profession,” he said, absently scratching away at the egg-yoke streak on his tie, “it’s a craft. Lawyers are professionals. If you want the truth to mean whatever suits you at the time, go and be a lawyer.
“If one side hates your guts, you aren’t doing your job. If both sides hate your guts, you can sleep soundly knowing you have done your job.
“Your objectivity is all you have going for you. Sacrifice that and you may as well sell yourself completely and go into PR.”
That grizzled journalist is long dead. So are the tenets he espoused.

The decline in journalism in Australia can be traced to many factors, not least of which is the capture of the education system by the Left; a 25-year long march that produced a generation of graduates that refused to let illiteracy and innumeracy interfere with a sense of self-entitlement, mostly because lazy teachers – exhausted from attending union meetings by day and memorizing the dialogue of An Inconvenient Truth by night – handed the responsibility of teaching to Google.
It was the last which may have dealt the biggest blow to any hope of a continuation of the journalistic traditions of truth and objectivity. Left to their own devices,  a generation of Australian students dutifully climbed aboard the Google bus. Unfortunately, too busy daydreaming of their own innate wonderfulness, they didn't notice the information superhighway give way to the commercial district of Facebook - where every shop-front window reflected their own image straight back at them - before coming to a halt in the red light, open-sewered ghetto that is Twitter.  

The media could probably have survived if the rise of the illiterate graduate hadn’t coincided with the rise of the culture of celebrity and ‘reality’ television.
Both of these were, in turn, the inevitable consequence of a Western legal and education system hijacked by a confederacy of ill-intentioned social engineers who spent 25-years (strangely, roughly the same length of time since the fall of the Berlin Wall) telling children that learning something useful was an outmoded fascist ideal that prevented them from achieving their full potential as human beings.
“Harming the child’s emotional development” (HTCED) became a catch-all ‘guilt’ refrain to bully parents into submission.

Stop little Kevin from eating what he wants and becoming a disgusting fatbody? HTCED.
Make little Kevin study hard and clean up his room, thus instilling in Kevin the notion that with rights come responsibilities? HTCED.
Make little Kevin learn to count, spell, write his own name or pass an exam before shoving him up the education ladder? HTCED.

The Teachers Union may have got itself a lot of useful idiots, but what has society as a whole gained from this quantum shift?
A generation of obese, emotionally stunted little Kevins, many of whom spend half their time trying to get on reality shows, and the other half on twitter raging against the fascist society that refuses to recognise their inner genius and won’t let them on reality tv, is what.
Of the rest, a hardened cohort of manufactured idiots, unusable for the most basic tasks in the real world, either embark on a glittering career of welfare dependency or enrol in one of those timeless university degrees with “ … Studies” at the end of the course title.
While the majority, upon realising that their ‘degrees’ will prove useless in the real world join the Socialist Alternative and demand more taxpayer money to fund their years of fecklessness, eventually, some finish their degree and go on to become ‘journalists’ at sheltered workshops like the ABC or Fairfax.
Sadly, the kernels of truth disbursed by my mentor would, if delivered to these ‘journalists’ today, fall on barren ground.
Thanks to years of social engineering, ego stroking, refusing to HTCED and a slavish addiction to electronic 'contacts' to provide information, today’s journalism graduates would be aghast at the thought of not being liked. They are celebrities! They are, or so they think, newsmakers, not obscure newsbreakers.

So. We have a generation of ‘journalists’, barely able to write, incapable of operating in the real world or any social group that doesn’t operate on a continuous loop of circle-jerking mutual appreciation.
What to do? How to cover our complete lack of tradecraft, our inability to develop contacts, yet still maintain our self-image?
I know! Invent the ‘citizen journalist’!
Here was a convenient construct that allowed them to pretend that any disaffected ratbag (well, ALP media operative or GetUp looney) making up crap on the echo-chamber that is Twitter was a legitimate ‘source’.
Easily, 50% of Fairfax and ABC political ‘stories’ are based on Twitter feeds, or on Twitter ‘outrage’ at the PM winking.
Sadly, the easy headline and the adulation of the Twits may feed the insatiable need for ego reinforcement, but it simply reinforces the idea that the modern Fairfax or ABC journalist is just another contestant spruiking for enough votes to get them another shot next week.

(G’day! I’m a citizen mechanic. So, where’s the Ferrari then?”)

The Fairfax organisation has long abandoned any pretence at impartiality pursuing a Green/Left agenda with an admirable tenacity that demonstrates that its newsroom believes that the company’s rapidly diminishing shareholder register shares will be plumped out by slices from the magic pudding.
It is a commercial organisation and if its board wants to allow its subordinates to force the organisation into a Jim Jonesian-style suicide pact, that is its choice.
The ABC, on the other hand, is harder to excuse, or forgive, for it is not a commercial organisation and has no such remit to abandon its core charter in order to cater to a particular audience.
Head honcho Mark Scott insisted last year that the ABC must pay its talent – he is obviously using the term in its modern, reality tv, context - high salaries to compete with commercial entities.
The taxpayer-funded ABC doesn’t have to compete with commercial enterprises. An ABC journalist’s job is to find news; an ABC newsreader’s job is to read the news. That they should do it in an objective manner should go without saying.
Baffling Billy Shorten can call the Abbott-budget “brutal” or “harsh”. The ABC can report that he has done so. What the ABC cannot do is allow its, ahem, journalists to use the same terms themselves in ‘news’ reports related to the budget, a sin they have committed with gay abandon ever since the budget was handed down.
This, Mark, is called opinion and there is no place for it on a tax-payer funded national broadcaster’s news reports. Perhaps you can get one of your high paid ‘stars’ to explain it to you?
The ABC has enough ‘journalistic’ nous to obtain secret recordings of a security team meeting at the Manus Island detention centre, but not enough to find genuine Australians to bolster its anti-Abbott budget stories?
A billion dollar-a-year news organisation can only find an employees’ mother, a former Rudd campaigner and a known anarchist to pose as ‘ordinary Australians’?
There is no point in blaming Scott. He is clearly a chinless, weak-willed wonder cowed by a collective of bolshie subordinates.
No, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the collective. Those ABC employees who dare to call themselves journalist, yet are little more than reality tv contestants completely oblivious to the traditions of their craft; unable to live without a constant diet of Twitter-led adulation. Journalists? More like a closed Twitter-led collective.

ABC guys and gals: go for your life. Be as partisan as your principles can stomach, but please, please, don’t besmirch an honourable craft by calling yourselves journalists.