As you may know, I have worked as a journalist since I was 16 – a fair few years, nay, decades ago. And in all those years, senior reporters, sub-editors, editors and even the reading public, hammered into you what they thought news was.
People peppered you with pithy saying: If it bleeds, it leads. News is what someone doesn’t want you to publish because everything else is advertising. They were all true, to a point.
And this Barnaby Joyce explosion even had me thinking of a Robbie Burns line someone once used as a way of explaining journalism: “If there’s a hole in a’ your coats, I rede you tent it; A chield’s among you taking notes, and, faith, he’ll prent it.”
(For those of you who don’t speak 18th Century Burns, it means: If you have any petty flaws you’d better fix them quick smart and straight away, because there’s a pimply reporter taking notes and it’ll make the news.) But my confidence in my ability to understand what was and what was not news has been shattered of late. No, dammit, it’s been shattered just today.
Here’s just a couple of reasons. It started early this morning when watching Channel 7’s coverage of the Oscars and all the women standing up for the #metoo movement and demanding a better deal.
This was followed by presenter Samantha Armytage getting all giggly and predictable about a segment which featured two young men running about naked in the Queensland rain, and making endless references to their shape and quality of their bare buttocks. They were asked to drop their dacks again for Channel 7 viewers. Immediately. After. The. #metoo. Anger.
The juxtaposition was jaw-dropping.
Then, later in the day, browsing through the major Australian news companies’ latest online news, high up in the list among stories of Kim Jong Un making overtures to South Korea, Donald Trump sparking global trade wars, threatened nuclear Armageddon from Putin, a Russian double-agent killed by poison, was this story:
“Egg-streme find has egg-spert baffled.” It was carried on many sites and referred to a farmer who thought it interesting that one of his chooks had laid a large egg, which turned out to be an egg within an egg.
A website called Pedestrian headed this amazing news as “F… me, look at the size of this egg”.
I think I no longer have any idea what news is.
Especially when both our major commercial news companies, every single morning, report what happened in last night’s reality TV fairy floss, Married at First Sight or I’m an etc Get Me Out of Here. As if it was real news. Check it out for yourself. It’s there every morning.
Now, I admit that from time to time I have reported on the discovery of a two headed-lizard (in Melbourne back in the 1980s and Michael Leunig had a field day with it).
And maybe I had something to do with the 1990s Addie story about Bendigo Creek water killing someone’s pet goldfish.
But, but, in my defence, both were on extremely quiet and dull Sundays, and the articles didn’t compete with World War III for space or attention.
And I reckon many readers missed the point about how toxic our creek water was then. That’s my argument and I’m sticking to it.
In news, the trivial and the terrible have always co-existed. But the trivial used to be confined to columns with headings such as “Meanwhile in America” or “Cop this”.