the media game

You might not know the names, but the story is universal.

In an eight-minute segment, ABC’s Media Watch deconstructs how reporting on Twitter rumours and the subsequent denials actually affects the ability of governments to govern.

This isn’t advocating for not reporting on news breaking on Twitter, but like all reporting, it needs to be responsibly done.

When the story is actually that a journalist’s claims have been proven wrong by the laws of space and time, that’s as far as the story should go:

Ben Fordham, popular afternoon radio host on 2GB, and former presenter on Channel 9’s Today show, made an unsubstantiated claim on Twitter today in an apparent attempt to stir up the political troubles surrounding Prime Minister Tony Abbot’s leadership. Fordham’s specific claim was promptly and irrefutably proven incorrect by all parties in the claim.

In light of this, this network will apply greater scrutiny to claims from unnamed sources put forth in Mr. Fordham’s future reporting, before we bring those stories to you.

In other news…

Maybe there was some merit to this story — maybe the meeting was over the phone, or text, or they made plans to meet a different day.

Even if that turns out to be the case, it doesn’t vindicate anyone.

Asking “what if” and connecting the dots between allegations, denials, and evidence is part of a reporter’s job, to be sure. But if that’s the whole of the story, then all we’re really doing is watching an episode of How It’s Made where the widget actually failed all the quality measures and never made it through the assembly line. And then happily forking over our money to buy one.

One thought on “the media game”

  1. That’s not news, it’s “reality TV”. That’s the recurring sense I had while reading the transcript of that segment. Hewson’s first quote from which you took your title is a disturbing concept. However, if a governing party did choose to “step out of the media game” long-term, I wonder if the public would recognize what it is attempting to do or if the party would be crushed by not defending every rumour that we are so quick to believe.

    W.J.’s comment on that post is optimistic about how social media scrutiny keeps politicians in check, but there’s a difference between the public’s online role as a “democratic consensus maker” and the media manipulation that is revealed in that segment. The media can choose how large a role they play in creating suspicion or outrage, and if our tendency to treat perception as reality takes over from there …

    Sharp closing analogy, by the way.

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