New Media Shames Old

The last 15 years of media appear to be a story of print’s decline and broadcasting fragmentation.

But that’s just the sort of creative destruction you expect in a mature industry with a big technological component.

A deeper change is the emergence of an alternative accountability media. This change has fully revealed the way the mainstream media has become a player in politics, rather than a commentator on it. And that it’s no longer a guardian of ordinary voters’ interests.

From highly developed US groups, such as Newsbusters.org, Breitbart.com  and Factcheck.org, to small blogs in Australia like Boy On A Bike, the media itself has become the topic of accountability as politicians themselves once were.

People expect politicians to be politically biased. They expect reporters to pick apart those biased claims. That’s why there is so much energy in media accountability – because reporters aren’t doing what they claim to be doing. No one likes a hypocrite.

So dissatisfied are people on all sides of politics with the role the media plays that there has emerged an entire arm of media product that does to the media what they should do to politics, but aren’t – call bullshit when it is warranted.

When Leigh Sales nailed Tony Abbott on the BHP media release, it was journalism as it should be done. It caused a few whines on the Right – including from me – precisely because it was so unusual, not because it was inappropriate. And because it followed PM Gillard’s pathetic resort to claiming sexism when faced with hard questions.

Leigh has set her own bar high. Let’s hope she keeps it high. Her recent interview with the PM on education funding gives hope. But let us wait for debate on a signature social issue to see if it continues, and let us wait to see if such a questioning style emerges from any other journalists.

The indie analysis of media has actually floated back into the mainstream – an increasing amount of column space is devoted to analysis of media output, frequently as part of a blog attached to a major outlet. See Bolt and Blair on the right, and Crikey and The Drum on the left.

There is something very wrong when the mainstream media is seen as so enmeshed with the political class that an accountability media emerges organically to hold it to account.

Nothing could make it clearer that our political class now includes those who so grandiosely style themselves journalists.

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