Chaser’s war on churnalism
THE Chaser team’s new show looks like it could be a harrowing experience for journalists.
Not known for pulling punches, the boys ( pictured) are taking aim at the media industry this year with their series The Hamster Wheel.
They say they are mourning the death of journalism and The Hamster Wheel will look at how the media works – or how it does not work, as the case may be.
Asking the question ‘‘ has the race to be first replaced the race to be right?’’, the show will examine why investigative journalism has been replaced with the regurgitation of media releases, why news anchors and journalists have been replaced with ‘‘ personalities’’ and why the most-read news stories are usually the most frivolous.
The answers to these questions, of course, are considerably more complex than many would realise.
While the mass-media juggernaut undoubtedly has some serious sins to answer for, some responsibility also rests with the audience. Public demand often drives the supply and a collapsing financial model is making it increasingly difficult for news outlets to support the kind of in-depth journalism they have in the past. But I would say that, wouldn’t I?
Even in their promotional material the team has done little to hide its cynicism for the way the news media operates.
An initial media release simply consisted of a mobile phone number and instructions on how to hack into its voicemail account to hear more details.
For the record, the password they suggested did not work and I can’t help but wonder if my repeated, futile attempts to get it to work will be part of some kind of gag later on.
Their full-length media release, issued later on, came with the following words scattered throughout, in bold type, and out of context: ‘‘ Unfortunately you can’t just copy and paste this press release into your copy. But if you accidentally do it anyway, just pretend it was deliberate. If you work at Fairfax, just don’t expect a sub-editor to fix it up.’’
But for all their cheekiness, the Chaser boys are a pretty intelligent bunch and in between the jokes there is usually some pretty astute social commentary or at least some attempt to challenge viewers to examine their own ideas.
In today’s media landscape, this kind of scrutiny and discussion might be exactly what the news industry needs.
Public mistrust of the media is at an all-time high ( thanks for nothing, News of the World ) and mainstream mediabashing is a popular sport these days.
But in many cases, it is frustratingly uninformed – so at least this series promises to inject some lively and intelligent criticism into the mix, and that might be good for all of us.