Be­ing first with the news has its down side

Tra­di­tional me­dia is bat­tling it out on­line but the road to re­cov­ery might be an old one

The Daily Examiner - - MID-WEEK - LESLEY APPS lesley.apps@dai­lyex­am­iner.com.au

IT’S al­ways fraught with dan­ger writ­ing about your own in­dus­try but hey this col­umn space isn’t ad­verse to stick­ing its head up oc­ca­sion­ally in an at­tempt to pro­voke thought and high­light in­ad­e­qua­cies, so let’s just hope the bosses see it that way.

Those clunky old beasts that were the tra­di­tional me­dia plat­forms you grew up with, news­pa­pers, ra­dio and tele­vi­sion – come on, you re­mem­ber – are still gnash­ing away, the cli­mate they once op­er­ated supremely in now un­recog­nis­able.

But if you can’t beat ‘em, at least keep nip­ping at the heels un­til you can rein­vent your­self for the new mil­len­nium and, at the mo­ment, the tra­di­tional me­dia is def­i­nitely in the thick of do­ing that.

But first, some re­flec­tion on the good ol’ days.

It’s hard to fathom how dif­fer­ently 9/11 would have un­folded had Twit­ter been around. Or if Mon­ica Lewin­sky had to deal with be­ing slut­shamed on Face­book as well as the front page.

Now things hap­pen so quickly, it’s al­most a re­quire­ment to break the news be­fore it even hap­pens. Fox News dis­cov­ered the con­se­quences of jump­ing that gun lit­er­ally when they re­ported that a mem­ber of congress who was shot in the head had died. She didn’t, but they wanted to be first and pre-empt­ing what they con­sid­ered her in­evitable demise, for want of a bet­ter term, back­fired might­ily.

They were cru­ci­fied by other me­dia out­lets but peo­ple still tune in to Fox any­how.

It’s a bit like those gos­sip mag­a­zines that doc­tor up pho­tos of fa­mous peo­ple that haven’t seen each other in years. They make up sto­ries on info pro­vided by a “close source’ ”or “their in­ner cir­cle’” to re­veal that they’re back to­gether again and preg­nant for the eighth time de­spite hav­ing never given birth, ever.

Be­ing ab­ducted by an alien is pos­i­tively fath­omable up against these cyclic doses of trite, but de­spite know­ing most of the con­tent is ques­tion­able, peo­ple must still be buy­ing it in ev­ery sense of the term.

The pres­sure to get the scoop or ex­clu­sive also means the boundaries of good taste now sit in the lower in­testi­nal tract some­where. Tex­ting a child for com­ment while they’re trapped in the mid­dle of the mass shoot­ing is be­com­ing com­mon prac­tice in the US. But Aus­tralia isn’t im­mune to this prac­tice.

Mike Munro got ham­mered for us­ing an old-school land­line to call the young hostages dur­ing the Can­gai siege back in 1990s (later par­o­died by the satire Front­line) but what he was re­ally do­ing was be­ing prophetic. The Daily Tele­graph is in the thick of a po­ten­tially ex­pen­sive law suit be­cause it ran a piece on Ge­of­frey Rush that outed him as grop­ing a fe­male ac­tor dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of King Lear, the head­ing op­por­tu­nity (King Leer) seem­ingly too good to pass up. It was midst #metoo rev­e­la­tions where Hol­ly­wood males were drop­ping like (their) flies so wait­ing for the con­crete to set isn’t an op­tion when you’re on a tread­mill of taw­dri­ness.

But you’ve got to give the cus­tomer what it wants, right? Even if they turn around and crit­i­cise (or sue) you later for it.

Per­haps the most fa­mous case was of the late Princess Diana. Peo­ple couldn’t get enough of this royal enigma.

The me­dia made a for­tune off her back thanks to the pub­lic’s in­sa­tiable de­sire to know ev­ery move she made. Ul­ti­mately this love/hate re­la­tion­ship cost her her life.

The world-wide griev­ing process that fol­lowed meant some­one was to blame so be­tween the evil pa­parazzi and her stone-faced Majesty at the time, the peo­ple had their sac­ri­fi­cial lambs in their sights. This was well be­fore so­cial me­dia got its hooks into us.

This kind of an­gry mob men­tal­ity is what drives the me­dia’s dom­i­nant plat­form to­day, that of the so­cial ilk.

Even young peo­ple can’t get enough of the “news”, real and fake, which is good in some ways be­cause it means they’re en­gaged with what’s go­ing on be­yond their bed­rooms, but they also don’t have to leave those rooms to dis­cover who’s to blame for ev­ery­thing this week.

Nav­i­gat­ing what’s real and what’s not is the lat­est chal­lenge for tra­di­tional me­dia to over­come.

It high­lights the power of these plat­forms and com­pa­nies de­voted to pro­duc­ing it have. You can no longer dis­miss it as the con­se­quences are all-too-real. Like the 45th Pres­i­dent of the United States.

The word me­dia has never had a broader mean­ing than it does to­day. Every­one can get into the act now, hence the use of the term “so­cial”.

But with this un­reg­u­lated ver­sion, comes a huge num­ber of prob­lems not just for tra­di­tional me­dia out­lets in pro­duc­ing con­tent within it but for every­one who en­gages with it.

It’s kind of amus­ing to see tra­di­tional me­dia go­ing back to its roots and in­vest­ing in qual­ity jour­nal­ism in or­der to stand out in the sea of click­bait.

Af­ter hav­ing jumped in head-first and whaled around in the muck for a good few years with not much to show for it in paid subscriptions – and with Face­book be­ing on the nose – be­ing seen as a trusted news source has never been so vi­tal.

Let’s just hope peo­ple agree and are will­ing to pay for it.

NOW THINGS HAP­PEN SO QUICKLY, IT’S AL­MOST A RE­QUIRE­MENT TO BREAK THE NEWS BE­FORE IT EVEN HAP­PENS.

Photo: CSA-Ar­chive

READ ALL ABOUT IT: Me­dia has changed but it doesn't mean you can't look to the past in or­der to se­cure its fu­ture.

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