November 22, 2005 | Jeff Wall

When the media is out of touch with the community.

The extent to which the mainstream media can be totally out of touch with community attitudes is well evidenced by the saturation, and broadly favourable, coverage it is giving to the “model” Michelle Leslie.
The hero like status she is being accorded sits very uneasily with mainstream Australia if the feedback I am getting and the attitude of radio open line callers is any guide.
And, remarkably, the media’s approach, and that of politicians across the political divide, to the plight of the Australia facing execution in Singapore seems not to be shared in any way by a significant section of the community.
But back to the Michelle Leslie case. Even though her offence involved the possession of just two ecstasy tablets there is little community sympathy for her…and there will be even less now that it appears as though her story is up for sale to the highest bidder.
It may be because she has appeared dressed as a Muslim – though the garb appears to have been put in the bottom of the suitcase – but I suspect it is really because the community are really down on drug offenders full stop.
Now while it is true that radio open line callers are unrepresentative of the community at large, when the views are expressed so overwhelmingly they must be taken some notice of.
The plight of Van Tuong Nguyen has attracted almost unanimous political and media concern mainly because he faces death by hanging. That is understandable.
But the situation of Leslie is quite different. She served three months, in apparently relative “comfort”, but the media is fawning over her almost as though she was a “victim” herself.
A “victim” of what – at the very least of her own stupidity?
But the community does not see her in the same favourable light at all……..but surprisingly there is much stronger community sympathy for Schapelle Corby – and one senses that is because people believe she is carrying the can for someone else.
The next media “circus” is going to be the sentencing of the “Bali Nine” some of whom, quite frankly, will be in the same desperate circumstances as Nguyen.
And on the basis of open line feedback, and my own “soundings”, the community will have almost no sympathy at all for the “Bali Nine” and even for those who are sentenced to an appearance before the firing squad.
Now I suspect appeals by the Australian Government for “clemency” for those of the Bali Nine sentenced to death will get a more receptive hearing than those being made to the Government of Singapore.
But let there be no doubt about it, such appeals – that seems inevitable given the overwhelming body of evidence on show – will attract a very mixed response in mainstream Australia.
The media is under no obligation to reflect community views and standards but it would help at times if those who write and talk about “public outrage” and “overwhelming community alarm” actually tried to found out whether that is the true position.
And when it comes to drug related offences committed in our region they will invariably find the “outrage and alarm” are well removed from reality.

Posted by Jeff Wall at 9:15 am | Comments (1) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

1 Comment

  1. If the media has no obligation to reflect the views of the public, then how as a member of this public can I/we get out messages across as a majority? I find that when it comes to IR, Senate Committee Hearings, and because of the lack of debate in the parliament, there was reporting, but no added information about what it is going to mean to my family and I, without the govt. spin and union spin. It is one thing to report what pollies say, but the public have no voice anymore except at the voting booth, which is too far away. It’s making people angry, and useless, with many saying why bother they have the majority anyway.

    Comment by aj — November 28, 2005 @ 10:32 am

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