The Daily Telegraph is a Sydney based tabloid newspaper. It is well known for its exceptionally bad writing, its pandering to the lowest common denominator and, occasionally, outright lies.
For those who are not from Australia, there was a major news story in Sydney in the week before Hurricane Katrina arrived. John Brogden, the NSW opposition leader and member of the Liberal Party (which is, ironically, a conservative political party like the US Republican party), had been reported in the media as saying some rather unsavoury things about his political opponent, former Premier of NSW, Bob Carr - or rather, about his wife, Helena Carr.
What had happened was this. Bob Carr announced his retirement some weeks ago. John Brogden, his political opponent, held a party with a number of journalists that night to celebrate his opponent's leaving. During that party, he got a little drunk, and described Carr's wife, who is Malaysian, as a "Mail-order Bride". He also pinched a female journalist's posterior and propositioned another female journalist. When all this came out in public, Brogden was humiliated. He did the only "honourable" thing open to him and resigned as opposition leader. He then attempted suicide, but was hospitalised in time. The outrage over Brogden's behaviour was soon lulled by genuine public concern over his wellbeing.
So what's all this about the Daily Telegraph? Well the Telegraph made some rather unsavoury reports of Brogden's past sexual escapades. It reported that in 2003, Brogden had proposed a "threesome" with two female journalists. For some reason it appears that the Telegraph named those journalists.
Media Watch, an Australian TV series that explores current media issues, was contacted by the journalists involved and has concluded that the Telegraph report was a lie. (Brogden sex claim branded a lie - SMH) The entire story was concocted by the journalist/editor of the newspaper in order to cash in on this sad episode. As a result, they have wrongly smeared the name of a man who has already destroyed his political career.
I was never a fan of John Brogden, and there was no other option but for him to resign. Nevertheless I was impressed by the man's honesty in front of the media when he confessed his wrong behaviour, and offered no excuses whatsoever. The man's career is ruined, his marriage is likely to be "on the rocks" and his own emotional state is delicate.
A friend of mine was once on a bus reading a fantasy novel. The person next to him commented to him "Still reading kid's books I see." The man was reading the Daily Telegraph. My friend related later how ironic such a statement was.
The media are so important in our society - but economic realities such as competition and advertising ensure that the media are always going to report things badly. The Telegraph is aimed at people with lower levels of literacy, so their readers don't always worry about whether they are being fed lies. More liberal and educated newspapers, like the Sydney Morning Herald, have readers that appreciate objectivity and facts more. That's not to say that the SMH is unbiased though, as any Sydney Anglican can testify.
I invented by own adage to describe my feelings about this: Entertainment is a Commodity; Truth is a Right. When it comes to entertaining us with TV shows and other things, the media are selling us a commodity via the selling of advertising space. Good on them - let them keep doing it. But Truth - especially truthful reporting of events and unbiased covering - is a right. No one should ever be led to believe falsehood by the media.
Oh, by the way, for my North American readers - the most repulsive and consistently biased news organisation you guys have is Fox News. It's owned by Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation too - the same owners of Sydney's Daily Telegraph. Feel free to blame Australia for that one.
From the Department of Wha's Happnin?
© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.