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Journalists have long since given up reporting facts and letting viewers and readers draw their own conclusions.

SBS (Special Broadcasting Service) news has changed to a mixed news and current affairs program, changing from thirty minutes to one hour.


The claim is that this additional thirty minutes will add depth to the reporting. This viewer finds the reverse to be true. Instead of more news, what is offered are talking heads interviewing each other. That is, journalist talking to other journalists, or consultants ever eager for publicity. Enlightening, not.

Journalists have long since given up reporting facts and letting viewers and readers draw their own conclusions; they are now advocates for selected causes. The causes not selected do not get reported. Journalists now put words in the mouths of interview subjects and react aggressively if the subject does not accept the spoon feeding! “Are you saying …?” is the usual phrase.

Heretofore I preferred SBS news because it was crisp, moved fast to cover the ground in the time available so that there was no time for journalistic pontificating. I also thought there was a little more restraint in SBS News, and a little less advocacy than on the ABC.

I expect that to fill the hour that SBS now devotes to news, we viewers will be treated to even more pontificating from the instant experts that journalists are. Lucky us. More interviews by interviewers who are uninformed, unprepared, and tough! At least they do not yet yell at the camera to prove how tough they are, as is the case on Fox News. But no doubt that will be next. The purpose of such interviews is to make a star of the interviewer and not to reveal information. The purpose of an interview is not, say to allow advocates of competing points of view to give an exposition of their cases, leaving viewers to decide for themselves which is the more cogent. By no means.

SBS is one of Australia’s two public broadcasters, the other is the ABC.


Hmmm... Very interesting observations. There seems to be several inter-related factors involved in the steady decline of quality in news journalism. These might include cultural factors (such as our seemingly insatiable appetite for sensational coverage - although this poses a chicken-and-egg scenario as to which comes first, the media's sensational journalism or the public's appetite for it) and economic factors (even SBS has resorted to ad breaks during its programs), among others.

I strongly agree with what you say about the need for news to provide a credible basis of genuine dialogue, reflection and action for the people/society who consume it. This seems to be the salient point. The media should provide the informational stimulation for debate in the public sphere. Therefore such information should be as accurate and unbias as possible. But the question also arises: to what extent is it possible for the media to “separate” itself from that public sphere? Is it not part of it itself, and therefore subject to entrenched social biases and blind-spots? For instance, how should journalists or news outlets “select causes” even when trying to be objective? I suppose they would respond by saying that there news largely reflects the interests of their “consumers”, in which case you would hope the lack of profit-motive would at least help public broadcasters such as the ABC and SBS report more accurately.

But I think there is a complex moral question here about where social values leadership stems from. My own opinion is that the media needs to some extent transcend the pandering to market or consumer interests, and at least try to report as objectively as possible and select causes based on their social import, rather than their short-term attraction. At any one time, institutions can draw on different values: when the Asian tsunami hit media outlets could choose between more nationalistic values (and report disproportionately on the small number of Australian and Anglo victims) or they could choose cosmopolitan values (and report on the scale of the tragedy and who it primarily would affect). Appealing to higher order values is an important part of normative progress, and social institutions should be more conscious of how they are part of such processes. Otherwise, the risk is perpetual resorting to the status quo and increasingly frustrating news programs!

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