The more I started looking around for information to an article I am writing, I eventually realised that one of the things which has upset many in the media was to a limited extent the sort of person I saw in the mirror in the morning. It is not because of my abilities, but the fact that I no longer have to rely on the magnanimity of the editors of the local newspaper, to get my opinions published. Back in those days, when I was annoyed about something a politician or other person had done or said, I’d write a letter to the editor (initially on paper, and then by e-mail), and it might be published three to four days later. The magnanimity of the editors, and the space available for publication, were limited such that I was lucky to get anywhere near half of them published. Now every ‘letter’ I write gets published here.
It is the immediacy of the internet and the democratisation of opinion which has changed things. It is one of the bugbears of many of the current crop of journalists. So many of the real journalists (i.e. those not in the employ of Murdoch), sometimes publish abject rubbish and are immediately taken to task for it. This led to one of those most limited of journalists, Chris Uhlmann1 calling Twitter users “sewer rats” and so many of the other, similarly limited journalists, seemed to agree with him2. Many of the users of Twitter used this moniker as a badge of honour.
Now so many journalists are writing stories about former Prime Minister Scott Morrison bemoaning his multiple ministries and how the secrecy around them was indefensible3.
While nobody knew about the multiple ministries story until it broke in the mainstream media in August, 20224, many online knew what Morrison was like. Stories relating to the constant lying by Morrison on so many other topics were not to be seen in the mainstream media, only in some of the smaller outlets like Crikey5, the Independent6, and to a lesser extent, the Guardian. Indeed, nowhere in the mainstream media (Murdoch, Stokes and Nine) will you see a dossier of Morrison’s lies, like those that appear in Crikey or the Independent. However, such lies as Morrison constantly spouted were called out time and again by the ‘sewer rats’ of Twitter. Some of their pointers provided the raw material for essays on this blog7-10.
I think there are several reasons the mainstream media are so hopeless. Firstly, they are frightened that if they write something less than flattering of the government, or the opposition for that matter, they will be discriminated against when one or other politician wants to give them an exclusive. Secondly, the mainstream media are owned by corporations who benefit from the tax decreases which are largely at the whim (and ideological bent) of neoliberal governments. Thirdly, they are tied to the old media model which takes a relatively long period of time to go from writing a story to publication. Fourthly, they look upon any criticism as a personal affront, and immediately circle the wagons, and some of their lesser lights call those critics “sewer rats”.
It is the immediacy of sites like Twitter which will catch these people out every time, just like they caught Morrison out. It is probably one of the reasons that Morrison has a similar view of Twitter to that of Uhlmann.