Sunday, 15 May 2011

Commentariat Scam! Slammed, Slapped Down and Told to Take a Hike.

Do you, like me, despair at the quality of Australian jounalism? 

I'm not talking about the sort of tabloid journalism you see on shows like 60 Minutes or newspapers like The Courier Mail.  There, at least, we have balance.  "Tenants From Hell" is balanced by "Landlords From Hell".  "Small Businesses Rip Off Customers" is balanced by"Big Businesses Rip Off Contractors".  "Government Bungling" is balanced by "Welfare Cheats".  It's awful but there's not much we can do about it.  As a wise man once said, "you can't stop the birds from flying but you don't have to let them nest in your hair".

 No, what raises my blood pressure is when tabloid habits start to leak over into supposedly serious sources like the ABC, the Sydney Morning Herald or The Australian.  I know they have tight deadlines, but if we don't stop this leakage then before long our brains will be turned to porridge. 

To help prevent this tragedy, I'm putting out there for public comment a list of words that should be permanently banned from news coverage.  Here they are.

1. Hike
As in "Reserve Bank Announces Interest Rate Hike".  This word is intended to create drama and outrage, suggesting that the rate increase, despite being only 0.25%, is extreme, unconscionable and will cause widespread economic and social destruction. 

Possible alternatives - increase, rise.  (The word "hike" would still be permitted in reference to long walks in the rainforest.)

2. Scam
As in "Electricity Scam Exposed".  This word is used to suggest fraud and deception on a grand scale without actually using the word "fraud", since fraud is a crime and the newspaper could be sued for accusing somebody of it.  Hence when you see the word "scam" you should instantly be aware that someone is being accused of something that may or may not be wrong, or even happening.

Possible alternatives - "There Might Be A Problem With Your Electricity Bill, Perhaps You Should Check".

3. Slam
As in "Unions Slam New Workplace Laws".  Apart from being deleted on suspicion because it rhymes with "scam", this word is used to heighten the sense of conflict in relation to the issue at hand, even if the unions only disagree with 5 clauses in the 150 clause piece of legislation.

Possible alternatives - "criticise", "disagree with", "seek changes to".

4. Slapped Down
As in "Today the Prime Minister slapped down unions over changes to workplace laws."  This is another term used to heighten the sense of conflict and has the added bonus of providing a vivid visual image.  Vivid but totally misleading.  Slapping someone is a criminal offence.

Possible alternatives - "refused to listen to", "disagreed with".

5. Commentariat
As in "the commentariat will scorn Mr Abbott's views."  This word is used as a term of abuse by newspaper columnists, usually those of a right-wing persuasion, about other newspaper columnists with less conservative views.  The word is intended to say to the reader, "I'm not one of those, you can trust me."  Whenever you point the finger at someone else there are three pointing back at you, Mr or Ms Right Wing Commentator!

Possible alternatives - "people who disagree with me", "people I don't like".

Do you have other words to add to my hate list?


Brad McCoy said...

"Carbon tax"?

Also, how about "science" or "scientists" as though they are a homogenous group of people, eg. "scientists believe such and such. I find that one a tad annoying.

Judith said...

Actually I think I'm more annoyed by what's happening, and by what's not being reported, than by the language used to describe it. Take this morning. Another domestic homicide including a child. Meanwhile the state government is "slashing" funding for DV related services and initiatives. Take Campbell Newman running for the state after "gutting" Council. I wouldn't mind if those words were used to report stuff that I agree with!

Jon said...

"Slashing" and "gutting" - now there's some words that we could do without in relation to politics - unless we're referring to the way they do politics in Liberia.

Brad McCoy said...

Today: "RESOURCES Minister Martin Ferguson has slapped down a demand by the Greens for a ban on new coalmines, declaring the coal industry has a bright future."

Jon said...

Don't they know about the ban?