A Disturbing Trend in the Media

The way in which the media report on news has a huge impact on the view of culture of people or a nation and is often shaped (or manipulated) by the politicians who control them and the language they use. You can observe this daily, simply by reading the headlines. News should be impartial, factual and unbiased.

In research released in 2017, the ‘Who Watches the Media’ report found that of 124 race-related opinion pieces published between January and July 2017 in Australia, 62 were potentially in breach of one or more industry codes of conduct, because of racist content. Research echoes the findings of the UN expert panel on racial discrimination, which reported last week that racist media debate was on the rise in Australia. The UN recommended the Australian media “put an end to racist hate speech” in print and online and adopt a “code of good conduct” with provisions to ban racism.

It is not only racism that is an issue

Patriarchy, supremacy, homophobia and simply biases are also an issue which are unfortunately often emphasised and supported by world leaders through the language they use. As the news of the New Zealand shooting unfolded last year, we saw various publications around the world whitewashing the crime and hesitating to use the word terrorist. The Australian Courier Mail called the shooter a “working class madman.” (In spite of the PM of New Zealand immediately labelling his acts as a terrorist attack).

An article by the Australian Associated Press labels the ‘shocking’ invisible barrier faced by Indigenous people as three out of four Australian hold a racial bias against Indigenous people. Holding a bias does not mean you are racist, but it is crucial to be aware of your biases and manage them accordingly.

Asians were also not spared during Corona virus reporting. The Melbourne Herald with their front page headline: “Chinese Virus Pandemonium” and the Daily Telegraph with headline: “China Kids Stay Home” not only reeks of racism, but ricochets world leaders who set an example by referring to  the Virus as a ‘Chinese Virus’ or Australia’s PM openly denying slavery ever taking place in Australia, with history and photographs clearly contradicting this. The Wall street Journal featured an opinion piece titled: “China is the Real Sick Man of Asia”, unsurprising leading to Beijing (and many others) taking offence. Some of this misinformation triggered xenophobic attacks and abuse.

Media Watch in Australia showed a heavy anti-labour bias by News Corporation papers.

With the News Corporation split in 2013, most of the companies were acquired by Walt Disney. With Rupert Murdoch still remaining chairman on both companies, one must wonder how this culture will continue to filter down throughout the organisations, including to our children. Fairfax (now Nine), The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age were roughly equivalent.  Fox News and various channels reporting on sports also slant to a particular angle of presenting that is no doubt bias.

Women in the media are also not spared with an industry shaped by men and masculine angles. Virginia Haussegger, Chief Editor of BroadAgenda reports an experience where she got offered a media job with an instruction to not do stories about “blacks, poofs and spastics.” This reminds me of how we often see rape portrayed in the media. Fox News reported on “Tennessee mom who gave birth while in coma dies three years after waking”. It did not read rape victim who fell pregnant by rapist dies three years after baby is delivered by caesarean.

There are countless bias, racist, sexist, and homophobic pieces of news around the world.

They are filled with prejudice and impartial viewpoints influencing their readers and our impressionable children. Yes, there are some great reporters, but unfortunately there is also a disturbing trend in the media.

Global cultural strategist, Tanya Finnie, is the founding principal of RedHead Communications. Working with middle managers, executives, teams and individuals; she drives growth of situational awareness, innovation and in-house culture to create more collaborative teams thriving on their diversity. Tanya has the ability to fuel organisations towards successful, positive outcomes through the implementation of tailor-made programs and workshops.