Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mercedes Overcome by Power

Sensationalism, chequebook journalism and ratings: three concepts you thought would escape you upon completing HSC Advanced English and ‘Frontline’ – though Anna Coren and the ‘Today Tonight’ team prove otherwise in the monotonous case of the Corby’s and the daft ex-best friend.

The portion of media interest and coverage on Schapelle and Mercedes Corby has been relentless and (overdone). Strangely enough, the media continues to bask in the tragically hopeless light that is the Corby’s. From pleas of “I’m innocent” to “the family’s embroiled in drug trafficking” to defamation cases – the courts, media and public have heard it all.

Although much has been said about Jodie Power (the ex-best friend) and Mercedes herself, perhaps the more alarming question is the conduct of the Channel Seven network in the latest controversy to plague the media and the judicial system.

‘Today Tonight’ secured an interview with Jodie Power, the “money-hungry” former friend by offering $120,000 and an all expenses paid trip to Canada. All in exchange for telling the “truth”: and by truth, we mean everything the network demanded to hear. Stuart Littlemore QC, representing Mercedes Corby in her defamation case against Seven, told the NSW Supreme Court that a letter to Ms Power from the network was “telling her what answers to give, otherwise she wouldn’t get the money”.

A pretty serious allegation when it involves entire fabrications. Locked in a battle with Channel Nine’s ‘A Current Affair’ to take the current affairs ratings title, Littlemore accused the network of degrading to dishonesty and deception.

It’s the classic example of chequebook journalism, where accessibility to the truth is hindered as journalistic integrity is compromised for economic success. Such is the paradoxical nature of the media – being locked in constant rivalry to outdo the other network thereby maintaining groundbreaking ratings, and to simultaneously uphold principles of integrity and honesty.

There in itself lies the obstruction. Satisfying society’s insatiable need for controversy and hearsay, the quick-fix for slipping ratings is a nod in the direction of falsities and trivialities; preventing the truth from being absolute, or even resolutely close to midway.

Power was portrayed as fearing retribution from her public statements, and as having fled the country in the first of the ‘Today Tonight’ programs to be aired. Is it any surprise that she had left the country 10 days earlier on a planned trip to Bali and Vanuatu – paid for entirely by Channel Seven?

‘Today Tonight’ apparently commissioned a viewer’s poll, where 82% found Ms Power’s account of the events to be credible, exemplifying just how effortless it is to construct your own truths and instil them into society. (Many will argue that the intended target audience are evidently gullible, unintelligible citizens who shouldn’t be afforded any credibility or intelligence… however it is a distressing sight when Today Tonight welds any influence over any capable person in society)

Call me naïve, but I had some hope in the principles behind journalism: it’s for this very reason I chose to do a journalism degree. But as questionable as this conduct is, to what extent is it apparent in real journalism? Would it still be naïve to hope real journalistic integrity exists in most of the media/public sphere? (…suffice to say, ‘Today Tonight’ falls outside of this category)

Maybe the fact that Ms Power lied is the issue as most media appears to be purporting. Or maybe it’s the willingness of the station to traverse ethical boundaries for economic profitability. Channel Seven’s passivity towards conceptualising truth and justice has taken advantage of a family that has arguably buried their own grave. This should provide no exemption: treating another’s private doings as a commodity in a collaborative effort to trivialise and sensationalise, effectively demeans the general role the media plays.

To belittle and lie to such grand extremes is also an insult to society’s intelligence.

It’s fairly relevant to note, and somewhat perplexing to hear the former head of the New York Times, John Swinden declare in 1953: “The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth, to lie outright, to pervert, to vilify… We are the tools and the vassals of rich men behind the scenes… Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.” Prostitutes of the intellectual variety or not, it’s pretty easy to see why half the world hates journalists.

Written by Bonita Silva who believes the Corby’s need to stop smuggling drugs and name their kids after real bogan names instead of brands they can’t afford.


Photo: Peter Morris @ SMH

7 comments:

Kester said...

i demand you to change the title to "mercedes A class?..or Mercedes NO class!"---cos im am so kewl

Stephanie Kok said...

Frontline! That series is gold!

I'm so sick of the Corby's...but even more sick of TT!

I wonder how they see themselves...do they think they're professionals in our field??

This is one of my motivations to write accurate stories...to show people that not everyone in the media is immoral and unethical.

Annette Lin said...

LOL Kester... Bonita, maybe you should get him to be your headline writer hahaha

Yeah, if I ever even THINK about being hired by TT or ACA... can you guys chain me in a dungeon until I come to my senses? Thanks.

Kester said...

why thank you miss annette its good to see my talent doesnt go to waste =) ....=P

Bonita Silva said...

*pats kester on the head*
ohhhh you actually thought you had talent. it's okay, we're all a little delusional sometimes... :P

Jun said...

i again with this kester fellow...some great ideas here
somebody should listen to him!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kester said...

I think i agree with you random stranger who im slowly becoming friends with. You truly must be an awesome person who knows best =D