The media and the PM – is there dissonance?

“[His] answer, as always, is work and persistence.  His schedule of travel and engagements reads like an election itinerary.  Government sources say his advance teams are going flat out.  He never misses an opportunity to grab a headline, giving opinions on everything from Arthur Boyd to rugby league to the troubles of Phil Coles.  And day after day he is on talkback radio, striving to develop some kind of matey relationship with ordinary Australians that, Hawke-like, he so obviously craves. [He] is unlikely to achieve that bond with the electorate that, for a few years, Bob Hawke enjoyed, but it will not be for the want of trying.” 

Who is he? [more]

With all the criticism that has been heaped by the media on Kevin Rudd for his ‘preoccupation with the media cycle’ it might be expected that ‘he’ refers to Rudd, although some readers may suspect that those named point to an earlier era and conclude correctly that ‘he’ is John Howard.

The quote is from a piece by Laurie Oakes in his Power Plays column in The Bulletin, published on16 May 1999, a decade ago.

It’s remarkable what a short memory the media seems to have.  Those of us who have lived through the Howard years know that the ‘preoccupation with media cycle’ started long before Rudd came on the scene.  We heard Howard on talkback radio and saw him on TV day after day.  Can anyone remember the media working itself into a lather about Howard’s love of the media?  If so, please remind us all.  When Peter Beattie was Premier of Queensland, in his usual disarming style he readily acknowledged he was ‘a media tart’.  This was good-humouredly accepted by the media; I can no recall no trenchant criticism.

Rudd, with Joe Hockey, cut his teeth in the media on Channel Seven’s Sunrise programme where they appeared together regularly.  Although their conversation was political, it was a light-hearted dialogue about contemporary issues.  It was popular.  Other channels envied Channel Seven’s scoop.  Also Rudd was a frequent guest on TV and talkback radio on matters related to his shadow portfolio – Foreign Affairs.  So even before Rudd became Opposition leader he was well known in the media and frequently sought after.  So it should not surprise us when he became Leader of the Opposition that he looked for opportunities to appear in the electronic media to match the established habits of Howard.

Howard started, and Rudd continued what was for both an awareness of the media cycle and its power in promoting oneself and one’s ideas and plans.  So it’s curious that the media has been so critical of what they see as Rudd’s ‘domination by the media cycle’.  The criticism is accompanied by a deduction that Rudd and his Government are therefore ‘all spin and no substance’.  Such disparagement was widespread in the media in the first year of the Rudd Government, but seems to have died down somewhat as the Government now engages in feverish and visible activity.  The Opposition still uses the ‘all spin’ accusation, and occasionally journalists such as Paul Kelly have a sideswipe at the Government over specific instances of what he sees as spin.

Consider though who it is that still criticize Rudd for what is regarded as his obsession with the media cycle.  It does not seem to be the electronic media – TV and radio.  It seems to be only too happy to have any number of politicians, and of course the party leaders, on air any number of times.  In fact there are complaints when the politicians refuse.  No, it’s the print journalists who seem to complain most about the ‘Rudd fixation’, both in their news outlets and when they appear on political programmes such Insiders.  So the dissonance is not between the media and the PM as much as it is between the electronic and print journalists.  Why is this so?

A plausible explanation may be that journalists in the electronic media live in a different world, in a different era from that of print journalists.  The former accept the unrelenting hunger of the electronic media for news, every minute, every hour, every day, while the print journalists are used to a more leisurely pace, although the parallel presence of an online version, many with blog opportunities, ought to be dragging them, perhaps reluctantly, into the electronic age.

This piece suggests that the dissonance is not between Rudd and the media as the print journalists like to suggest, but between the electronic and print journalists.  It’s time the print journalists caught up and entered the age of fast moving media, something Rudd has already done, and stop complaining about Rudd because he happens to be jump ahead of them.  The world has changed.

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Bilko

3/06/2009What sort of spin are the Coalition and the nedia going to put on todays Nat Accnts "they would have been better under us" roll on QT

Bilko

3/06/2009oops nedia = media

Sir Ian Crisp

3/06/2009Ad Astra, I’m glad you mentioned Bob Hawke and his matey relationship with Australians. At the time of his reign it was said he enjoyed an approval rating of 60%. The other 40% were ALP supporters. There is no doubt that the Psycho Chook is a facient individual. Let’s all hope he’s taking us in the right direction. Full marks to the Psycho Chook for using the media to sell his message. However, therein lies the problem. The Chook and the meeja have a mutual cathexis, one for the other. The fourth estate, acting like prescient vultures following a lame horse, will confect a story even if there is no story. They will try to convince us that they know the real Chook. The bad tempered Chook; the preening Chook; the louche Chook, and so on. Now the fourth estate is imagining that the Psycho Chook prefers the use of immediate media – TV and radio – rather than the print media. I think I can detect a bit of jealousy on the part of the print media on this occasion. If he wants to use the media, the Psycho Chook must take the good with the bad. He’ll get a pat on the back for the opening of a hospital but he can also expect a boot up the freckle for chucking a princess type tantrum over the absence of a hair drier. That’s life.

janice

3/06/2009I think it is the fact that print media is choking to death in the face of our new technology. The internet, in particular, is making it almost impossible for the print media to survive in this new era. Murdoch has been thinking aloud and hinted that a way out might be to sell subscriptions for access to his newspapers on line - can't see that working very well though judging by the responses I read to this suggestion. I think that if the print media got out of the gutter and began concentrating on providing quality reporting, analysis and information based on truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, there could well be a niche for them. Bilko, did you happen to read Ross Gittens' article in today's SMH? Under the title 'Debt and Policicians' sleight of hand' it presents a good case for voters to be wary of swallowing political lines of fear and gloom. Then, of course, there are those who swallow, hook line and sinker, the juicy tit-bits put out by hum bugs and gossip mongers who are out to bring as many good people down to their level in the gutter as is possible. The 'hairdryer' incident is one such load of untruthful humbug that only those already in the gutter would believe and repeat.

Ad astra reply

3/06/2009Bilko, QT was an exercise in denial by the Opposition of the reality of the growth in the Australian economy according to the National Accounts for the March Quarter. Their questions were negative and they were answered with vigour. How they could keep leading with their chin, and getting slaughtered by the answers is a mystery. And even after QT was over, Malcolm Turnbull still persisted with the debt and deficit story an ‘a matter of public importance’. He repeated the same mantra we’re heard over and again. He’s applying the Goebbels principle. Sir Ian, Psycho Chook would be pleased with the credit you give him for his use of the media, but might be mystified by your reference to the hair dryer, which seems to be yet enough piece of media fantasy. janice, I agree that if the papers upped their editorial performance, if they reported the truth, and if they provided balanced commentary, they might find some willing to pay a subscription. Ross Gittins article was sound. http://business.smh.com.au/business/debt-and-politicians-sleight-of-hand-20090602-bub3.html He made it clear that the Debt Truck the Coalition had driving around the countryside to remind everyone of the country's debt was loaded with net [b]foreign[/b] debt, debt that they promised to reduce, which in fact escalated from around $200 billion to about $600 billion during the Howard/Costello years. This debt was not the debt to which the Coalition now refers; it was [b]foreign[/b] debt, which has been steadily reducing since this Government's election. In fact today Joe Hockey acknowledged that foreign debt was the lowest it has been for many years, and went on to insist that this was the reason the National Accounts were favourable today, much more so than the Government’s stimulus packages, which the Coalition desperately wants to discount.

Bilko

3/06/2009AA I always save RG's cols he is one the most unbiased journalists around, in fact most of the financial ones are, with the exception of T McCrann who blows everything out of all proportion like a Tv add etc. Anyway we all know that only Lib debt is good all others bad.

Hoodia Slankepiller

20/07/2009Great write up - Thank you for sharing..
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