IPA Today

Observers are getting emotionally invested

Written by
9 April 2021

Aaron Patrick was right to point out that the lines between journalism and activism are being blurred. It was also correct for journalists to point out horrible accounts of sexism and problems with the culture of politics.

It would be difficult to describe the journalists mentioned by Patrick as dispassionate, impartial observers, so “activist” is in fact a fair description.

However, as a liberal democracy we should be encouraging freedom of speech for everyone, even our media. It is another question entirely whether taxpayers should tolerate this kind of activism at the ABC.

Journalists shouldn’t get angry at being called activists. Part of the reaction to Patrick’s piece is that he has belled the cat that journalists are emotionally invested, they are no longer impartial observers that they seem to want to be viewed as. The same goes for journalists reporting on climate, religion and race.

After winning the Gold Walkley in 2019, Hedley Thomas said that Twitter is a waste of time for journalists who could be otherwise breaking stories, and that journalists are too plugged in to distracting audiences.

The problem with journalism in 2021 is that too many journalists spend all of their time between yarns on Twitter. Only 13.6 per cent of the Australian population has a Twitter account, even fewer monitor it every day.

Twitter is not even in the top 50 most trafficked sites in Australia. There are more Australians viewing the CarSales website, yet for some reason journalists are using Twitter as a vox pop for national sentiment. Is it any wonder many of them got the 2019 election wrong?

The use of Twitter by journalists is polarising the Australian media, it is turning usually sensible journalists’ into hyper-partisan activists. Part of the intense reaction to Patrick’s article is that journalists are in fact emotionally invested, and on this issue that is fair enough.

Just imagine the good that could be done on this issue if journalists were not worried about likes on a platform that only a small minority of Australians actually use.

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Evan Mulholland

Evan Mulholland is the Director of Communications at the Institute of Public Affairs

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