PART TWO: Ethics, celebrity and the people who own the narrative

As covered in part one of this introductory series, the media is drawn into a 24/7 news cycle that is supported by controversy adverse advertisers whom they rely on for profits to continue.  In this article, we’ll look at the shunning of journalistic integrity and other slights against the ethics of old, the rise of the celebrity anchor and the owners of the popular, profitable narratives.  Narratives we rely on to shape our worldview and understand the complex relationships which shape everything from global security to local government candidacy and a lot of things in between.  Having contravened the narrative being globally espoused, an editor of a once-great publication who shall remain nameless, lambasted this publication for sharing opinions which lacked the support of the mainstream media.  A somewhat illogical circle; we exist because we believe the media has done enough to convince us their agendas trump truth and so we don’t look to them to validate the concerns and hypotheses we have.  We categorically state, do not look to us and our sources for absolutes but do allow us to broaden the depth of field established by money hungry, fame seeking, politically biased anchors, agencies and firms seeking to manipulate your mindset and numb you to the realities of the world being shaped around you. 

The Ethics Ascribed to Journalism?

Well first things first, I am no ethicist and will almost definitely not do this intriguing topic justice.  However, I’ve typed the heading and must start somewhere and will start with a basic overview of ethical journalism from a range of different, far more authoritative sources than myself.  The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance  urges their members to commit to honesty, fairness, independence and respect for the rights of others. They ask their members to subscribe to the Code of Ethics found in the link above.  The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics can also be found here and espouses many of the same values, using similar language, which I’ll say causes a huge challenge.  At this point, I’m so overwhelmed by the task of assessing each one on its merits and the multitude of transgressors that I can only suggest each reader of this piece, reads them and evaluates their news sources against the standard and determines in their own mind where their sources come out on the scale of ethical representation.

At a corporate level, one need only look to the swathes of information available which point to these standards being ignored and eschewed to support political allies and shape elections.  Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism is given a 7.6/10 by over 5,000 people on IMDB and provides excellent insights from Fox insiders who substantiate significant claims of assigned narratives, psychological manipulation, enormous political bias, blatant dishonesty and a raft of other transgressions.  CNN is not beyond shaping minds according to their self-serving interests either.  Most recently we see their shameful treatment of dissenting opinion  and the threats a news lead made when the facts kept coming.  Then there’s the allegations that a CNN and ABC contributor provided the Clinton campaign advanced warning of upcoming town hall content.  Australia is not immune. We have seen editors of failing broadsheets launch personal vendettas, lie about them and subsequently settle in court for a huge sum.  A sum that for all intents and purposes, left the victim of the animosity significantly out of pocket, for highlighting that which is a major ethical fail for the major publication and a direct contravening of all four tenets of the ethical codes discussed earlier.

Corporate media while large in scale rests in the hands of a few – hands that know which side of the political fence feed their profit, serve their own agenda and expect a level of loyalty in return. The critique of Expositor I mentioned earlier, came from the national editor of a publication invested in by Mr Murdoch himself and while there was some validity in the critique, the manner in which it was carried out and its reasoning were indicative of the mentality in large media companies.  In closing on this point, it’s clear society needs more than the status quo to understand the reality in which they find themselves and this need can and should be met by independent media agencies with a desire to go deeper than money.

The Rise of the News Celebrity

Bill O’Reilley, Shaun Hannity, Anderson Cooper, Megyn Kelly, Leigh Sales, Waleed Aly and the list goes on.  As famous for their opinion as they are for their responses to those who disagree with them. The fostering of open discourse is done in a similar fashion to a spaghetti Western. Good guy, bad guy and a very clear winner; with the loser being denounced as a conspiracy theorist, a fool or worse, run out of town on the horse they rode in on.  The winner is invited back again and again until they decide to not play by the rules or they are replaced by a more convincing shill.

Take Waleed Aly an Australian journalist, whose meteoric rise is not totally unjustified and whose popularity only increases with each powerful editorial, preaching down the camera with an eloquence that is as rare as his intelligence (on Australian television as least). However, just wait until the topic of gay marriage comes up and his self-preservation instincts kick in.  A Muslim, Waleed sits back and lets conservatives cop a pasting for their views on ‘marriage equality’ while he escapes alienating himself, his religion and his viewers.   This illustration only serves to highlight the maintaining of a persona which is marketable and profitable; whether it’s Aly who wishes to make his views known and is held back by his bosses or he realises their unpopularity and is happy to sit back while his colleagues slam anyone who dares resist the tide of popular opinion.  Now, you may think that this is counter to my argument, that Aly is just ensuring he remains unbiased. However, his brand is built on editorialisation of current topics and his swerving on topics that contravene his religion’s position while he sits idly as other conservatives get smashed is a protective mechanism which is arguably unethical. This protection of personal brand and his refusal to use his popularity to resist the narrative is indicative of the problem that is being addressed here.  Media is a market, eyes mean money and parent companies and their subsidiaries dare not let eye-winning popularity be compromised.  He presents as an astute protector of national values, but in not representing conservatives like himself, he breaches his convictions in favour of survival and profitability.  The uncompromising compromiser.  He’s not alone but this example highlights the core problem, everyone has an opinion in the media, it’s often only the popular and organisationally defined that get publication and air time.

Another interesting piece about Australian media’s obsession with a story no matter the ethical cost can be found here.

Who Owns the News? 

Read this piece at Business Insider.  It says about all you need to know.  It’s hard to go beyond this article without moving into the realms of A Beautiful Mind, connecting dots and relationships that may or may not be harmless.  The general concern I’m voicing here, is the weight of public opinion in America rests in the hands of 0.000087% of the population.  Society needs more people sharing insight and those of other wiser heads, which is the main inspiration for this publication.  We will never silence commentators, we will share the views of the left and the right and allow those opposing to counter. Balance is key in this world of information and each individual should have the right to create their own middle.

I hope this opinion piece has encouraged thought and challenged you to look a little deeper, we will be posting a list soon of a global selection of media firms who present facts from a range of different angles.

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