Sunday’s episode of initiates showed viewers exactly what media bias is all about and how, come election time, even some of the most respected journalists can fall into the trap of playing double standards.
Despite some criticism of the Liberal Government’s election campaign, the discussion focused more on key moments than on actual politics.
political editor of news.comSamantha Maiden, began the discussion by stating that Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese needed “fine tune”since days before it could not provide the exact statistics of people currently unemployed in Australia.
At the same time, referring to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Maiden simply said that he had committed a “clumsiness” for not knowing the price of bread and milk.
Maiden’s false equivalency between the two failures shows how the anti-Labor media bias has flourished over the years.
Just last week in an article on the advertiserMaiden said:
‘Unlike the ‘gotcha’ questions put to Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the National Press Club earlier this year: what is the price of milk, bread and petrol? – these are not bouncing figures and he should have known the answers.’
Everyone can forgive a brain freeze from time to time.
Just think of student exams, that time when you’re asked a question you know the answer to, but just can’t pinpoint. A number that is rarely mentioned in everyday life.
However, for most Australians, the price of bread and milk is much easier to remember.
For Australians struggling to find jobs or facing the rising tide of underemployment, the exact statistic is less important than the consequences of that situation.
Let’s remember that the official employment figures do not include Australians who work casual hours and struggle to earn a living wage.
Perhaps this is where gotcha questions have their merit. Do not corner politicians in corners where statistics are regurgitated as if they were read in a spreadsheet: rehearsed and memorized, not felt or experienced. But instead, to highlight the broader social issues at play.
Unemployment, insecure work and failings in the welfare system have left a trail of vulnerable and sometimes angry Australians fighting to make their voices heard.
Both sides of politics have failed to adequately address this problem.
Scott Morrison has repeatedly told Australians that they will get “a fair chance for those who have a fair chance”by accepting no responsibility for the conditions that force people into precarious work and welfare.
Similarly, the Labor Party did not commit to a review or action to increase the jobseeker rate, instead choosing to emphasize an increase in social housing and rental assistance.
Maiden’s questions about Albanese and Morrison’s awareness of simple living costs may have been “trapped questions”, however a journalist can only “trap” you if you are not prepared.
Perhaps what Maiden meant was that during a federal election campaign all politicians should be doing their homework before facing the media.
Particularly when trying to show the public who can run the economy and understand the daily struggles of working and vulnerable Australians.
As a college student, young woman, and person with a physical disability in search of opportunities to earn a living, whether or not a statistic is remembered plays less in my mind than the actual policies that are or are not on the government’s agenda.
Not to mention the economic, gender, age, and ability biases that so often influence how people can or cannot get jobs.
Maiden said that the prices of bread and milk “Bounce Around” Is that supposed to be a reference to whether you opt for white, sourdough or brown, full cream, skim or lactose free?
As someone who has spent a lot of time counting every dollar before entering the supermarket, you soon remember that the price of 2 liters of skim milk is in the $2-$3 mark depending on the brand.
Semantic arguments about fluctuating commodity prices detract from the core problem of inequality and disadvantage.
Regarding the unemployment figures, perhaps instead of asking why Albanese didn’t know the answer, the media should ask why the consequences of unemployment and underemployment are more important issues in the public sphere.
We must not forget that journalists are, after all, the guardians of knowledge in society.
The media not only reports on political errors and failures, but journalists are also the ones who decide what is considered important enough to emphasize.
They are the ones who determine that the day-to-day consequences of rising costs of living, poor welfare, and housing are less important in the day-to-day news cycle than whether or not a politician is “on the ball” enough. take a fact out of the air in front of a camera.
As much as I respect journalists like Sam Maiden, maybe it’s the media that needs to “get better” and put inequality back on the public agenda.
That’s not to say that some journalists haven’t done just that.
Much remains to be done before structural inequality is given so much importance as a key moment.
Melissa Marsden is a passionate advocate for social justice and a self-confessed political junkie. You can follow Melissa on Twitter @MelMarsden96.
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