Yesterday I came across a fairly innocuous story about the seafood industry on AM.
It is headlined (on the website) and introduced thus.
Australia’s seafood capital under pressure from imports
TONY EASTLEY: Port Lincoln calls itself Australia’s seafood capital. On South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, it’s home to the nation’s largest commercial fishing fleet.
It’s a major exporter of both wild and aquaculture products, but it’s coming under increasing pressure from imports.
For instance, it’s reported that around half of the barramundi consumed in Australia comes from Asia. Barramundi is known by many around the world as Asian seabass, although its scientific common name is barramundi perch.
Then the actual story begins.
TIM JEANES: Sitting by a boat ramp next to the city’s maritime museum, one of Port Lincoln’s pioneer tuna fishermen Hagen Stehr looks out to the waters of Spencer Gulf and sees good times ahead thanks to China.
You might notice that contra to the introduction, Mr Stehr seems neither “under pressure”, nor concerned about imports. In fact, he seems very positive about the future of his industry. You may even notice that Port Lincoln’s Barramundi industry is much more impaired by the difficulties a tropical fish faces in the Southern Ocean than the spectre of imports.
In fact, the entire premise of the introduction is not supported, and indeed is only tangentially related to the actual report.
I don’t get why our media does this. I don’t know why casual dishonesty leaks through every aspect of what they do.
You might ask why this matters. Surely this is an innocuous and harmless topic, buried in a morning program, unlikely to influence anyone in service of any ideology or vested interest? After all Mr Stehr, the relevant vested interest here as the unidentified founder of Cleanseas, is not asking for protectionism here but a reduction of trade barriers.
So who decided that a “under pressure from imports” framing was called for, and why are we told, without any support at all, that this is the case?
It is the sheer lack of reasons to distort the story that makes it so disturbing. It’s dishonesty in service of no-one. It’s become such a routine part of the practice that one needs not a proprietor, some vested interests or ones own reputation as a player to spark it. You don’t even need the conceit of a clever “angle” to sex up a story to attract the shrinking pool of people who accept the bullshit. It’s just how things are done.
If we can’t trust them to cut back on the bullshit on even the most unimportant, innocuous topics, how can we ever hope to trust them on anything that really matters. We don’t have the energy to scour each line of an article to check whether the quote in the headline was actually said by anyone except the journalist. We don’t have time to check whether the accusation in a story has any actual evidence, or indeed an identified source. We don’t have time to see if the bold pronouncement of a headline is supported by anything in the article itself, as in this AFR (paywalled) article which bases its pronouncement of current fact on a future hypothetical by Trevor Cook at the end.
So people tune out.
It loses them respect, it poisons debate, and it is sending them bankrupt. So why do they do it?
My only guess is that the banality of bullshit is so great that they know no other way.
[fn1] Except regrettably the ABC, who can maintain the iron tropes of inanity in perpetuity.