Well, certainly wearing a mask walking down the streets of Melbourne makes no sense at all
Brendan Murphy, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, March 9.
The philosopher Mary Midgley styles her own writing as that of a critic. She means something urgent by this – not something academicInTheBadSense. This publicly available essay is a great read on the subject as usual from my mate Mary, but here’s a passage from elsewhere to give you the sense of it:
Plumbing and philosophy are both activities that arise because elaborate cultures like ours have, beneath their surface, a fairly complex system which is usually unnoticed, but which sometimes goes wrong. In both cases, this can have serious consequences. Each system supplies vital needs to those who live above it. Each is hard to repair when it does go wrong, because neither of them was ever consciously planned as a whole.
In that spirit, I present this close reading of a recent news article by David Speers. He’s an excellent case study because he works hard for his reputation of being even-handed, even in the culture of abusive partisanship that prevailed when he was in the Murdoch stable.
Also, journalists keep up an incredible pace of output which puts me in awe of them. So we shouldn’t judge them by the standards of those who have much more time to consider their view. Nevertheless, Speers’ article presents an excellent example of what I call ‘the journalist as courtier’. My critique amounts to these points which shouldn’t really make much higher cognitive demands on the journalist.
- While journalists’ job is to report the doings of power, they should do so in an open-minded and, where appropriate, critical way, particularly when reporting governments’ reasoning.
- In reporting disagreements between the government and its inevitable critics, the journalist should be fair to those critics whose points are worth reporting. It is journalists’ job to foster this debate as part of their critical role in democratic deliberation in our political system. Thus they should be putting such critics’ views to government and reporting their response to the public.
- It is understandable that the journalist wishes to entertain their audience – but they should entertain the reader whilst attending to the debate they’re reporting. Here the debate, which is supposed to be the subject of the report, plays no structural role in the reporting/analysis. It’s just part of the scenery – along with various bromides about ‘tough choices’ – life and death no less.
- This effectively neuters the media’s second most important function – after informing the public of facts – its role in subjecting power and authority to scrutiny.