By Penny Hoffmann
The media has a huge responsibility as they shape public opinion and affects history. By reporting on or ignoring events, the media contributes to the historical record. Fake news can lead to uprisings that may not even be necessary because the problem doesn’t exist.
In the words of famous author George Orwell in his novel 1984:
“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”
Sadly, many are unaware as to how the media works. Critical thinking in relation to the media, particularly in terms of how information is collected and reported on, needs to be encouraged.
In historian Louis Gottschalk’s book titled “Understanding History”, the information collection process is explained:
“Only a part of what was observed in the past has been remembered by those who observed it; only a part of what was remembered was recorded; only a part of what was recorded has survived; only a part of what has survived has come to the historian’s attention; only a part of what has come to their attention is credible; only a part of what is credible has been grasped; and only a part of what has been grasped can be expounded or narrated by the author.”
Prerecorded interviews have many advantages that mostly benefit the media. Editing quotes in interviews makes news reporting flow better and makes those involved look better, but nonetheless it manipulates what people have said. Important points can be left out.
An example of the media editing quotes via prerecorded interviews includes Isaac Butterfield’s interview on The Project in New Zealand.
Isaac Butterfield, an Australian YouTuber and comedian, featured on The Project New Zealand after Facebook took down his video, ‘The Actual Difference Between Australia and New Zealand’, because it was deemed to be racist.
In the interview, Isaac mentions the comedic nature of his video:
“These were polite jabs at the beautiful country of New Zealand.”
One of the hosts tried to dramatize Butterfield’s original video by asking if his content is suitable for his seven-year-old daughter:
“Do you target a specific audience, Isaac? I mean, do you worry who sees the videos? Would it be suitable for my seven-year-old daughter for instance?”
This was Butterfield’s response:
“Ah certainly not. But you as a parent should be in control of what your seven-year-old is watching. There’s far worse things on the internet than poor bearded old me.”
Isaac, in his YouTube video response, discussed the problem with prerecorded interviews; the footage can be edited to make the hosts and anyone the media likes have a better reputation:
“Now you may be wondering… that lady called me a jerk and i just said ‘thanks guys’ and smiled politely. That’s not how it actually happened, that’s an edit. I did hit her back with something, some type of joke, i can’t remember. I should have recorded it just for these type of purposes but, this is the thing with TV, is that they can edit it to make them look fantastic.”
Butterfield also discussed speaking time limits and how they do not capture the interviewee’s full view:
“So there’s a few things that annoyed me about that, was the way they spoke about me when i was off there and didn’t actually let me speak my mind on those certain subjects. Only having a minute and thirty seconds to get my point across… that’s just never going to happen.”
Before these interview even occur, those involved are told what they can and can’t say.
an Australian YouTuber known as “FriendlyJordies”, political commentator and comedian, called out the mainstream media and corporations masquerading as media for making irrelevant jokes and dodging important situations that nations face.
“You know what the media doesn’t do a lot of reporting on? Things that matter. Things that could affect, to quote that German Springfield historian, “you and your children and your children’s children.”
Newspaper journalism is also clearly not exempt from editing. During interviews, notes are either recorded via audio or a notepad. Newspapers are usually heavily structured in terms of the placement of photos, the word limit for the title, byline and general information, for aesthetic purposes. Editors review the articles that their journalists write and make the final alterations before publishing occurs.
To elaborate further, photos are placed in a sequence in order to prevent your eyes from running off the page. Poses by the interviewees for photos (smiles, handshakes, positioning of flags), camera angle, tweaking of photos via Photoshop for example, and choice of background all usually suit the desires of the writer and editor.
It is important to recognize corruption in the media because of it’s important role it has in regards to the historical record. It is usually difficult for beginner journalists to get media jobs, and, because of this, job seekers will sometimes do anything just to have some experience. This means that they can be subject to fraud.
In Queensland, the Federal Circuit Court ordered Touchpoint Media to pay $570,000 as they underpaid twenty three journalists.
Judge Tony Young stated this in his judgement:
“I am satisfied that there was an element of exploitation involved with young employees that would have been less likely to occur with older or more experienced employees.”
Some media companies may not even feature work experience journalists when it comes to photo credit or article drafting, so the author of the article could be the journalist who worked with the work experience student.
The media can be restricted in terms of what they can report on by the government. People who work for the government can even infiltrate the media. People from intelligence agencies have, in the past, employed journalists to collect information from media companies, and sometimes even disseminate misinformation to lead the public astray. This has happened in the US, for example (Operation Mockingbird) where reportedly three dozen American newsmen were either on the payroll or worked in some sort of contract relationship with the CIA beginning from 1973.
On April 27, 1996, the former CIA director who reported on this, William Colby, was found dead in the water after a canoe trip at Rock Point, Maryland. His death was reportedly “accidental”.
The media can even have a really important topic to discuss but not realize its importance by asking interviewees irrelevant questions. For example, Australian Labor politician Bill Shorten’s interview on The Project Australia.
Throughout the interview, Shorten was bringing up serious points, such as this one:
“What people want from me, and what people want from politics in general, is focus on policies that help everyday people.”
But what did one host respond with?
“But, hypothetically, would you think of putting heat lamps in the bathroom?”
Shorten only had less than three minutes to discuss how he is “trying to work out how to avoid another big wipeout, after the Liberals were crushed at the Victorian state election”. Why does irrelevant nonsense need to cut his time to speak? He has an important role as a politician; he helps to run the nation of Australia.
Here is another example of Shorten being asked useless questions during the interview:
Shorten: “Tell you what, the numbers on me were the same before the state election as they are now. But we’re doing pretty well. We’re doing well because we focus on people. More and more i’ve decided between now and the election, talk less about the government and more about the people. People just want us to get on with our jobs, and when your kids can’t get an apprenticeship, or your kids in their twenties and thirties are trying to buy their first home and they haven’t got enough for the deposit because the price of housing is high-”
Female host: “What about the'”
Shorten: “That’s what people are worried about, right?”
Female host: “Mr Shorten, well, what about your sausage eating style? Could that play into it? I mean…”
Some, maybe most or all mainstream media companies have access to police radio transmissions. This is to hear live events such as accidents, which is why the media knows where to arrive in order to cover them. The media is allowed to access this audio to check if emergency services are doing their jobs properly, but also to cover crimes done by the public.
There is a large problem with sponsor-media relations in regards to advertising. Sponsors pay media companies if their products are promoted via advertisement sections in newspapers, on the radio, and in television programs. The media benefits from it’s sponsors because they are their only source of income.
YouTuber FriendlyJordies called out Buzzfeed for not reporting on their own sponsor, Streets Icecream, cutting staff wages:
“When earlier this year Streets Icecream attempted to halve it’s staffs wages, which, thanks to the Liberal party is like chicks dying their hair pastel colours, what happened to the workers at Street’s Icecream could now happen to anyone on the wage, and Buzzfeed refused to report on it because Street’s Icecream sponsors Buzzfeed.”
When showing an article titled “Buzzfeed Crew Shocked to Discover They Have Testosterone Level of a 12-Year-Old Boy (Video)”, FriendlyJordies exposes the corruption mentioned above that many media organisations are guilty of doing, by responding with this:
“Think about how amoral these testosterone-deprived gollums must be when they willingly and consistently withhold information of that magnitude from their readers for money.”
This leads to the following question: who owns the media? The owners are not journalists themselves, or the editors who edit the articles, but rather sponsors who have the power to affect what is reported on via capitalism. Other than sponsors, the law also regulates what the media can and can’t do, but if media companies are subject to corporate powers such as the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), they are protected more.
Rupert Murdoch is an American-Australian media mogul. As the CEO of News Corp, Murdoch controls a media empire comprised of Fox News, The Times of London and The Wall Street Journal. These are just some of the many media companies.