In the past couple of months, there have been 2 “messy” media stories about the personal lives and personal conduct of Commonwealth Parliamentarians. One story was about Barnaby Joyce broken by Sharri Markson in the Daily Telegraph and the Emma Husar story broken by Alice Workman in Buzz Feed.
Spartacus does not want to talk about the Joyce or Husar stories but rather about the response of the media elite to the stories. In both cases, overt and covert criticisms were made by the Australian journalist intelligentsia about whether such stories should have been produced. In the Joyce case because of the personal nature and in the Husar case because of the preliminary and salacious nature. Just this past week, Workman was interrogated by, among others, Barrie Cassidy and Fran Kelly on ABC programs about her decision making to report on some of the details.
To suggest that there is no public interest in the stories, especially as they go to the character of elected parliamentarians and also the use of tax payer resources seems out right wrong. What it does suggest however is that there seems to be a form of Stockholm Syndrome at play in Canberra whereby journalists develop a psychological alliance with their captors (politicians) as a survival strategy during captivity thus forcing them to pull their punches on stories that should be reported or otherwise to skew their stories. This goes well beyond personal political biases.
Jonathan Swan is a former Fairfax journalist who has now hit the big time in the US and is considered to have some of the best connections into the Trump administration and Congress. He is an Aussie done really good. In a recent interview, Swan was asked what is the difference between reporting politics in the US and Australia. Swan’s reply was that covering politics in Australia involved relationships with the Principals (the elected officials), most often directly through a mobile phone, whereas in the US, there are layers of intermediaries and staffers.
Does such a direct, personal and close relationship between Australian journalists and the politicians they cover affect their stories? You bloody well bet it does. Perhaps these journalist paragons of virtue actually consider and reflect on their journalistic methods and cognitive biases before they chose to lecture anyone else. And if they ultimately conclude that they are afflicted by Stockholm Syndrome, perhaps they should reassess their modus operandi.
It is notable that both Markson and Workman are both younger and more recent additions to this journalistic cabal. Let’s just hope they too don’t get captured.