Part 1. Australians: 'thoughtless', 'stupid', 'mean' or scapegoats?


  Sunday 1st March, 2020

Updated 14/4/20
🏫🎒- Introduction
This resource is focused on some of the media's role in reporting events around the Covid19 pandemic. Here, we present you with some contentious examples of journalistic reporting and ask you to think more deeply about the purposes...

... results and ethics of such reporting. The material can be used for responses in a range of subject areas including English, drama and art. You might find this material useful in writing an opinion piece of your own or use it as the basis of an analytical text.
- Stimulus/resources:
- SBD commentary: One of our interests is persuasive strategies in the media and how they may be used to influence whole sections of the population. Our starting point in these articles is that generalisations are often used to persuade and need extreme caution.
- Student challenges: One challenge may be disbelief that such reporting if truly reported could exist or be as calculated as it may appear.
- Student activities:
English- write your own report on this issue for Page 1 of your newspaper.
Drama- record a TV or radio report on this event

Swimming at Bondi, selfish hoarding, raiding country stores, ignoring advice. Thousands of us, it might seem, are thoughtless, stupid, mean or selfish. Should we feel ashamed of ourselves/our culture or is there an alternative, perhaps more disturbing explanation? Are these media attacks factual reporting or has the public and its reputation become a scapegoat for the conflicting messages in Australian news?

Some humans are selfish, some loving, some a mix. There were two angry incidents in our local area. In one, a disabled person was pushed out of a queue, in another a check-out attendant had a tin jammed on her hand. Societies however, manage ugly behaviour. Some social settings encourage, some discourage it. Even people with no feelings for others can behave quite well.

First Dog on the Moon... 'this doesn’t mean journalists should stop doing what they do best (holding the public to account). Political cartoonist;Guardian NB. 'First Dog on the Moon' is a 'satirist'.

The media is a source of news and a strong influence on social behaviour. In this cartoon, 'First Dog on the Moon' is having a go at the media. (His opinions are very strong but very funny- perhaps as long as you are not a target!)

His point (we think) is that quality media is supposed to hold the government to account- not to criticise the public. If the media is criticising the public, there is a problem. If you criticise the public for ignoring proper information, it can be reasonable but what if dominant media outlets can mislead and present biased, sensationalist views of current information?

Headlines can be used to distract readers from looking at media behaviour. If you blame the public, the public may turn on itself rather than on the media or the authorities.

Beach goers in breathtaking mass defiance of social-distancing measures Factual reporting or persuasive? What is the message?

The dominant news organisation in Australia had some of its leading journalists repeatedly saying that reports of the seriousness of the virus were complete exaggeration. Given this, why would those reading or seeing this believe the virus was serious? Why blame the young, old or in-between swimmers when they had been repeatedly told that everything was being exaggerated?

Media Watch ABC 9/3/20 showed how dominant media outlets had repeated articles about empty shelves in the early days of the virus. If reports suggested the store shelves were emptying, why blame the panicked public? (If reasonable reports say there could be a 'lockdown' at any minute, why wonder at public stockpiling?)

If news reports say some members of the public are getting special treatment, why wonder at public resentment and anger? The situation in Italy is sad beyond description but if Italians are not worried about bathroom shortages, it may be that their newspapers didn't show the pictures of empty toilet paper shelves. (Australia, England and America share a newspaper organisation.)

There has been a nasty element to some reporting. Are 'busloads' of shoppers (allegedly Asians) stripping regional shelves?

'Coles, Woolworths and Aldi say they are not aware of any bus tours of Asian tourists sweeping into regional towns to panic buy coronavirus supplies despite reports to the contrary.' Guardian Australia 21/3/2020

If false, as above suggests, why would a government minister and a media outlet be involved with such an unpleasant story? Could stories like these become fact? If students, say, are all punished for shoplifting, if a whole class is considered unruly and put into detention, would it make some think well, why bother being good?

Questions for discussion
1. Crowds of people are not expected to control themselves. How can they? How could shortages and unruly behaviour have been discouraged?
2. What are the effects of some of these headlines?
3. If the public feels ashamed of its culture, its fellow citizens, what might be the effects?
4. How would you have pre-planned a state's shopping so that it was orderly? (Remember though, there may have not been enough time or experience so perhaps we shouldn't start blaming others ourselves- or not too much anyway!)






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