Part 2. Stockpiling? Latest information may throw a new light on media stories and the 'selfish public'.

  Friday 3rd April, 2020

Updated 14/4/20
🏫🎒- Introduction (as for Part 1)
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

By Visuals through Upsplash

With the arrival of Covid19, sections of the media made a number of dramatic claims about disturbing public behaviour. SBD looked at some of these in Part 1 and encouraged you to explore the claims more deeply. Were they true? Were they true but orchestrated as suggested by Media Watch footage? Media Watch ABC 9/3/20 What purpose could orchestration serve?

The question now is if 'the public' stockpiled, why are they still doing so and how are they still doing so? Rationing has operated in most stores for weeks yet supplies are still limited enough to endanger the operations of local businesses.

The answer may be simple

Comments from an insider, a Coles employee, suggest the answer. In normal times, customers buy the cheaper, imported toilet rolls but when overseas supplies are stopped or reduced, many of these customers are forced to buy Australian supplies which have a smaller output.

This leaves some major questions. Did our major media outlets know this and if so, why did they not tell us; why did we keep being advised there was plenty for everyone?

Many media outlets may never have questioned their sources of information. The first stories seemed sensational but not deliberately false. Other outlets however, may well have spread disinformation.

Could the effects of starting a panic (Media Watch ABC 9/3/20) and then blaming the public for irrational behaviour have been calculated from the beginning? What would be the benefit? Why would government ministers go along with such a scheme? Are some media outlets so clever they could have calculated gains in advance?

Some might say that some media outlets are very clever. The dominant media organisation in Australia, (NewCorp/News Ltd), is ranked the 5th most distrusted brand of 200 top brands yet its circulation is huge. Of the top 25 newspapers in Australia, NewsCorp owns 8. These figures are not achieved without skill. To persuade thousands of us to read information from an American organisation we solidly distrust is an achievement of a kind.

As to why- suggesting motivation is tricky. Attributing motivation is often a manipulative part of persuasive text and we try to avoid it. It is difficult enough to work out one person's motivation let alone an organisation's. It is reasonable however to examine or suggest possible effects.

Suggestions for discussion. Possible outcomes

  1. It sells more newspapers. Even today, the toilet theme is a little bit shocking, a bit-low class for headline material. International media organisations have little loyalty to Australia and perhaps their readers across the world enjoyed hearing about how low-class Australians can be. The story about an argument in an supermarket aisle was roundly exploited. It is a bit like news about a fisticuff in a foreign parliament. We might enjoy thinking 'Others are a bit uncivilised' (unlike us of course.)
  2. It can distract. It can help readers vent their anxiety by railing against the selfish customers in the supermarket rather than looking deeper.
  3. It might stop people thinking about our reliance on international goods and the decline of a manufacturing base. It holds off such thinking until such a time when goods are back on the shelves
  4. Other possibilities? What do you think?