This is an updated version of the editor’s column, which was published in the Newcastle Weekly on Thursday 15 October. Find the edition here.
I’ve lost track of the amount of times I have scrolled through a news article on Facebook or a website only to read a comment referring to journalists as “grubs”, “parasites” and “liars”.
Granted, the comments often fall under a sensationalised headline or click-bait article, but it irks me, as I’m sure it does other journalists or media representatives, to be lumped in with the rest.
There are good and bad eggs in any profession.
However, the media industry in Australia has unfortunately gained a bad reputation over the past few decades at least, with billionaire Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp empire undoubtedly the worst offenders.
So, I welcome former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s petition. It requests that the House of Representatives support the establishment of a Royal Commission to ensure the strength and diversity of Australian news media.
“Our democracy depends on diverse sources of reliable, accurate and independent news,” the petition claims.
“But media ownership is becoming more concentrated alongside new business models that encourage deliberately polarising and politically manipulated news.”
The petition alleges Murdoch’s monopoly of around two-thirds of daily newspaper readership has given it the power to intimidate others who have contrasting views.
It’s collected, at the time of writing, a national record of 483,459 signatures and, apart from Rudd, has also attracted the backing of former Liberal Party leader and ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Not surprisingly, Rudd has been slammed in the Murdoch media of late, with seemingly desperate attempts being made to link him to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, as well as Hunter Biden, the son of US Presidential candidate Joe Biden.
News Corp’s reporting has served as inspiration for several online articles by satirical publication The Betoota Advocate.
Its headlines have included ‘Sky News Uncover CCTV footage of Kevin Rudd chowing down on some bats in Wuhan late last year‘ and ‘Where was Kevin Rudd in 2012? News Corp suggests he was in Afghanistan committing war crimes.’
Whether the Royal Commission ends up going anywhere or not, the overwhelming response to Rudd’s petition is a strong indication of how many Australians feel about Murdoch, News Corp, and the state of the nation’s media in general.
Here at Newcastle Weekly, we are one of the increasingly few independently owned and operated media publications and I, for one, am proud of that fact.
Visit the Parliament of Australia’s website if you would like to sign the petition.
It closes at 11.59pm tonight (Wednesday 4 November).