It is amazing how many of those who consider themselves “thinking people” respond automatically to words the way Pavlov’s dog was conditioned to respond to certain sounds. — Thomas Sowell
The fact that someone is found innocent in a court of law will never undo the damage of a sensational headline.
I want to say right up front, it would be too simplistic, and totally irresponsible, to say, as many have, that Lindy’s ordeal was primarily one of “trial by media”. We have had the pleasure of knowing a great number of people in all aspects of the media. Most of them are people who love their work, and are proud of what they do. They have a great responsibility because they are telling us, through their eyes, something we usually don’t have a chance to see or experience first hand. It is a known and studied phenomenon that when a person does not have any prior opinion on a topic – be it of politicians, or an event in the news – they usually accept the first plausible story told as ‘the Truth’ and see everything that follows in support of their view. That is why working in the news media is such a position of responsibility.
“The Media” is just a tool for giving us, the public, information electronically over the internet, radio, television, or in print in books, magazines, and newspapers. A knife can be used as a tool to carve a beautiful statue, or stab a person to death. What we get depends on how the knife is used. It is similar with the media; it all depends on the motivation of the individual. The motivation for the media owners and shareholders is almost always profit. In the case of government owned or controlled media it can be to spread their point of view to the exclusion of all others. For those in other positions – reporter, producer, journalist – there may be other agendas – personal, ratings, financial.
Is it news, or entertainment? Well, in a primarily democratic society the market – that is us, the product buyers – determines what we want to see or read. Free-to-air television, newspapers, or magazines could not survive without advertising, because that is what pays the bills. The cover price of a magazine or newspaper comes nowhere near paying the real cost. Those who pay for the advertising want plenty of eyeballs seeing their product, and the media will do whatever it takes to entice us to watch or read. That is where news and entertainment blur. It is no secret that the ‘current affair’ type programmes are some of the most popular on television, and bring their owners some of the best financial returns. Controversy sells.
In the Chamberlain case some members of the media were sometimes noble, and sometimes slimy, sometimes truthful and sometimes flat liars. It was usually a reflection of the reporter, media form, or book writer, and there was a market hungry for it all. Whatever inbuilt bias or bigotry we, the public, had, there was some form of media which would appeal to it. As one commentator said, Lindy’s situation was a media dream. It had all the elements: mystery, instinctive fears, motherhood, feminity, family, religion, politics, and tourism, combined with court and forensic drama.
Cartoonist Peter Nicholson’s website: www.nicholsoncartoons.com.au