It is way too easy, as a historian of the present, (cough cough) to get seduced by newspapers. They’re detailed, not infected with the memoirist’s ability to fit the events into a convenient/coherent narrative – and in theory the journalist doesn’t have a dog in the fight.
Except, no. If there ever was a golden age, it’s long long gone. Nick Davies’ Flat Earth News’, Robert Manne’s ‘Bad News’ etc etc etc. And also Kerry-Anne Walsh’s The Stalking of Julia Gillard. See clip below
This is the way of modern newspapers and online reporting for media conglomerates. A creative sub-editor on the news desk plucks bits of copy out of stories from one or more journalists in their vast stable, maybe adding a dash of AAP copy. Combined with more than a splash of hyperbolic poetic licence, it is then poured into one glorious mishmash, often under one by-line, and transmitted to all the NewsLtd tabloids. The journalists under whose by-line the story appears may not have a clue about the final story because the news outlets need to feed the twenty-four-hour online story beast makes news gathering, accuracy and fact-checking an anachronism. Despairing politicians who claim they have been misquoted or verballed, or that stories are outrageously wrong or fabricated, are ignored.
The lessons? Remember what Nick Tomalin said of politicians – ‘they lie, they lie, they lie’. And just because it is under a hack’s by-line, don’t mean they wrote it
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