Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Favourites of 2017: My doomed colleagues

Truth sadly matters less than access in the reporting game.

Media pack (Photo: UNclimatechange/Flickr)
Media pack (Photo: UNclimatechange/Flickr)
Published 22 Dec 2017   Follow @danielflitton

If I’m honest, my favourite read of the year was Yellow & Black by Konrad Marshall, a true inside story of how (my) team Richmond brushed aside 37 years of misery to win the grand final in the Australian Football League. There is not a skerrick of foreign policy in this richly reported book, unless you count a chance the Tigers will play in India sometime in 2018. And full-disclosure - I get a thank-you in the acknowledgements, and my real motivation in raising the book is that I can’t resist the urge to brag in the face of ridicule, having predicted Richmond’s success in a front page article in March.

But to the wider world.

A savage warning by Russian journalist Alexey Kovalev was my highlight. Kovalev wrote ‘A message to my doomed colleagues in the American media’ just after Donald Trump gave his first press conference in January as the soon-to-be US president. This wasn’t a riff on the Russian influence story, but actually something darker. Kovalev recognised that Trump has changed reporting with an authoritarian turn - that facts can be neutered by bluster and the ‘gotcha’ stories that killed many a political career will matter no more.

It’s much worse. For all the conspiracy talk of ‘the media’ as if a single-minded behemoth, Kovalev acknowledged the lonely nature of the reporting profession. ‘If your question is stonewalled/mocked down/ignored, don’t expect a rival publication to pick up the banner and follow up on your behalf,’ he warned. Truth matters less than access.

This man owns you. He understands perfectly well that he is the news. You can’t ignore him. You’re always playing by his rules - which he can change at any time without any notice.

Kovalev’s essay – along with complaints by media academics such as Jay Rosen about attempts to normalise Trump - serve as true explainers for ‘fake news’.

Which is precisely what someone called my Tigers prediction on page 1 … Ha!

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