Only the Daily Telegraph could come up with the kind of humour that mixes blood sport with a nation’s struggle with race-o-phobia. Unless, of course, you think the above line is accidental?
If that was the case, we would have to assume that the editors missed this little reference. That somehow the work experience kid was tasked with coming up with the paper’s tagline, and it made it right past everyone else, all the way to the streets. And if it wasn’t the work experience kid, it must have been the cleaner. Or maybe the window guy? Or maybe, just maybe…the editor?
But I don’t buy that. These guys know what they’re doing.
The Tele is actually a very good paper. It puts out a lot more news than its nearest rival, the Sydney Morning Herald, and does so, generally, without fail. The stories are sharper, the tone more consistent, the reporting often more in depth. SMH, on the other hand, seems to be at the tail end of a brand-changing shift towards tabloid, its stories sounding more and more like those of the Tele.
But the taglines, like the one above, demonstrate exactly what I think is wrong with the mindset of this country. That is, that racism, and other serious issues, is something to be laughed about. Or at the very least, made light of.
In my opinion, this what really divides the media, and largely the nation, along many lines. It’s the willingness of individuals to let things slip – to let standards dip for the sake of a bigger headline, a more aggressive tone, or to up the drama, all in the name of readership, and maybe some laughs.
It’s the same across the board. The ABC does it – report after report taking the words of politicians as verbatim, with a few laughs here and there. SMH does it, more obviously than most these days, by plastering its front page online with celebrity news you used to go to Who Weekly for. And don’t even start on TV shows like Sunrise, Today, or any of the evening panels. You won’t find many standards there that haven’t been broken.
It’s a shame, because we used to have balance. We used to have a clear line between the serious papers, like the old SMH, and those you could take with a very large grain of salt, like the Tele. You used to be able to tell the difference.
But these days, you can’t. The media landscape, at least the main stream, is slowly morphing into one, glutinous blob, slowly lumbering towards the goal of more readers. It, the industry itself, is slowly self-homogenising, ejecting the alternative, watering down the conversation, and sadly getting more and more comfortable with what used to offend, or at least disappoint.
Which begs the question – why is it so?
Well, it’s the readers, of course. It’s the people of this country, who choose one over the other, and let their own standards slip in the process. The Dad who buys Zoo for a laugh, the Mum who buys Who (why do they rhyme?), or the young couple, working in advertising, who still watch Big Brother. Why? Because it can’t hurt, we’re just having a laugh. It’s just a show, just a magzine! What difference could that make?!
A difference it does. Because every reader, viewer, consumer of material that crosses the line is another dollar in the bank for the companies who make the stuff. And another reason for them to keep going, doing the same thing, lowering the bar year by year. The pursuit of readers, the satisfaction of share-holders, the glory of the editors.
And on it goes.
Of course, there’s a very simple way to fix it. We stop watching – we turn off when some twit makes a sexist comment. We stop buying the Tele when it plasters its front page, as it did so today, with slurs. We stop buying the SMH when it wraps itself in an ad for Mercedes.
But its easier said than done. Australians, it seems, aren’t really bothered on the whole by this sort of thing. We’re not put off by sexism on the tele. We’re not put off by racist under-currents on TV. We’re not jolted when Kyle Sandilands opens his gaping face to release yet another form of verbal toxicity.
And we keep on throwing them our money.
That, at the end of the day, is the problem.