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A March in March media blackout? How to get your protest covered

A few short stories, a few snarky ones. March in March didn’t rate, according to the nation’s media. How come, and how can activists make sure their voice is heard?

Over the past three days, at least 50,000 people rallied in cities across Australia in opposition to Tony Abbott’s government. At home that night and the next morning, they eagerly waited to see how they’d be covered by the mainstream press. For the most part, they got nothing. The protests made no front pages and led no bulletins, and while they were covered, they certainly weren’t covered prominently.

That’s prompted plenty of criticism, not all of it from activists.

John Birmingham, writing this morning at the Brisbane Times, said he thought basic reporting on significant events was something the mainstream media had over bloggers and citizen journalists. After watching the coverage of the march, he’s not so sure:

These were not mass protests of the size and style of the Vietnam era. They weren’t as large and certainly not as violent and disorderly as civil rights protests in Queensland in the 1970s and ’80s. But they were large enough to be worthy of more basic news coverage than they received. They were arguably more important to community record-keeping than a bit of colour and movement on Paddy’s Day. And inarguably more important than the other ‘top’ stories which enjoyed more prominence; the ‘attack’ of a body boarder by a dolphin, the ‘Real Housewife’s Toy-boy All-Nighter’, and Lara Bingle’s insta-boob shot.”

So why didn’t the March in March protests get more significant coverage?

The protests happened mostly over the weekend in 33 cities. RMIT journalism academic Alexandra Wake, who’s worked in newspapers and for the ABC, tells Crikey she doesn’t think there are journalists working in 33 cities and towns over the weekend in Australia. Because of this, social media was crucial to the stories that did appear. Wake says once she noticed the march on Facebook, the ABC picked it up shortly after.

Another part of the problem for March in March, mentioned by everyone Crikey spoke to, was the complex number of issues that drove people onto the streets — it made simplifying the protest into a 300-word hard-news story difficult.

Margaret Simons, of the Centre for Advancing Journalism at the University of Melbourne, says she wouldn’t be too quick to condemn the coverage. She compares the March in March to the coverage of the protests prompted by the murder of Jill Meagher. “It’s easy to say x number of people marched for y,” she says.

When there’s a lot of issues prompting a march, journalists will focus on one of two things: violence, or the signs. “Those are traditional news values,” Wake said. “Most of the coverage I saw tended to be about the signs. It allows you to simplify the story for a 30-second news grab.”

Naturally, the media also suffers from biases. Simons says there’s always a level of scepticism to be overcome about whether it really was a mass protest or merely contained “the usual suspects.” And the media’s whole way of covering politics tends to ignore what happens outside of Canberra, even though this can be what most resonates with people. “Voices outside the bubble are having trouble getting heard,” she told Crikey. “This isn’t just activists, but also all sorts of people with different points of view.”

Many of these people have turned to alternative media. There’s been a proliferation of alternative news sources of varying levels of professionalism, many of which covered the rallies in far more detail. But if mainstream media attention is the goal, how can activists get covered?

Toby Ralph isn’t a man you’d normally associate with left-wing grassroots activism. A corporate spinner who’s consulted for big tobacco and the Liberal Party, he nonetheless knows plenty about how to reach and use the media. Ralph says March in March may have been a grassroots event driven by dissatisfaction with the government, but that in itself is hardly surprising.

The fact that some always disagree with the government of the day is hardly news… The trick to getting news coverage is to be newsworthy — to either say something compelling or do something sensational. March in March failed on both counts,” he said.

When it comes to activism, gimmicks work. That’s why groups like GetUp focus on them instead of getting numbers out onto the streets. Make a point well, or in a manner that’ll get people talking, and coverage is no problem.

Andrew Butcher, a former journalist and ex-News Corp spinner now turned PR consultant, says the march’s goal was unrealistic and negative. “They probably got more balanced coverage than they deserved given the main newsworthiness was arguably the extremist views of too many of the participants,” he said.

In order to get more coverage, the march needed a reasoned and rational focus — not just the intemperate and frankly scary hatred of Tony Abbott that was displayed on so many of the posters,” he said. And the unrealistic goal — to overturn a democratically elected government — didn’t help. For the mainstream media, Butcher says, these things hardly make great reading.

Large numbers — Melbourne’s protest reportedly attracted 30,000 people — in themselves aren’t newsworthy. Ralph says “multiples more” went to the Grand Prix, shuffled around art galleries or went for lazy drives in the country. “The protest numbers are inconsequential,” he told Crikey. “One person saying something compelling is more powerful than a million at some Festival of Mediocrity that communicates nothing of consequence.”

Ultimately, Ralph says, protests are “passe”. Instead, he says, activists would get more response if they ran for Parliament, wrote letters to the media, or found new facts and exposed scandal.

Wake says there are two ways to guarantee your protest gets covered: interesting signage, and violence. She suggests the former and discourages the latter.

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  • 1
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Biased : anyone who disagrees with Murdoch’s.”?

  • 2
    Jackon Taylor
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    Oh, surprise! Former News Ltd journo says March showed ‘scary’ and ‘extremist’ views of participants. When the two major parties overlap significantly anything that differs is ‘extremist’ - especially to a former Rupert footsoldier.

  • 3
    paddy
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    LOL
    The “trick to getting news coverage” eh.
    I guess that’s the job of highly paid spinners.
    Unfortunately, their traditional employers are looking down the barrel of irrelevance, so they’re sounding a tad defensive.
    Then again, I suspect summarising why 30K+ people marched in Melb, for a wide variety of reasons, is probably well above these spinners pay grade.

  • 4
    puddleduck
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Ha. A journo for the Australian tweeted a request for pictures of “offensive” banners and signs from the march. Great research, and an unbiased approach, all in one.

    I was at the Melbourne march, and it was huge. Far more than 30,000 people, and a wide range of ages, races, walks of life and issues represented. As they dismiss bloggers and citizen journalism, I suspect the mainstream media just doesn’t know what to make of it, and perhaps consider themselves above it. But it was no rabble out there. The failure of the MSM to adequately report the marches suggests they are ‘in bed’ with the powers that be. Not deliberately, but because they no longer identify with real people.

  • 5
    Richard
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Ugh, these PR flacks. 30,000 people at a protest is hugely significant in a usually-apathetic polity. Imagine how much coverage the Convoy of No Confidence would have received if 30,000 had turned up.

  • 6
    Grumpy Old Sod
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry but this is absolute crap! Could any of these worthies quoted say how a protest of about 1,000 3 years ago with posters stating “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” get such media saturation while nation wide protests at the (lack of) quality in Abbott’s leadership get none?

    The arguments that the protestors were ‘extremist’ is just a tad rich with the head of the 2011 protest wanting the sitting prime minister stuffed in a sack and dumped at sea. Just how extremist is that compared to what I saw in the Canberra protest?

    I was tempted to make up a poster of “Flick the prick” (an obvious play on “Ditch the Witch”) but thought that argumentum ad hominem was not helpful and would have played into the hands of those quoted here.

    No, this bunch of interviewees are using all manner of inconsistent and hypocritical arguments to justify why their compatriots in the MSM turned a blind eye to a significant political protest. No wonder the MSM is dying with this type of witless argument being presented.

  • 7
    Suziekue
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    First up Myriam, I understand it was over 100,000 who marched, and the majority were not what you have labelled “activists”. They were ordinary people expressing their discontent with the current government’s many policies that appear to be driven by corporate rather than community interest. Collectively I guess these people feel betrayed and let down, and feel so strongly about it that they are getting off their backsides and marching to say so publicly.

    You say “When there’s a lot of issues prompting a march, journalists will focus on one of two things: violence, or the signs.”. Well, to be honest, that’s just lazy journalism. A good journalist would try to get to the overall “vibe”, to distil the issues into some coherence.

    But of course, where the media is driven by their own ideologies and values, no such attempt would even be made.

    Wasn’t it Mahatma Ghandi who said “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” We just haven’t got to the fighting bit yet. Give us time.

  • 8
    Elvis
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    In the world according to News Ltd the recent vigils for Reza Berati and asylum seekers in detention centres on 23 Feb virtually never happened either.

    How can the coordinated gathering of tens of thousands in across urban, region and rural centres across the country possibly not be news worthy?

  • 9
    Wayne Cant
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    So in this we see three basic reasons the protests weren’t covered.
    1)It was a weekend and there were no staff.
    2)It was too hard
    3)The Murdoch press wouldn’t rate it
    Pretty pathetic really!

  • 10
    David Camfield
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I was at the rally in Sydney and for the most part the organizers were doing their best to voice a genuine concern about the direction of our democracy. Sure they were inexperienced, but there was a real feeling of genuine motivation. And it’s been my experience that people who are genuine attract a surprising groundswell of support, because it’s just so rare in our cynical 24-hr spin cycle culture.

    If you wanted to understand the March in March protest better then perhaps you should have actually attended Myriam instead of just interviewing PR ‘experts’

  • 11
    Djbekka
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    A little history before everyone wrings their collective hands over the weekend activity. The early anti Vietnam war marches were not covered in the ways that later ones were. Early Mardi Gras was covered because of over reaction by the police, not the justice of the cause. Early US Civil Rights actions went on for years with little coverage. The thing is, activists need to help the journalists with tight press releases to the news desks before a deadline. Maybe a photo needs to go along some places (ok most places).

    That said, group activities provide a place for activists to meet and talk. To begin to build the coalitions that can refine the issues and focus the demands for change. Social media is not connection in the sense that physically being in the same place is. On the other hand, getting together can be promoted by social media. This is not an either/or. Getting out crowds is a learned art, probably one that needs to be relearned after nearly 20 years of shameless promotion of individualism by public and private sectors. (Paddy’s Day was, in retrospect, a bad choice.)

    I don’t know what the shape of the next wave of social movement action will be, but I salute all attempts to make it happen. Last Sunday’s multiple smallish public take back of public space for non-institutional politics may turn out to be an early building block when the first analyses are written in five years. Thanks to all who went to a local protest.

  • 12
    David Hand
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I saw quite good coverage on the ABC and concluded that it was a relevance deprivation march by unions, the ALP and the Greens. I mean, all the placards looked like they came from a factory. Check out the 4 placards in the photo here and you’ll see what I mean.

    There was a unifying theme of course. “We hate Tony Abbott” sums it up pretty well. It got the level of coverage it deserves.

  • 13
    Kevin Herbert
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    The Melbourne rally was attended by .00021 of the Australian population…most of them were from the ‘We’re really pissed off that Julia was such a failure as PM’ movement, so that if Brad Pitt supported by Noam Chomsky, had been elected PM, they’d still be pissed off.

    As for the crowd numbers, I remember when the Sydney Mardi Gras used to quote attendance figures of 500,000, which was later reduced to 50,000 when it was proven that the footpaths along the procession route, could only hold 50,000….so Suzikue, your estimate of the 100,000 is totally way off!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 14
    BSA Bob
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Rubbish article, for the reasons outlined by those above & no doubt many more. Placed in the “really bad commentary” file.

  • 15
    Suziekue
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    @ Kevin Herbert. Don’t let your own biases get in the way of a good argument Kev. That’s 100K Australia wide. Wasn’t suggesting they were all crammed along the footpaths of Sydney or indeed any one city or town. But hey, whatever floats your boat, whatever let’s you sleep at night before we come knocking on your door *giggle*.

  • 16
    David Camfield
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    When Noam Chomsky was interviewed about the early days of the anti-vietnam protests he stated that they were organizing meetings and small gathering for the better part of a decade! before the movement actually got mass support.

    Writing letters to people like Greg Hunt or Scott Morrison is a complete and utter waste of time. Protests work in the long run not only because they get media coverage but because the solidarity amongst those who attend gets stronger with time, and they see their feelings of discontent validated.

  • 17
    Don
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    great comments, mostly all making the same remarks I was intending to espec re the ex-Murdoch comments - what a self-interested, patronising, load of bollocks!

    nonetheless you all saw how all the media, including our dear ABC, buried it.

    50,000 Australians spontaneously take to the streets to protest and they bury it.

    and as you saw the ABC was no btter except they gave it another 5-10 sec more.

    and no interviews by any of them

    1. we need OUR ABC back again!

    2. we desperately need independent news nationally distributed to reach out to the great ‘unwashed’ who only get Murdoch, shock jocks, Nine News and Current Affair.

  • 18
    BSA Bob
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Re reading this, the author isn’t snarky herself but it still comes across as a convenient grab bag of excuses of the plausible deniability variety.
    Journalists not working weekends in major population centres is risible. So we can disregard all that “as it happens, when it happens” sort of stuff then?

  • 19
    Pedantic, Balwyn
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Previous correspondents have covered nearly all the bases except one, namely that March in March assumed that all potential protesters were on Twitter or Facebook. Wrong.

    Yes there was a half hearted attempt at web site, but with no method sending or getting feedback, such as where and when.

    No wonder the demographic was largely “young” people, although I understand that both social media outlets are now considered somewhat old hat.

    March in March should follow the lead of Get Up and use their web site to get to the more experienced members of the community and more importantly identify the significant messages to take to Government, not just a rag bag of everything that gets up one’s nose!

  • 20
    klewso
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m too ugly for facebook and too big to be mistaken for a bird - it’s a pity my Jurassic kind aren’t included in that loop.

  • 21
    Don
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    @pedantic you are greatly mistaken to state or assume that demographic was largely “young”. far from it!. it was a most incredibly mixed demographic.

    what seemed to missing as far as could be told was ‘wealthy’/”well off’ middle aged and older SEC. quel surprise. those driving past demonstrably in that SEC were conspicuously not impressed.

    certainly the media web site infrastructure/contacts/feedback need great improvement, but hey, look at what a bunch of non-professionals achieved without out professional backing and infrastructure!! quite astounding.

  • 22
    Jimmyhaz
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    David @12

    I think ‘We hate the direction Abbott and co. are taking our country’ would be far more in-line with reality. I don’t hate Abbott, I can’t imagine many people do. It’s somewhat difficult to hate something totally lacking in substance.

  • 23
    Notburga Pilgrim
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    Kevin Herbert: Thankyou for exercising your right to free speech by commenting here.

    Just a few points though:
    Your calculation for the Melbourne event should be 30 thousand in 4.25 million which is about 0.7%. The rest of paragraph 1 didn’t make sense to me.

    In paragraph 2, your line of thought seems to be: the calculated size of the mardi gras was wrong because that many people wouldn’t fit on Oxford Street Sydney, therefore the calculated size of this event (Australia-wide) cannot be true. You probably need to add more details so your line of thought can be understood by the reader.

  • 24
    Buddy
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    I marched in Melbourne and the people I met were from all walks of life. So many who had not protested before, young and old. Some unions and other regulars for sure. BUT the majority were hardworking everyday folk with a clear point of view… If any decent journo had bothered to listen… They are really worried about the eroding of decency, transparency and honesty in our politics and now that is corroding wider community values… Time for the hacks to prick their ears and listen up for a change… The people are talking. And they might just hear a real story that matters

  • 25
    Buddy
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh and one last comment that perhaps drives my point home.. On going past the Windsor ( an upmarket hotel for those with $$$) on the way to the station two gentlemen having a laugh ‘at’ protesters said ” anyone got a spray can “.. My retort ” yep it’s so funny when the rich make fun of others who care isn’t it”

  • 26
    Pedantic, Balwyn
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    @Don Thanks for the correction, but my point is that from the limited media exposure the attendees appeared to be young or the usual “elderly” rent a crowd from the inner suburbs.
    March in March will not get traction or the media attention it deserves until it attracts Don’s “wealthy/well off, middle aged” and there are plenty of them of them who are less than impressed with the deception and dishonesty of the Abbott Government and many are Liberals.
    Complements to M-in-M for what it achieved, but take on board the need to get to a much larger demographic by the all the available media options.
    One more thing Don, with a web site to attract donations M-in-M could get the funding to move from his bunch of non-professionals to supporters who know how to gain the maximum exposure for the movement.

  • 27
    Roslyn Scott
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    For those who scorn and who have not been following this, as your so called experts seem to have not done, this is the early stages of a movement. The organisers have done this over social media, and have attracted people with the same distress. No-one that i have read , has honoured this, saying they need gimmicks and good signs and clear cut policies and plans…no-one seems to get it, there are many people out there who are not happy with government full stop. It is not a bunch of cranky labour supporters, it is normal hard working caring Australians who are not happy with the way this country has veered off course, we do not feel recognised or adequately represented, The fact that there was a media whiteout is because of the present media system in our country and that to me speaks volumes. If there are any intelligent people who did not march and they realise this, they should be marching next time, because all our freedom is at stake here. Did Crikey do any other story about the Marches? I could not find one, except a cartoon with vague references to it……

  • 28
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Ralph says, protests are “passe”…, activists would get more response if they ran for Parliament, wrote letters to the media, or found new facts and exposed scandal.” Thanks for that superb bit of rabble soothing reportage Ralph, nothing to see, move along, vote the party ticket, buy gutter press…
    We kinda dun that, else TT & his Unlovelies wouldn’t be in office…oops, sorry for the ‘frankly scary hatred of ..’

  • 29
    michael crook
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Expected better of you Crikey. You appear to have never heard the adage “if its not on channel 7 it didn’t happen” and this is certainly what is at play here. The sooner that progressive forces realise that they will NEVER get media attention, balanced or otherwise, then the sooner they can work out other ways of contacting the general public. The media, including the emasculated ABC are essentially a voice for the conservative and corporate world, not for you. They should also be attacked with as much relish as progressives attack the Abbotts of this world. The Australian media is part of the problem, they are not part of the solution, and from the tenor of this article Crikey is no different.

  • 30
    Don
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    @Michael. precisely.

  • 31
    Don
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    aren’t the echoes of 1984 becoming louder and louder? it IS uncanny.

  • 32
    JayDee
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    The only thing I got out of this article is that the MSM cannot deal with complex issues. That just about says it all. No wonder they’re becoming more and more irrelevant with each passing day. Good riddance.

  • 33
    Don
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    @jaydee. of course they COULD deal with it. they chose NOT to as they are captive to corporate greed and corporate agenda, and now even the ABC palys ‘me too’. if only they were ‘left wing’ for a bit of balance.

    and it is interesting how ‘left wing’ is being demonised when as far as I would say it simply means caring about people and equity and justice and compassion and honesty - instead of greed, and selfishness, and immorality, and corruption.

  • 34
    Margaret Ludowyk
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Ralph’s opinions are irrelevant - he’s part of the problem. What March in March showed was the decreasing relevance of the MSM. The march was organised totally online with not a cent spent on advertising or a mention in the MSM. This is just the beginning of what is possible. No wonder Murdoch’s papers played it down so much. And even the coverage that there was mentioned a few controversial signs rather than the majority which were sensible. And typically, the bias in commercial media was evident. When Ch 7 news interviewed me they didn’t show my sign which said “The ABC tells the truth”. They proved it for me though.

  • 35
    4567
    Posted Tuesday, 18 March 2014 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I think you media types missed the point. The “complex” number of issues may be too much for journalists to handle, but it was the complex number of issues that we wanted to vent. There is much to be concerned about, too much to condense it to a three word slogan, and we were not going pander to the daily’s fetish for blood on the streets.

    So we were under no illusions about how our “news” media would cover this (or not cover). Perhaps this will help - in less than 300 words why we marched in March.

    We didn’t go of the media. We went for us. What we heard on the streets as we walked past bystanders was “I thought nobody cared!” At least 50K of us do care - even if the media does not. We are worried about where we are heading as a nation, that the issues that matter to us - access to justice, education, to technology, jobs, health services, renewable energies, to human rights – are becoming a privilege. With my tax dollars I expect my government to keep my nation healthy, smart, and ethical. It’s not too much to ask – the media hasn’t been asking – so I guess we had to.

  • 36
    Liamj
    Posted Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    Its good and right that commercial media persists in proving its irrelevance, and its good that the MarchinMarch organisation was ‘unprofessional’. God forbid that the groundswell of revulsion and discontent should be coralled by the institutionalised Left into votes for LNP-lite (ALP).

    As for recruiting the older richer generations, that’d be a pointless effort as they’re too focussed on enjoying their loot. Instead focus on the ripped-off oldies, there’s far more of them and they have much better connection to reality.

  • 37
    MJPC
    Posted Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    I am with many of thje comments here. Whilst I didn’t attend the march (point 1- please advertise more widely; many like I are not social media trawlers and missed that aspect) I am with Suziekue’s Gandhi quote.
    Now that one is over when is the next. If Citizen Abbott and his fellow rent seakers have their way and penalties are cut or eliminated, a march will have +200k when all the service workers see that they are being screwed.
    Maintain the rage and the media will have to notice. The only thing that politicians fear is the proletariat organised.

  • 38
    Thteribl
    Posted Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    The mainstream Media were all coy about the massive demonstrations against the Iraq War, Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech, March in March and a dozen-and-one other stories out of left field. Australia’s mainstream news-media is dead in the water. It continues to exist as a heavily subsidised propaganda machine, promoting corporate vested interests against the good of the comunity at large. As to the tenor of this article in Crikey: it accurately reflected the attitude of mainstream media for the information of its readers and allowed the readers to draw their own informed conclusion: that Crikey is a reliable source of information. Whereas … .

  • 39
    Dillon MacEwan
    Posted Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    General estimates from around the country are between 100,000 and 135,000 - there were between 12,000 and 20,000 at the Sydney rally, 10,000 in Brisbane around 10,000 in Adelaide, between 5000 and 7000 in Lismore, which is massive for the population there, and between 30,000 and 50,000 in Melbourne.

    It wrong to label the protesters as just “socialist” “left wing” or “activist” even though all those elements were certainly there - there are enough issues to do with the direction the government is taking us to alarm people from a range of back grounds, including education cuts, cuts to the CSIRO, attacks on the ABC and SBS, disregard for environmental issues, lack of government transparency, corporate cronyism, threats to medicare, an unwillingness to go ahead with a robust communications infrastructure, climate change denial, cuts to preschool worker wages, cuts to research, the TPP, cutting the RET, support for CSG, dismantling the clean energy finance corp, attacks on workers rights, attacks on the unions, disregard for science, the influence of religion in policy making, indigenous issues, an asylum seeker policy that required ongoing human rights abuses, a disregard for our neighbours sovereignty, the diplomatic skills of a pitbull, the overt and detrimental influence of the IPA, the fact that the minister for women is a man who is on record making a number of misogynistic comments over the year, and some of us even think a price on carbon pollution is a good idea and the best way to get industry to cut emissions!

    As such there were people from all walks of life on the march, families, school kids, grandparents, academics, tradies. Some of us were concerned about just one or two of these issues, some with more, I doubt all the attendees agreed on all of them, but we all agreed that we didn’t like the direction the government was taking us, that they weren’t representing us, and that they weren’t being accountable to us, the people of Australia, enough.

    As for the signs - sure there were some silly ones, some angry ones, some mass produced socialist ones, ones made by kids, ones made by students, some offensive ones, and some downright weird ones - as listed above, the issues that concern people are so broad that to get across the reasons for discontent on an A2 placard would require printing at a 12 font and be therefore unreadable! And for the protesters to be criticised by Abbott supporter for resorting to trite slogans is, quite frankly, a bit rich!

    To the substance of your article though - to say that the media coverage was crap because “journalists don’t work on weekends” (does the world stop turning on weekends??), the need to focus on single issues, violence, or placards, and the need to make it digestible for a 30 second newsgrab says more about the appalling state of modern journalism than a failure on the part of the protests to engage - I think it was Chomsky that said the purpose of the news is to keep people watching between the Ad breaks. Sure, people being dissatisfied with the government of the day isn’t newsworthy, but 135,000 people being annoyed enough to take it to the streets is - and if any of the journalists bothered to speak to any of the participants, they would find them to be quite informed on a range of issues that concerned them! Ralph’s criticism of protests as “Passe” is patronising and wrong, there are more global protest occuring now than ever before, so I would argue that protest is currently very “trendy”! And the problem with Ralph’s suggestions, is that they are the same old tired ones trotted out every time you get a groundswell of dissatisfaction in a western democracy, and are ultimately largely “passive”.

    Finally, I would like to say that this was a genuine grassroots groundswell protest, and not organised in any way by the ALP, the Greens, GetUp, the Unions or any other political organisation - if people felt even slightly ambivalent about the issues, they would have stayed at home - Australians, compared to most other countries, aren’t known for their activism! Canberra would do well to eed this fact alone!

  • 40
    kerry brogan
    Posted Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like more murdoch

  • 41
    stephanie holt
    Posted Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    So is newsworthiness about an obligation to report on - to share - significant events in the community, or is it about crafting a snappy and topical read for a given audience?
    There wasn’t a single issue perhaps, but that just makes it a little harder to report. What was the mix of marchers and their issues and motivations? What was the tipping point that saw many (like me) who march very rarely join them?
    For several people I spoke to at the Melbourne march, the just-made changes to Victorian law around policing protests were a significant factor - one angle that could have been explored.
    And given Melbourne’s Herald (print edition on Monday), gave about 6 news-section pages to the Grand Prix - I’d be happy to a proportion for March in March, based on headcount.

  • 42
    Observation
    Posted Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Sorry to say I didn’t march. Let me know if there is another earlier than next March and I will be there.

  • 43
    EH
    Posted Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 9:50 pm | Permalink

    I was surprised, and quite disappointed, at this article. I expected nothing less than sniggering and/or dismissal from the MSM, but I did expect more from you, Crikey. Out of all the aspects you could have chosen to report on regarding MiM, you chose to focus the bulk of your report on what the usual suspects have to say about why it was our own fault that the protests ‘failed’ - ineffect, you have dismissed our very real concerns and efforts, just as the MSM have.

    Considering Australians are an apathetic lot, and these protests had no advertising aside from word-of-mouth and social media, then the response that was achieved was phenomenal, not unsuccessful. Perhaps you might have mentioned that as part of a balanced report?

  • 44
    Don
    Posted Thursday, 20 March 2014 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    @eh. yes I totally agree. it was a fantastic and amazing effort and result. I think what I see happening is that some of us otherwise passive, if not apathetic, Aussies, are becoming quite politicised.

    and the other thing, as you say, this article and other straws in the wind over the past period are beginning to suggest that Crikey is not as cracked up as it used to be.

    apart from a national distributed independent media, it seems what is needed is a national contact portal where all like-minded people can congregate, share, plan, and activate. An independent hive. :-)

  • 45
    Myles Bateman
    Posted Thursday, 20 March 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

    This is disgusting.

    A COORDINATED and NATIONWIDE movement protesting the many critical wrongdoings our governments (past and present) have done should be covered despite the ‘oh so boring lack of violence’.

    When did journalism take weekends off? When was it that contention should ponder on the value of their position on the media market? Why aren’t you doing your part to correct the ‘black out’?

    The media wants violence not to attract viewers but to render the MULTiPLE reasons for contention illegitimate before the government and the people. They cannot wait to label those who support moral and fundamentally just causes an extremist.

    Disgusting.

  • 46
    Andrew Dolt
    Posted Friday, 21 March 2014 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    ABC1 SA didn’t waste a single second reporting the Adelaide rally on the 7pm news. Instead they ran a lengthy piece on a zine vending machine in Canberra: a little wooden box selling hand-made zines - photocopied poetry and the like - for $2 a pop to the populace of Canberra. Obviously far more relevant to the population of SA than a rally in the city by many thousands of people, NOT.

    And here is Crikey making almost as pathetic an effort at reporting March in March. Leave the crap reporting to the lamestream media, please, they have the experience and the field covered. Do try to do some real reporting, it’s why we subscribe after all.

  • 47
    Matthew Donovan
    Posted Friday, 21 March 2014 at 3:10 am | Permalink

    And how exactly does one stop silly people turning up with silly signs?

    It is in public. Anybody can come.

    I’m Lead Organiser in Brisbane and I can tell you there were no offensive signs I saw.

    We asked that people refrained from offensive language.

    Short of that we rely on people’s good will.

    We will be making it crystal clear in our principles in future we reject that type of protesting.

    Short of that we can’t do anything to stop people with bad taste signs.

    What I can tell you is they were in the minority.

    That’s a fact!

  • 48
    Don
    Posted Friday, 21 March 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    why aren’t Comments ‘threaded’ ie with reply function? why the way, does anyone here get any replies when trying to email editor (boss@) with feedback?

  • 49
    EH
    Posted Friday, 21 March 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know @Don, but threading would be helpful, as I’ve only just realised that you’ve replied to my earlier comment.

    I very much like the idea of the independent hive, good idea! If I had the slightest clue how to even begin to go about it, I wouldn’t mind having a crack at setting one up.

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