LA police search for Pumpkin’s father,” a post on one of Australia’s better blogs opened last week. “What’s with that? SBS have started referring to her as Qian Xun Xue, while Tony Jones on Lateline wasn’t giving her a name at all but referring to her as ‘the toddler’. ‘Too difficult to pronounce?’ or ‘spoiling a tragic story by changing the cutesy name and confusing readers’? Would she be ‘Little Maddie’ or whatever by now if she had an Anglo name?”

The subtext is clear. We are A Deeply Racist Country. We are bad, bad, bad. It’s typical of the strident ignorance that passes for comment on the Australian blogosphere.

I’m an educated cosmopolitan and I don’t have a clue how to pronounce Qian Xun Xue. Neither, I imagine, do most other journalists. Or newsreaders. The ABC is the only media organisation big enough to have an internal resource that provides advice on pronunciation, SCOSE, the Standing Committee on Spoken English.

Our blogger may well say that the “English” in “SCOSE” is racism rearing its head again. After all, their PC zealotry means that they have already completely missed what is at stake here.

I don’t know how to pronounce Qian Xun Xue – but I know her story is important. It involves domestic violence and child abuse and, perhaps, the gulf between some migrant communities and the great part of society.

Any journalist will tell you this – and they will attempt to raise the issues by telling the story of Qian Xun Xue in the way that can be understood by the greatest number of ordinary people. Calling her “Pumpkin” helps.

This is mass media, remember, not a handful of geeks hunched over their computers. It’s what bloggers call the dreaded MSM. Something with an audience. Something with a mission to tell stories, not with the introspection and self consciousness that dominates the blogosphere.

The internet offers the greatest democratisation of information since the coming of the printing press.

Too many Australian bloggers scorn this democracy, it seems. They just don’t get the idea of communications.

Instead of seeing the net as a tool to spread information, they see it as yet another way of demonstrating their moral and intellectual superiority over the great unwashed.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey