News judgement, what’s fit to print, is by its nature entirely subjective. It’s a challenge that all media organisations need to face as they walk the line between the need to report on events and the need to meet community standards about what is appropriate in mainstream media. One of the issues that often frustrates people is the apparent inconsistencies in reporting by news organisations when these questions of judgement are raised.
To illustrate my point it’s worth looking at an article from last weekend’s Sunday Herald Sun which discusses the fact that Vegemite has become a certified Halal foodstuff.
You wouldn’t think that this was a particularly contentious issue, after all the story itself mentions that Vegemite has been certified kosher for over a decade; but the spokesman for the Family Council of Victoria sees it differently and the Herald Sun faithfully reproduced his objections.
I wonder, however, if they’d print the same criticisms if they were made of another religious group’s laws and practices. Would the following quote ever be printed in the Herald Sun?
Jewish leaders have congratulated Kraft for introducing the labels, but Family Council of Victoria secretary Bill Muehlenberg questioned the company’s motives.
“This is a private company trying to make money,” Mr Muehlenberg said. “I don’t think they care a rip about offending the tastebuds of Jews.
“Why do we have to keep bending over backwards to please minority groups? There are only 80,000 Jews in Australia out of 22 million people, which is a very small percentage.
“Of course, there’s a case for making allowances for different cultures, but aren’t we getting a bit carried away with political correctness here? It’s ridiculous.”
Mr Muehlenberg feared the kosher labelling was also a sign of “Jewification” of western countries.
“We’re already seeing Halakha law courts operating in Britain,” he said. “Where does it end?”
I suspect not. In fact, I think that if something along those lines was printed in a major Australian paper we’d quickly see a queue forming as people lined up to distance themselves from the statement. So why does it pass without a whimper when the 300,000 strong Australian Muslim community are the ones being targeted? This story, which doesn’t appear to have even rated a mention in The Australian or the Fairfax broadsheets, appears to me to be nothing more than an appeal to prejudice; especially seeing as the halal certification actually began in August last year.
Are righteous indignation and fear-mongering about some imagined slight to the Australian way of life a pre Australia Day necessity at News Limited? Are the journos at News afraid that we won’t be able to celebrate our nation’s good fortune without having a minority group to denounce? This type of nonsense, especially the dial-a-quote outrage included in it, really doesn’t belong in a major newspaper.