Margaret River and the dangers of “if it bleeds, it leads”

Crikey readers respond to the media coverage of the Margaret River tragedy, gender disparity in the LNP and more.

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Margeret River

It’s common journalistic knowledge that stories about murder and other horrific crimes draw the most interest: if it bleeds, it leads. But Bhakthi Puvanenthiran’s analysis of the media coverage from Margaret River yesterday has some readers questioning that basic tenet. What are we gaining by sending journos out for the gory details, and what would a better practice actually look like?


On the media coverage from Margaret River

David Nicholas writes: Australian press reporting of murders, accidents, hit-and-run, and break-ins where people are assaulted are the usual one-through-five items on nightly news. The “if it bleeds, it leads” journalism is wretched to watch and I usually hit the mute button on the remote.

The reports are always full of righteous hyperbole using robust adjectives designed to shock, and are usually delivered by blonde women with earnest intent or righteous public schoolboy types quoting police reports chapter and verse to ingratiate themselves with authorities, mapping out their careers with editors who can make or break them. It’s always about the gore, but it’s never asked why violence is used as a solution to solve the dispute or why hit-and-runs are worthy of inciting public angst.

Murder-suicide is very tricky at the best of times to report at the outset. Initially, it’s the equivalent of shock and awe and it usually dazes one on hearing the reports. Everything is circumstantial and third-hand even four days out of the event… Until the dust settles, which may take some weeks, I am only giving it scant attention. 

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Vasco writes: I tuned out after the first reports knowing how we were going to be subjected to endless, speculative ramblings from baby journos dispatched by their masters to hang around for soundbites and photo ops and non-insights from neighbours. This awful situation should be left alone until some actual facts emerge. That won’t happen because of the old saw “if it bleeds it leads”. 


On gender disparity and Jane Prentice

Jaquix writes: If Jane Prentice announced she was standing as an Independent, she would put the wind up Dutton and his minders who seem to have engineered this “coup”. In the circumstances she would probably pull a lot of votes from enraged Liberals, and quite possibly win the seat. 

Jocelyn Pixley writes: The further problem is the failure to debate policies seriously but rather to screech at the player, not the proposals. When I look at the LNP Cabinet, I see very little debate about policies rather, the constant bagging of the ALP which have not held office for quite some time. Some ministers do not appear to understand their portfolios, nor the idea of ministerial responsibility. I would include a few of the female ministers too. I agree that the LNP has a huge problem about promoting women, but I hope that doesn’t mean we should be starry-eyed about say, a Margaret Thatcher.

A follow-upon stats from Tom McIlroy:


On democracy in Timor-Leste

Nic writes: Thanks for the article on the Timor-Leste election. It was refreshing after hearing a piece on ABC yesterday saying it was marred with violence. Which of course it wasn’t — a few incidents, and most were no different to a pub fight in Australia over political parties.

What is so good in Timor-Leste is their serious approach to democracy. The week before the elections, the government TV station had two nights of a political debate. Yes two nights! They were five to six hours each with all political parties and questions from the community. And before you ask, yes lots of people watched it!

Another thing: from day one of the election campaign, a list is sent around of all the planed campaign activities for all the parties across the entire country. There were huge political rallies — the streets were a sea of flags and colours and noise (and chaos) but peaceful. Australia has a lot to learn from Timor-Leste — yes they still have a lot of problems — but peaceful democracy is a lesson to be learnt by all.


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