Tuesday, February 15, 2011

How Accurate Do We Have to Be?

Last night, against my better judgement, I watched A Current Affair on Channel 9. For those of you not living in Australia, it pretends to be a current affairs show, dealing with "news of the moment" that affects "ordinary people" (my quote marks, not theirs - goodness knows what they think they're doing). I usually avoid this show, and its twin on Channel 7, as they have proven time and again that what they show is either a beat-up or something manufactured out of very little.

I watched because they previewed a guy who is battling with his council over vegetation and trees. I was interested, having had similar experiences. What I got, instead of a decent news story with information and facts, was this:
* people interviewed who were never identified
* the council concerned was never identified, apart from one muffled voice during a film clip that mumbled "Redlands" (I think)
* a camera crew following around police officers and council officers with no real information about what they were doing or why.

Is this supposed to be reporting? Barbara Cartland gave more facts in one of her historical romance novels than this TV show gave in their "news" coverage. As a writer of historical fiction for younger readers, I try really, really hard to get my facts right, and to slip them into my (fictional) narratives. Today, for example, I was looking again at a map of Melbourne in 1900 to make sure the Fitzroy Gardens were called that at the time. Yesterday I spent more than half an hour tracking the history of the Church Street bridge across the Yarra River. Because I didn't want my characters driving their buggy across a bridge that didn't exist back then.

I'm sure all of the Our Australian Girl writers do the same amount of research as me. When I work on my big pirate novel, Pirate X, I try my hardest to make sure the information, which is the very real background, is as accurate as I can get it. It continually astounds me how people put up with the shoddy, inaccurate reporting that our commercial channels dish up as "news". Is turning off the TV enough of a protest? I don't think so. So I emailed them. And silence was the stern reply!


Snail said...

It seems to me that ACA and TT are just dog whistle stories strung together under the guise of 'current affairs'. People often watch them to have their prejudices confirmed, so don't care about accuracy or balance. There's obviously a large enough audience willing to buy that nonsense (and advertisers to pay for the slots) to keep 'em going.

I say bring back the Working Dog mob on Frontline!

Anonymous said...

Too true! I try to avoid this show completely. The times that I have watched it, I have found their stories to be stirring up issues such as racism, Aussie battler verses corporate company,or stay at home mums verses working mums. It's all lies and it's a pity they have the power to shape people's perceptions.
The amount of times people have said to me I know such and such is true, I saw it on ACA.

Sherryl said...

It always astonishes me how people believe what they see on the "news" and CA shows. Many years ago, as part of my studies, I did an analysis on TV news and I couldn't believe the poor reporting and inaccuracies. It taught me to take everything on TV news with a truckload of skepticism.

Anonymous said...

This speaks to me so much that I just HAD to share it on twitter. Tabloid journalism designed to reach the fears and anxieties of the masses should be a crime.

Debbie said...

In our house, we call ACA 'Consumer Affair', which pretty much sums up their idea of 'news' really. If we want news, we turn to SBS!

Botiquin Obligatorio said...

Well its quite hard to make perception by listening news and TV shows. Now a days these channels and shows are bit biased.