Saturday, 1 August 2020

Hyenas



Two young women are apparently largely responsible for the reintroduction and spread of the Corona virus into South East Queensland.

Their stupidity and ignorance is causing enormous social and economic chaos and it may eventually lead to some deaths.

They should be condemned, and made to suffer the legal consequences.

They do not, however, deserve to be lynched, left to die in the desert, or be deported.

Those suggestions, and many more that are better left unpublished here, have been doing the rounds on social media.

This is hardly surprising, considering that elements of the gutter press published front page stories identifying them, complete with photographs.

These were exactly the same newspapers that had been demanding that the Queensland government lift its border restrictions a very short time ago. Consistency is not a feature of some media. Perhaps the editors believe that the average reader has the concentration span of a goldfish, yesterday's headlines are cancelled when the newspaper is confined to the recycling bin.

No amount of piling-on is going to change the outcome of the behaviour of these two, but hey, the only thing that matters is selling papers.

I had an experience with our local rag, the Toowoomba Chronicle, about ten years ago which is a pretty fair indicator of the moral state of much of our media.

A fellow principal of a school close to mine, had the misfortune to have a child accidentally run over and killed in the set-down area in front of his campus. He managed the dreadful situation very well, both on the day, and for the weeks and months afterwards.

Many of his staff were deeply traumatised, and unable to teach on the day. He had the presence of mind to get his office staff to phone all surrounding schools in an appeal for teachers without classes on the day to help. As a non-teaching principal, I went to his school and found myself looking after a year seven class in which the elder sister of the child who was killed was a member. The class teacher spent her day comforting this child and a couple of her friends who witnessed the incident.

I went home at the end of the day enormously impressed by his strong and compassionate leadership in managing children, staff, colleagues and media.

This man was devastated by what had happened at his school, and whilst he coped extremely well on the day, succumbed a few months later to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and went on sick leave.

He never recovered, and was no longer able to work, despite attempts at rehabilitation, and eventually was superannuated out. He supported a large family, and his wife, whilst working, wasn't making a lot of money as a school cleaner. 

A couple of years later, I was shocked when I picked up a copy of the Chronicle, to see a photo of this bloke, looking unshaven and dishevelled, on the front page, with a headline reading "School Principal Sues Grieving Father".

A reporter and photographer had knocked on his door at dawn, and snapped a photo on his doorstep without asking permission.

The gist of the story was that the principal's solicitor had made a claim for damages against the insurance company responsible for the compulsory third party cover of the father's vehicle. The father was not being personally sued, and this action is par for the course in such situations.

My colleague's solicitor was doing his job and trying to assist his client. 

This publicity, and the hostility it generated had the potential to tip a person diagnosed with PTSD over the edge. lt was also not news. It was simply sensationalist journalism designed to sell papers.

I phoned the editor of the paper to make a complaint and request a clarifying story. He refused to hear me out and claimed the publication of the story was completely justified. I then made a formal complaint to the Australian Press Council. The complaint was rejected (after a wait of nine months) on the basis that the report had broken no laws, and was of public interest. The first statement was correct, but I have my doubts about the second.

When it comes to basic decency, the press, especially the elements of it owned by Newscorp, is missing in action, and has been for years.

This element of the media has all the integrity of a pack of hyenas. 

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Hugh White - Without America

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