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“What people mean by the propriety of the media is a subservient media. It’s a media that won’t chase the truth and very often won’t tell you the truth because it would be bad form to do so.”

Jeff McMullen, a former 60 Minutes reporter, agreed. “The big lie of the babies overboard was a magnificent operation of government using journalism for disinformation or manipulation of the message,” he said. “My central thesis is that if it’s a marketplace driven thing, this business of news, it can never really be focused on what is the real purpose of journalism. The mass media at the moment is about selling.”

John Pilger bemoans the restricted ownership of the Australian media and what he terms the “Murdochism” that has crept into journalism. Phillip Adams also sees the structure of the Australian media as a large part of the problem. You have a choice between Rupert or Kerry, he says. “Journalists fight it, they struggle against it. But little by little, by osmosis they slip into the habit of basically doing what the people who write out the cheques want them to do. Journalists don’t have to be told what to do. If you do that they struggle against it, but if you leave them alone, basically little by little, day by day, hour by hour they go through this osmosive process and they give up. I think it’s very sad.”

© Helen Cronin 2002

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