One of the biggest topics of conversation is that of ‘fake news’ and how the modern media can often seem to be in the pockets of big business and politicians.
Austrlianpolitics.com describes the media and the press as being the Fourth Estate. “The notion that the Press is the fourth estate rests on the idea that the media’s function is to act as a guardian of the public interest and as a watchdog on the activities of government.”
But what about when the media goes rogue, who holds it to account? The public? Self-censure? The courts? The answer is probably a mixture of all the above.
Let us look at one of the biggest scandals to hit the modern newspaper industry: When the News of the World used a private eye to hack into voicemails and delete them when confronted with evidence that an abducted child was actually dead. The BBC gives a detailed account of the scandal, trial and subsequent closure of the newspaper.
When the newspaper staff was brought to trial, the newspaper announced that it was going to close. The owners knew full well that it would never have a leg to stand on again, in terms of trust. In this instance, the court of public opinion spoke in this particular instance.
But what about regular media faux pas, such as claiming exclusivity for stories, or hatching fake news stories for clicks or viewership?
ABC’s Media Watch programme takes journalism publishing houses and media companies to task on such issues. One episode dealt with the way Channel 9 lifted a story from the Betoota Advocate and published it as its own work.
What 9 did not realise is that the Betoota Advocate is a satirical publication similar to The Onion or The Chive that makes up stories for a laugh. In this instance, we have a major television channel publishing fake news and claiming it as its own.
While journalism can be held legally accountable, it seems that being judged and called out by peers in the industry is one of the more effective ways to keep the media in check.