Electioneering: Mark Latham - We No Likey by Fatima Malik
Mark Latham reporting for 60 minutes is an attempt to bring American-style shock jock journalism to Australia which is more obsessed with personality than facts.
It was meant to shock us and excite us. It was meant to make us want more. Instead what Australians saw when Mark Latham questioned Julia Gillard on the campaign trail, was what it actually was; an interview lacking respect, carried out by someone desperate to inject himself back into the national spotlight.
Channel Nine was quick to apologise to Prime Minister Gillard, saying the interview lacked proper respect. However what did they expect when they hired Latham? Do they not remember this handshake? Or have they never read his weekly column for the Financial Review, always full of scathing attacks.
What Channel Nine was actually trying to do was duplicate Fox News style reporting. Fox News which consistently tops the ratings in the United States is famous for getting into fights with the White House and being home to Bill O’Reilly, who constantly berates and shouts at guests on his program. The Fox News model favours personality, invective and spectacle over facts. Perhaps that is why they hired Sarah Palin. Even I must admit it makes for gripping television just waiting for something else nonsensical to come out of her mouth. Is this what we are headed for?
Maybe Channel Nine was hoping Mark Latham could be their Sarah Palin, their own firebrand supplying an endless stream of gaffes and YouTube moments. In some ways Channel Nine has succeeded. All people have been talking about all week is Channel Nine, Mark Latham and now Laurie Oakes. However the public reaction to the Latham stunt shows that the Australian public isn’t buying it, at least not yet. They see it for what it really is: a distraction.
Some have said that the saga, in particular Laurie Oakes and Mark Latham feud which has emanated from it, is a win for old media in an election that has been dominated by Twitter. However it also represents the demise of old media.
60 minutes is one of the oldest institutions in Australian current affairs. However it has been on a downward spiral long before Latham. Long gone are George Negus, Jana Wendt and live reports from war zones. They have been replaced with interviews with celebrities and fillers sourced from American 60 minutes.
The response to Mark Latham’s report is therefore a win for new media. There are now enough alternatives to mainstream media that people feel comfortable criticising it and utilising other sources to get their news. Sunday night on Nine is no longer the only window into politics and world affairs.
Channel Nine seems to be persisting with the Latham experiment. Perhaps they are hoping this type of journalism will catch on. I for one sincerely hope it doesn’t.
This cross-post is from Express Media’s Electioneering blog, a regular look at what young people are thinking about the election campaign.