Tuesday, August 13, 2013

News Corporation - the journalism of silence

Traveling on the San Francisco highway listening to KQED, the National Public Radio station. Too many cars. There's talk back, with articulate, well informed Americans calling in about the President.

Then a caller catches my ear unlike others. Last week President Obama visited Phoenix, Arizona and made some major policy announcement about Freddie and Fannie Mae, including reforms to the housing and loan industry. Not everyone likes the changes, which are seen as privatizing the the loan industry more than it currently is. Obama puts "private capital" at center of housing plan

Housing policies aside, the KQED story was more important for what it suggests about News Corporation journalism. This is Fox News offering coverage to the population of Phoenix to a local Presidential visit, plus a policy announcement.

There was NO live coverage on Fox News in Phoenix.

In all of journalism, silence has rarely been considered a hallmark of the profession. Surely journalism has always been about utterance, presence, presentism, discourse, annunciation, "the record," knowledge, information and entertainment.

What is a journalism of silence?

Absence of coverage raises all manner of questions about journalism and it is generating a position that may be considered new in the field. Not reporting a story as a major event for the local population offers a new strategy in news coverage.

Interestingly, it is not too far removed from the arguments put by News Corporation Australia editors and managers, when they verbally rampaged against the public interest reforms in Australia. Their come-back to critics for why their organisation should not be overseen by a Public Interest Advocate, was that the Internet offered countervailing information to balance any misrepresentations of their news.

Providing no coverage is a deft, yet troubling move. It assumes active listeners and news consumers who will find other sources. It is a position that conveniently does not appear to hold up to journalistic standards, like the ideals of telling the truth - you can't get near the truth if you say nothing.