Across Australia’s media landscape, everybody seems to have something to say about the Finklestein Inquiry, and unsurprisingly, not everybody agrees. Whilst on one hand, media academics praise the inquiry for attempting to improve media accountability and increase transparency, on the other hand, senior journalists herald the contrary, suggesting that academics only support free speech that they themselves agree with. A notable example is editor in chief at The Australian; Chris Mitchell, who goes as far to describe media academics as being ‘far removed’ and intent on ‘infect[ing] people with progressive left ideology’. That’s a big call.
There is clearly a rift between the media academic community and practicing journalists and the real question is who is more qualified to make judgments about regulation?
The immediate response of course would be those in with experience in the industry themselves, but then again look how far self regulation has got journalism in the past. Clearly we need to consider the strategic alignment journalists have with advertisers, and the political agendas of media outlets themselves. Which, of course are seemingly inevitable from such a concentrated media ownership in Australia. Standards of journalistic integrity are seemingly lost in a strange domain where anything goes in the pursuit of selling stories, though the good news is that people are noticing.
Though solving this problem can’t be left to either side of the field, if the media is going to move forward in a way that allows free speech and media independence to mingle harmoniously with journalistic integrity; and thus the two sides must unite. Journalists and media researchers both play a crucial role in policy reform (and ulterior motives will always be found on both sides of the fence.) Now, at the crux of modern journalism lays a debate applicable to both academics and journalists, and if both sides aren’t working together, will Finkelstein become nothing but rhetoric? And will this looming new media body simply become just another player in an already heated game?