News & Commentary

Why have we lost faith in the media? Schapelle Effing Corby

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The US election gave us two lessons. First, when faced with a choice between two unremarkable nominees, many folks will select the one with most value to late-night gag writers. Second, media professionals can get it wrong. So terribly wrong.

The gulf between what the people want to consume and what rot they are provided was never so immense. Outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post offered coverage of Clinton so devout and uncritical, many readers lost both faith in the nominee and trust in establishment publications. Counterfeit “punks” like Breitbart were so ardent in their dismissal of the Secretary, they created nothing but an orgy of hate, shortly to be followed by a mass departure of readers, now, presumably, returned to their important work of teasing sad teens on YouTube.   SupportBadge

Conventional media is in trouble. Outside of its sportscasts and various So You Think You Can Diet Like an A Capella Chef On Ice atrocities, network TV is tanking. Australians place greater trust in news that they aggregate independently than that delivered from a studio desk. Radio is largely for people who have forgotten to turn the thing off. Traditional print outlets who moved their mastheads online might be widely read, but there is no dependable revenue model to keep them in clickbait, and a diminishing public trust.   

[T]he frequent claim that “every Australian has an opinion” or that the “nation is divided” seemed not to be borne out by my everyday conversations, and I talk a hell of a lot.

There are plenty of anxious essays written by persons, like myself, pissed off they spent decades learning how to craft stories that, now, no one believes, or will pay for. They say, “why don’t the people retain their once lucrative faith in our entirely predictable and unified approach to nearly everything?” and usually conclude it is because people are stupid and slaves to stupid machines. I would reproduce and answer these arguments if I were feeling more earnest and less irritated. But, here’s a three-word answer to all my fearful colleagues: Schapelle Effing Corby.

It is my ardent, but unverifiable, belief that not many people give a shit about Schapelle. Certainly, at one time, we were many seduced by those bushbaby eyes. I will say that the ganja enthusiasts of my acquaintance formed strong views on her conviction. But the frequent claim that “every Australian has an opinion” or that the “nation is divided” seemed not to be borne out by my everyday conversations, and I talk a hell of a lot.

This is not to say, of course, that we are without empathy for the incarcerated. It is, however, to say that our consumption of media has changed a good deal since the young woman’s arrest. Media companies might book their flights to coincide with the former prisoner’s, broadcast brazenly obsessed reports about “media obsession” or run stories daring us to pretend that we don’t care about Schapelle. None of this changes the fact that we may, in a particular moment, be more fixated on the latest snafu by the US Toddler in Chief or a dress of indeterminate hue.

I can’t truly comply with the injunction by a women’s publication to “stop pretending” I don’t care. Seriously, I’m not pretending.

By 2014, there were sure signs that the interest had begun to evaporate. When the Schapelle miniseries debuted on TV, it gained half the viewers of a competing INXS biopic, surely one of the nation’s least mesmerising bands. It’s true that the Corby family became part of the national furniture, and I, for one, will always be grateful for the reminder of my cultural heritage in the form of Mercedes, a lad’s mag vision in eighties-cut swimmers and accessories handmade by her sister in a Balinese prison. This was the true face, and thighs, of white working-class Australia.

The newly freed Corby may not be able to “profit from crime”, as print outlets constantly chide her. This knowledge appears as no barrier to them, however, as they profit from a conviction—or, at least, as they attempt to.

The feeling I am left with is not so much one of moral rage at hypocrisy etc., nor even one, particularly, of compassion for the convict. I mean, sure, it must be awful for her, but one has only so much concern, and as I am terribly worried about both Syria and the future singing career of Melissa Tkautz, I can’t truly comply with the injunction by a women’s publication to “stop pretending” I don’t care. Seriously, I’m not pretending.

It is our media providers who are pretending, or are possibly deluded. Despite all their strange business documents about “user engagement” or whatever, they have not lost their old media habit of telling us what we should care about, of withholding analysis and offering only thin opinion on everything from the colour of a mystery dress to the shortcomings of a presidential nominee.


[box]Featured image: Schapelle Corby’s Instagram Post, FREEDOM[/box]

45 responses to “Why have we lost faith in the media? Schapelle Effing Corby

  1. Good article…but I think you underestimate radio, car radio, that is…commuters, regular travellers like me still use radio rather than CD’s, I think….

    1. ‘Radio is largely for people who have forgotten to turn the thing off’.

      Now, while that is one funny line, empirically speaking, n=2 in the i heart radio club.

      I have three tivoli radios (one small system with separate speaker) which I sync with a tuner (connected to the tv aerial), which in turn is powered by a Cambridge amp that pumps the sound through Kev transmission speakers.

      On fine gardening days I open all windows and doors, strategically place the 2 other single speaker radios in surround sound locations, and let rip.

      Of course.I’m not referring to talkback here, which I rather thought was endemic.

  2. Yes!! I don’t think I have ever cared about anything less than Schapelle Corby. Razer nailed it with “they have not lost their old media habit of telling us what we should care about, of withholding analysis and offering only thin opinion on everything from the colour of a mystery dress to the shortcomings of a presidential nominee.” Reflects my thoughts exactly.

  3. I so AGREE with who cares about Corby.
    Rightly or wrongly (I fall on rightly) she spent all those years locked up in Bali.
    She’s free now, leave her alone for pity’s sake and let her get on with her life.
    I don’t mean to be callous but she’s just one of many and worse things have happened to people in her situation.

  4. While you are correct on so many points, Helen, I do worry that while you talk to a lot of people, are you getting feedback from the great moronic masses? Do you hear from people who watch MasterChef or My Kitchen Rules? Shows about weight loss, house refurbishment and all the other dross that’s out there and still getting ratings? We live in an increasingly dumbed down world which sucks up BS because there’s so little else in their lives. Increasingly the banal is grabbing attention because the peeps don’t want to know about serious issues. It’s too hard for them to understand and relate to so much. Hence the disinterest in politics. We are in for more of this fatuous non-news, non-current affairs. Another reason why so many want to get rid of the ABC. Without Four Corners and Aunty’s other in-depth journalism shows, how would the ghastly things that so many get away with be uncovered?

    1. Maybe we of the “great moronic masses” are thoroughly pissed off of being told how to think by Politicians and the educated media like yourselves that we’ll just ignore anything or allow ourselves to just take note of the banal, as you care to call it. And it’s not Corby’s fault that the media scrum is running around in circles. Just head off to another society cocktail party and leave us great unwashed alone.

    2. Ian. This game of “who knows the real people best” is one I find tiring. So, I’m not going to try to win it.
      I suspect, as I have done since taking on work 25 years ago in mass media, that people aren’t as thick as we think they are.
      The shows you mentioned are not proof that people are “morons”, but that networks are. WHen we consider that people have longer worker hours and more unstable conditions, in any case, wouldn’t we allow that an hour or two of not having to think about one’s own troubles might be useful? Added to which, reality shows are very cost-effective. It’s not a simple matter any longer of “make a popular thing and accrue profit”. It’s more make a cheap thing.
      I really don’t believe that most people are idiots. I really believe that people are sick of establishment media treating them that way. Many surveys demonstrate a lack of trust in mieda.

  5. THIS is not about Ms Corby. HONEST. Many years ago a young person was waiting at a customs desk in another country. The assumption was that she thought all the people on the far side of the counter only spoke gollywog, not English. She might have said to the guy behind her ” I hope they don’t search that bag” indicating a bag on the floor. Strangely some people behind the counter DID speak English and the rest is history. I thought it was a bit like Noddy, the evil gollywogs had gotten Noddy into trouble, honest Mr Plod a gollywog ( or baggage handler ) must have put it in there. Its not mine etc etc. The media scrum shits me, if she was fat and 50 nobody would give a rats.

    1. If she was guilt shorely she has served her time and now should be able to get on with her life. That’s what sentences are. Now let her alone and stop the media frenzy.

  6. The most privileged group of people on Earth, taking all things into account, are Australian middle class women. So much so that just one of their members being arrested, of all things, and put into a hell hole with substandard conditions for what could have been twenty years, shocked Australian women to their core. Consequently Australian magazines and other media have fed of this fear for over twelve years.

      1. I knew someone would feel compelled to say that but I’m sorry to have to inform you that a lot of middle-class Australian woman are, act like and are proud of being bogans.

      2. Correct!

        Middle class? Nope – not many of us are middle class – to be quite frank – despite the assumption that a big house, boat and scallions of dollars so makes one!

    1. Correct. SC is a middle class bogan – earns her money from other people’s time & labour. Most Australian’s, even with big houses, cars & holidays are clearly working class. Simple test. If you earn the bulk of income from your physical time & labour, guess what, you are working class. If you earn your income from other people’s time & labour – rent, dividends, employees, interest – then you are middle class.

  7. The irony of the media getting stuck on the wrong plane out of Bali while SFC jumped onto another one is sweet.

  8. The great hypocrisy of the media who constantly bemoan the apparent appetite for “light” news while simultaneously force feeding a nation the crap they served up this week. Everything from sport coverage to politics has become tabloid, sensationalist, over-hyped gossip and they wonder why people aren’t buying it. Sadly, the issue with credibility doesn’t just hit the balance sheets of news organizations – what happens when a politician, bureaucrat or CEO can laugh at the risk of being “outed” in the media because no one believes or reads it anyway?

  9. Dear Helen

    I can’t recall I’ve ever noted despair in your previous writings, but boy, I sense your despond, here.

    Usually you threaten to rip someone, or some organisation a new fundament, often for no more reason that they exist in same space/time continuum as your goodself. But no; here was resignation! A deep sense of ennui.

    That the “media” spent obscene sums of money to try to get snaps, quotes, etc., of “Just call me innocent” S.C. is beyond my comprehension,
    And presumably, yours. However, may I humbly request you get back on the bike and fulminate again?

    My wife is concerned my passion for things Razer have been somehow compromised by your momentary lapse.


    James Gillard

  10. You are right again Helen. Corby’s is a pathetic story of a low-life willing drug mule. And there are plenty more examples.
    The fundamental reason why her story gets so much air time is entirely based in the media’s condescension towards the Australian people. The Your ABC’s lesser reporting of this story this time around is faint praise given their multiple other, abject, failings.

    I tried SO HARD to find value in free to air commercial TV (especially). I failed.

    I fell back to the ABC as a refuge a few years ago but all I found was a superficial left wing commentariat openly sneering at anyone who doesn’t follow their anti-humanist, anti-intelligence pro-socialist ideology.

    If you are interested in a point of view that offers a reasonable conservative viewpoint watch Paul Murray Live and the Bolt Report on Sky News. TRIGGER WARNING: If you are a socialist you will hate it.

    The Corby business summarises the profound failure of both public and commercial media. Both are 10 to 20 years behind the Australian public……………….just as they were in 1967.

    1. “… watch Paul Murray Live and the Bolt Report on Sky News ..”

      Ba-ha-ha !!!

      (seriously, that’s it!)

      1. Rutegar my exact reaction, Both Paul Murray & Andrew Bolt are talking heads, their hired opinions & there is no real discussion it is about their view of the world & the rest be damned. How does this prove to be constructive towards public debate?

        1. Sorry. This recommendation is only for those who are able to have their minds violated by a different point of view.

          Personally, I have been struggling with YourABC’s decision to ignore science on anything that didn’t support the Green/Left agenda. eg. Radio National’s Fran Kelly stated that cyclones in Australia had been getting more frequent and more severe. Problem is the International Panel on Climate Changes data shows that their number has dropped since 1970 by 40% along with their severity. Whatever your beliefs are on climate change, the truth can only emerge if all facts are weighed up. (Climate change is happening but…)

          While all the Lefties and almost all the media were shocked, horrified and just couldn’t understand how D. Trump, B.Rexit. M. LePen and P.Hanson et al happened, Paul Murray Live and Andrew Bolt had been providing insights on these matters for months before and after their successes. And these insights were sure as hell absent from the YourABC/Fairfax/Guardian thinktank.

          “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wise people so full of doubts.” – Bertrand Russell.

  11. Why did Helen refer to a Thomas Frank article in the Gardian when stating that the New York Times and Washington Post were uncritical of Hilsry Clinton as a candidate, these were Frank’s views?
    Clinton lost in the swing states by fractions of a percent, she won the popular vote by 2.9 million. The very system that the Yanks developed, voting for Electors instead of a direct vote for the candidate, to prevent an unsuitable candidate, failed.
    It was a low turnout election, a significant portion of the population liked neither candidate, Trump managed to attract sufficient disappointed Democrat voters to win the swing states. Clinton’s failure was to ignore the states. Whether Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden could have done better is moot as they are also part of the Washington swamp, Trump was an outsider and in the critical states his team sensed the mood and offered a solution to their frustrations. I wonder if the Democrats and mainstream Repuplicans have realised this yet?

  12. I just commented but got a message saying I’ve already day said that. Which I haven’t. ? ? My comment is she has been convicted and done her time Let’s leave her alone now to get on with her life

  13. On a more serious note, now that commercially-run and conservatively-owned media operators want the Australian taxpayer to cover the cost of their broadcast license fees, can we expect the Australian taxpayer to have a clear and dedicated voice in what crap these commercial operators put over the public airwaves ?

    Mmm … methinks that won’t be considered part of the bargain.

  14. Barely interested in Corby when she was arrested. Utterly disinterested in her trial, conviction and the ensuing controversy. Not remotely reinterested in her release, but moderately interested in Razer’s Ravings — if only for their piquant peppering of exquisite terms like ‘bushbaby eyes’.

    Not pretending.

    So, want to write constantly changing, factual articles of profound public significance that will test your powers of expression?

    Cover science journalism.

    Now for me it’s back to reading New Scientist, The Conversation and filtered Guardian articles while quietly fuming at Daily Review.

    1. Ruv, maybe you should look back at the 4 corners interview with a whistle-blower who spoke about the corruption within the baggage handlers, he was targeted by Howard, finally being destroyed via constant charges preferred against him. Maybe those couples that also found cannabis in their luggage when they arrived in Bali but didn’t report as they were scared (prior to Corby).

      Is your attitude just ……..

      1. Hi Mark,

        I don’t understand that the weight of public opinion is a valid part of the Australian justice system, nor that Australian popular opinion is a valid part of the Indonesian justice system. Thus, I’m not sure what constructive, responsible civic action all this cynical, self-promoting media coverage is meant to inform.

        But if you know, please tell us. What action do you believe this mobilisation of public curiosity is meant to galvanise? Why is its mobilisation more legitimate than consular or judicial action, and how is the inflated celebrity hype the best contribution you can conceive to informed civic discussion?

        I’m happy to change my view on this topic, but until these questions can be answered to my satisfaction, like Ms Razer, I’m still Not Interested.

  15. Thank you for saying exactly what I have been thinking for ages now. The media are creating stories out of nothing and trying to tell us what should be news. I don’t care about Shapelle Corby and I sincerely wish the media would leave Ben Cousins and his family alone. I don’t want to hear or see it, it isn’t news. Nor do I care about Anthony Bell and his divorce. What on earth could possibly justify the classification of an accountant as a ‘Celebrity’? Is the next reality TV show going to be “My Tax Rules”? And my other favourite is: ‘Let’s cross live to the scene…” Then we see a lonely journalist standing on the side of a road or outside a building where absolutely nothing is happening because it was all over three hours ago. Surely they have something better to do.

  16. On the plus side, the fact that commercial TV is tanking can only be considered an unmitigated good. Their use of the spectrum is now quite a poor use of public resources. Combined with rabid commercial news vendors, they have done little social good and much social harm.

    But radio, well, I suppose it depends on what you listen to. I know the best ratings go to the worst talk radio, and worse still, to terrible gentle/frictionless FM playing very old music, and in that sense, radio is a joke. Personally, I rarely venture away from triple JJJ, which as a former host there you probably hate what the kids are playing these days, but I happen to think it’s freaking gold, mostly, with the occasional veering off into tripe. And it gives an outlet to young creative musicians and promotes them on a global scale. So many australian acts are huge overseas because of the start they got on JJJ. So for me, radio is not dead, and is a wonderful accompaniment to working on woodwork project sin the shed.

    Thanks anyway Helen, I couldn’t give a rats as to what is happening to Schapelle, and instantly change channels when news comes on about her. For mine, SBS news is the only one worth watching. ABC main channel news has lamed itself by following commercial news formats too much. I can’t watch anymore, apart from the business and weather.

  17. On the whole not a bad article from Helen. I think she could have developed it more and I agree that there is a sense of despair and resignation in the tone of her piece. For example, the Schapelle Corby affair from start to finish should be contrasted with the media and cultural treatment afforded to the coverage and substance surrounded that of the largely forgotten unfortunate Bali 9 – especially Chan and Sukumaran. Both of whom were executed. It surely couldn’t be the slight possibility of Corby’s innocence could it? Have I just answered my own question or is there something culturally sexist about the MSM’s coverage of youngish females in trouble (Bogans or otherwise) compared with that of young males who one assumes and certainly the media and possibly the public assumes – got what they deserved. I think there is a lot of covert cultural sexism in the media where we are having projected interest and even sympathy in the plight of a bogan drug mule who happens to be female, whose blended and dysfunctional family comes from QLD, where there are lots of opportunities for file footage of beaches and high rise and glamour as opposed to 2 guys who are expendable in the drug war. I see this happening before with Michelle Leslie. WE are seeing it happen now with Cassie Sainsbury. Interest in young females. Interest in females in trouble. Blokes?

  18. Excellent article Razer.

    Having just returned from the far reaches of Anatolia I get back to Oz to be confronted by two awesome examples of Australian ugliness. The first was a news snippet of Barnaby Joyce, and the second was the media scrambling over the low class drug runner, Shapelle Corby. What is it about Oz; why do we venerate the tawdry, the squalid, the devoid of intellect, the shabby and the morally questionable?

    Certainly the media-the MSM-appear to be gutter dwellers. But heigh, shouldn’t the real crims be the public who read this trash?

  19. I agree with the concept the Australian media, has headed for the gutter, there is an assumption that No Idea & Woman’s Day are the height of intellectual commentary, the problem is that all the outlets are to blame for this mediocrity this is what you get, when you have too much ownership of media by Rupert Murdoch & those of his ilk thinking that they can treat us very much like all other media consumers across his empire by recycling “news” keeping everyone sucked into these never ending sagas. The majority of Australians I would suggest have lost interest as what is passed off as “news” its either gossip & dross that can be picked up on any website. I like Dog’s breakfast prefer ABC radio, but prefer the Classical stations, as soon as they hint that the new’s coming I hit the mute button, there is such a thing as too much of what is passed off as news, which of late is horror, & what is padded out with what is going on from over the garden fence, a lot of Australian’s I think would agree with HR. I like many agree she’s done her time, guilty or innocent she has many demons to contend with, I do believe that many Australian’s are wondering what’s the difference between the Indonesian legal system & the Australian Media, at least the Indonesian legal system lets people go. May be it’s time for the Australian media to give us all a break.

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