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Old Media: Lessons In Missing The Point

At no point in the life of web 2.0 has the divide between the people who write the news and the people who consume it been as starkly defined as this week. Julia Gillard delivers a ripping speech on sexism and misogyny, and before she’d even sat down the web was ablaze with commentary and praise for her words. No one out there was focusing on Peter Slipper. No one, that is, except the press gallery, whose members happily wrote reams of copy on Gillard’s hypocrisy — her refusal to vote for an Opposition motion to remove a speaker on the basis of his private text messages, some of which were certainly sexist, others crude.

Never mind the hypocrisy exposed in Gillard’s speech, the evidence over years of an Opposition leader whose interest in women’s rights extends as far as his political advantage. In a world where resignations, votes and numbers captivate, the obvious line was that Gillard was a base tactician, cynically holding up her sex as a smokescreen.

What nonsense. And how swiftly it was denounced as such. As the speech spread around the world, social media showed that what the public saw and what the media reported were two very different events.

It can be dangerous to get bogged down in the quagmire of Twitter. Hours, days could be wasted in essentially an echo chamber, because who you follow on Twitter determines what you see, and so there is bound to be some affirmation of your own world view. But it can be equally hazardous to ignore what the masses are saying online. This medium is instantaneous. It reveals instinct, not just analysis. And when we’re talking about issues like sexism and misogyny, those basic responses matter.

Like Tony Abbott, we have mothers or sisters or daughters or wives or aunts or cousins or grandmothers we love. Some of us are all, or some, of those people. And when we talk about sexism and misogyny, it’s personal. It’s part of who we are as a society. And we react.

Never before have the tools existed for our opinion makers to really get a bead on the nation’s pulse. Never before have so few bothered to do so.

Watching Julia Gillard over a live parliamentary feed on Tuesday with Tweetdeck cued up was illuminating. Reading and watching the mainstream coverage was not.

Voters won’t decide to back Labor on the basis of BuzzFeed making a series of gifs depicting Gillard’s speech, or Jezebel calling her a “badass motherfucker”, but in the moment as it happened Julia Gillard impressed the hell out of a lot of people. And social media reflected that.

When something “goes viral”, it’s because it strikes a chord or hits a nerve. Julia Gillard hit a nerve this week. But the mainstream media — at least in Australia — didn’t feel it when it hit.

38 comments on this story
by Wolfie Rankin

and I agree with you entirely.

October 11, 2012 @ 1:09am
by Christopher

Interesting - coming the day after Bianca Hall reported the following in The Age; Female journalists are more than twice as likely to be sexually harassed in the workforce than women in other professions, a Monash University study has found.

October 11, 2012 @ 6:58am
by Chris Grady

Congratulations, Sarah-Jane: totally nailed it!

I've never had any time for Julia but she was SPETACULAR in that speech.

And they didn't get it.

October 11, 2012 @ 8:22am
by ian brown

absolute rubbish,

October 11, 2012 @ 10:05am
by Ken James

Sarah-Jane Collins has inverted the correct deduction 100%.

That's because her leftism has blinkered her to meaningful feminist ideals and decency itself.

October 11, 2012 @ 10:43am
by June beilby

The PM was magnificent. Her words echoed the sentiments of all women in the workforce and at home who have been subjected to sexist treatment in our "civilised" country. We can relate to those unfortunates in 3rd world countries who do not have the privilege of free speech. May the PM continue to act on our behalf. Now we know what Mrs Thatcher had to endure.

October 11, 2012 @ 10:44am
by Barry

Great post—and loving the new design!

October 11, 2012 @ 10:45am
by Laurel Papworth

You're barking up the wrong tree. Media claims that Twitter is all fluff, misses the point, and is not "valid reportage" ergo Twitter talking about something means that no indepth analysis has been done and it's not "real news" like wot the Press Gallery does.
Yes you're right, but the few who are listening will use your article as an example of how so-called bloggers don't understand how important "real news gathering" is....

October 11, 2012 @ 10:46am
by Claire Corbett

So true. I have never felt the disconnect between the MSM and the 'real world' so strongly. I was stunned to hear Peter Hartcher completely unrepentant on ABC RN last night. The fact that the rest of the world disagreed with him cut no ice with him. He'd decided what the story meant; it was all about the motion to remove Slipper and the fact that no-one on the PLANET gave a rat's behind about that except the Parliamentary Press Gallery (the real echo chamber, not Twitter) moved him not a millimetre. Hartcher, clearly an intelligent man, showed how incapable many are in the MSM of actually learning anything.

I suppose what shocked me so much was to think about how much of my past understanding of the world has been filtered by the MSM and how little it deserved my trust. Twitter may be a series of small windowpanes but I think it ends up giving me a clearer view than the one incredibly biased view I get from MSM. Don't forget, Twitter is not just a series of tweets - many of those link to thoughtful blog posts and articles.

Margaret Simons got it years ago with her book Fit To Print, which nailed how insular the press gallery is, how utterly removed from the concerns of most Australians. As for Twitter being an echo chamber, I submit the MSM is far more of one, with far less diversity.

October 11, 2012 @ 10:46am
by Ronson

Any chance of expanding your comment, Ian Brown?

October 11, 2012 @ 10:49am
by Gabrielle Henry

Denying this obvious truth is wishful thinking. Great article, Sarah Jane.

October 11, 2012 @ 10:52am
by Brian Blackwell snr

Tony Abbott is protected by the men's club in the Canberra Press Gallery (many women are members of it).

October 11, 2012 @ 10:56am
by Renee Bugg

I could not agree more. It was so disheartening to do a mentoring session with a group of Year 11 girls yesterday and not one of them even knew it had happened, let alone the response it generated that rippled across the globe.

October 11, 2012 @ 10:57am
by Chris Harper

Ms Gillard made a complete fool of herself with that performance, using the last scraps of what little political capital hes has remaining in an effort to defend the indefensible.

That her only basis to attack the Leader of the Opposition is deceit, smear and lies about some non existent misogyny, rather than honest and demonstrable fact, is just further indication of what a decent man he must be.

A rotten leader of a rotten government - rotten from the top down, and rotten to the core.

October 11, 2012 @ 10:59am
by magda

I thought her response to Abbot was strong measured and definitely well aimed at his major shortcomings. Long overdue and the subsequent global response was impressive.
Nevertheless she is at heart a consummate politician and that can't be ignored. I am displeased at the policies she is promoting in the welfare sector, which may be necessary from her point of view but to me smack of LNP policies of old. This is disturbing it erodes the heart of Labor ideals and principles that I have believed in; that people on the fringes should be provided for , that the aged should be honoured and respected. Not seen as pawns in a game that can be played with at her political whim, and that in itself further erodes Labor fundamentals leaving us with a watered down party that will continue to cannibalize itself .
The Slipper debacle I guess we have swallow as "taking one for the team" because it will blow over pretty quickly. Welfare reform will have longer and more dire consequences for too many vulnerable Australians . I shall like many others consider my vote for Labor in the future very carefully. No matter that it is lead by a " bad-ass mother... " or not !

October 11, 2012 @ 11:40am
by andrew

Problem is twitter iis not (yet) what the masses are saying. It's a bit like surveying Newtown and extrapolating that for Sydney. But you definitely are onto something.

October 11, 2012 @ 11:48am
by Jack G Jessen

An excellent summation Sarah-Jane Collins and Claire Corbett your comment likewise. I am dumbfounded by the MSM response.

To me rational analysis takes in the whole contextual landscape; of course, the singular and narrow focus of the stakeholders most directly affected maintained their myopic view and espoused them so.

I look forward to the continued disruption to MSM and therefore their consumers by the 'social media' ain't seen nothing yet.

October 11, 2012 @ 11:58am
by Keith Tomasek

Thanks for a great post. That's a great speech, no doubt.
Here's another story of old media missing the point. An established Canadian columnist was recently outed for multiple counts of plagiarism by a blogger.
In responding to the charge the old media refered to the blogger as "anonymous" even though the blogger's identity was public. She's a respected university professor.
A tailspin ensued here's a link to the story from The Toronto Star:

October 11, 2012 @ 12:05pm
by Stroppy Pom

I thought that her speech was long overdue and would like to think that it was a turning point. But as you point out, the media have put out their own commentary and opinion and not actually reported what happened. All the time we have News Ltd controllling the media I guess we are never going to have the facts getting in the way of right wing spin!

October 11, 2012 @ 12:17pm
by John

Despite the PM's white hot anger, inflamed I think by the belligerent or stupid repetition of the died of shame comment, she delivered her points powerfully and in a measured form. Only the truly partisan could ignore the structure she employed - on this day, in the forum, in this context YOU said.... and I was offended. It was very impressive. I watched it live on News 24 and I had to stand. The Slipper texts, clearly puerile and crass were hardly a reason to SACK him on the floor of parliament without any pretence of a hearing. What ultimately happened was an entirely appropriate resignation after discussion with colleagues. That the Gallery, so used to braying for blood failed to see that was appalling.

October 11, 2012 @ 12:52pm
by Abe

@Claire Corbett
Hartcher was right, she is a hypocrite.
So the world saw the speech, so what? They probably don't know or care about the rest of the story behind it or that Labor are so desperate that this is their only line of attack.
Don't get me wrong I'm no Abbott fan and will not vote for him but this all just a bit silly now.

Gillard made a stupid move by installing Slipper as speaker, the man is a total joke, always has been and she looked bad trying to defend him, that's it.

I've never really had a high opinion of parliament but this current crop are just awful, with Gillard and Abbott being the worst and this gender war that's raging is just to cover up a desperate government and a useless, policy free, opposition.
As for Twitter, I don't need to be told what to think.

October 11, 2012 @ 3:18pm
by Sherry Stumm

All hail to Julia Gillard. I thought her speech was electrifying and like her I have had to endure really crude sexism in my workplace over the years so I empathize with her position. I watched on News 24 as she delivered her speech with power and conviction. What a woman. Tony Abbott has been sniping at her for years and she has held her cool until yesterday when she snaped. I would have had half the patience with his aggressive bully boy tactics. She made the right call about Slipper. The courts must bring down their decision before the parliament flicks a speaker whatever his misdeed and no matter how vile unless he resigns as Slipper did thanks to my wonderful MP representative Rob Oakshott. Well done to you Rob and Tony Windsor and to Bob Katter who made the right call. You all understood that parliament is not a kangaroo court at the mercy of a petulant, ambitious twerp in opposition.

October 11, 2012 @ 4:47pm
by Rasselas

Twitter is in no way representative of the general population. Isn't that bleedingly obvious? Referring to Twitter trends is simply lazy and incompetent journalism.

October 11, 2012 @ 7:34pm
by Jess

She never defended Slipper, she said and rightly so that they do not sack people before they've even been tried.
I was very disappointed by the media coverage of this, people all leaping to criticize the fact that the leader of our country stood up and said publicly that misogyny is unacceptable.
I'm no Gillard lover, and unless she has some serious policy changes re: gay marriage and asylum seekers, I won't vote for her but damned if I wasn't proud of her. These were not cheap tactics, this was passion from our PM, we could use a little more of it.

October 11, 2012 @ 9:35pm
by Ian McFarlane

I think Julia Gillard's "sexism" speech in parliament was an excellent example of how well she has handled herself and her very difficult job since becoming PM. It's absurd for the opposition to keep ranting about the government's supposed incompetency, when just about every indicator, or evidence - often expressed in comments from experts with no vested interest - mostly point the other way. And the continual slurs about her being a liar are equally unjustified. Anyone with an IQ above that of a moron would know that politicians (like most of us) lie for all sorts of reasons, many to do with changed circumstances rather than deliberate deceit. Apart from which, the truth is a slippery beast, and often dosn't take media exposure very well. When Julia made the carbon tax statement, she certainly wasn't leading a government poised on a knife edge (and didn't expect to be doing so). In the event, realistically, she had little choice but to take account of changed circumstances, and seek a compromise that would still allow climate change solutions a chance to be addressed. This is politics. The reason Julia has been crucified for doing what male politicians do all the time, is down to one simple reason: she's a woman. And with that gender definition, rests the truth of her case against sexism. QED.

October 12, 2012 @ 8:20am
by ghl

Misrepresentation, moralistic outrage, vitriolic rage. Many men will recognise that manipulative sequence.

October 12, 2012 @ 9:13am
by bobby b

"She never defended Slipper, she said and rightly so that they do not sack people before they've even been tried."
- - - --

This is disingenuous at best.

Slipper has been called into court to face a trial of the question "did he improperly and illegally subject an employee to sexual pressure?"

As a part of that process, Slipper's text messages have been made public. They are revolting, sexist, disgusting, and libelous to mussel-lovers.

Slipper readily concedes that he wrote and sent those messages. The trial that he faces will not be asked to determine if they were written by him. They will be used as tools within that trial, to help the trier of fact determine who is telling the truth, and what was truly done and said to whom.

So to claim that the MP's could not judge Slipper's character based on his texts because that was properly a role for the court is completely dishonest.

October 12, 2012 @ 2:49pm
by sep

Ask for equality, and when you get it, attack with words like sexism and misogyny. You knew what you signed up for when you toppled Rudd. Face it or get out. Using gender to hide poor political performance and to slander your opponent, only serves to set back the hard work of those who actually fight for gender equality against the real perpetrators of violence and discrimination against women.

Get some perspective. Nice speech, but no vote.

October 13, 2012 @ 9:31am
by truth

Which is worse..... A truthful statement by Tony Abbott that indicates that women might at some stage found to be doing a spot of ironing while thinking about other matters---or----
...... Julia Gillard lying to the Australian people about introducing a carbon tax, and about the ‘strength’ of the CAGW consensus---and allowing Labor's Climate Comissioners to shut down questioning from Australians on what's supposed to be the most momentous issue of our time, by saying ' the science is over/closed when so much is still unknown?

October 13, 2012 @ 12:13pm
by Chris Harper

I have to say, the idea that the Prime Minister, I repeat, the PRIME MINISTER, of Australia, one of the two dozen or so most powerful politicians on the planet, would stand up and whine at length about being a victim is an insult to every person, female or male, who ever has been a real victim.

That she should use this pretend victimhood in order to seek to escape the very justified criticisms that her approach so richly deserves is an act so repugnant I doubt I could stomach being in her presence without expressing my contempt for her to her face.

A rotten Prime Minister setting the tone for a rotten government, rotten from the top down.

October 13, 2012 @ 3:48pm
by Clive

Can't say I'm held in awe by Gillard or Abbot. The whole thing was nothing more than a beatup.
As for Facebook and Twitter being indicative of what the general populace thinks.... I can only say I hope not.
One other thing, I'd dispense with the "At no point in the life of web 2.0" most people wouldn't even know what you meant or care. Means bugger all any way, it's just hype.

October 14, 2012 @ 1:40am
by Rotha

What do we want in this country- a government or an ad campaign?
The Prime minister set out the situation accurately and honestly. The Parliament is not a courthouse. Has the leader of the opposition any knowledge of the Separation of Powers
upon which this democracy is built? Of course he has. He is depending upon the public being ignorant and easily whipped into a frenzy over a wrong which is already being dealt with in a court of law. He is pushing for mob rule in the hope that he will be the top mobster. There is no honour in his direction and as the PM pointed out, no honesty either.

October 14, 2012 @ 9:03am
by John

The Old Media fails again. Going the way of the dinosaur.

Well done, on the speech, PM. About time someone held Mr Abbott to account.

October 16, 2012 @ 1:56pm
by Peter South

Seems me that with the collapse of Channel Nine's finances the public are already voting on what they think of the commercial media in this country

Billionaires make truly rotten media owners. The way they have often treated our Prime Minister - especially via extreme Right Wing columnists and talk back radio shock-jocks - is a disgrace. I'm glad our Prime Minister finally spoke out in the manner she did.

There are a lot of people round the world applauding her stand - well over three million in fact would seem to have viewed the various videos of the speech. It is not just a speech about the treatment of women, it is a rallying call against populism in politics - what was once called the creation and exploitation of mass hysteria.

For too long politicians have created lies, promoted them as opinions, and then used them to seek support to seize power. At worst it can be denial of such events as the Holocaust but denial of the science of climate change is not dissimilar in quality. In recent times techniques such as astroturfing have been used to give false pictures of public opinion

I'm with Ms Gillard on this - it's time to take out the trash in Australian politics - time for a new opposition front bench

October 16, 2012 @ 2:39pm
by Des Carroll, Castlemaine, Vic.

A splendid piece. I feel the late, brilliant wordsmith, John Hepworth, would have approved.

October 18, 2012 @ 9:43am
Show previous 35 comments
by michael

Being a potential reader I am at odds with the piece and most the comments. It is far too easy to label, much more difficult to justify. From the poll numbers it is obvious Gillard is as much a misandrist as abbot is a misogynist. The net effect is neither, just so much rubbish. Get on with the job at hand and leave mctiernan to go back to his bolthole. (Interesting the spellcheck identifies misogynist but not misandrist, is that a comment on your paper?)

October 18, 2012 @ 6:56pm
by mikal skeates

I have changed my mind I now like julia gilliard despite the fact that she is part of the labour stench that masquerades as democrtaic process . I was in th eoffice of the deputy prime minister is 1975 I saw and know 1st hand how evil and full of hypocrasy and lies labour peddles , but today I like a good debate as my boss ( jim cairns ) used to say its about a good debate. Late at night listening to the parliament prior to the dismissal and all the goings on . I have never heard a better speeech by a single member. I think it is a world 1st that the opposite side of the chamber was relatively quiet mostly during that speech, obvioulsy stunned and gogg smacked. bring back uselass rudd and turnbull they were more fun and twice as uselass but good debate.

October 19, 2012 @ 2:18pm
by mrm

Good article Sarah-Jane.
Exactly how it was.

October 23, 2012 @ 5:30pm
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