OBAMA, THOSE PHOTOGRAPHS and THE NATIONAL ENQUIRER
Back in the days when Noah thought that a boat was a two-man skiff, Australian journalists had very few alternatives available for working overseas.
One was the BBC. If you were one of the favoured few within the ABC you were encouraged to spend some time at the Beeb where, among other skills, you would learn to speak with rounded vowels, and deliver a sentence with newly acquired rhythm, cadence and emPHARsis.
Unless a journo was posted overseas by their paper, options for print journalists were limited. Newspapers in the UK were heavily unionised, and the unions didn’t like Australian journalists taking ‘British’ jobs. A major alternative in the quest to gain overseas experience was finding a news job in the USA. Getting a position with a respected newspaper in America was more difficult than any of us could have imagined. The green card was essential if you were to work for one of the biggies. There was also the attitude that if you were from Australia you wouldn’t know anything about anything so how could you possibly report on anything with any credibility.
Of course there was a strand of newspapers, and I use the term loosely, who didn’t give a shit that there wasn’t a green card, and had realized very early on that Australian and New Zealand journalists were well-trained, usually multi-skilled and a most knowledgeable group of reporters. It was in these dens of iniquity that you could find well paid jobs.
The National Enquirer became the newspaper of choice for young Australian journalists. The enquirer employed a disproportionately large percentage of Australasian journos, some of whom thought they might be able to bring a touch of class to this tabloid which was, of course, idealistic pie in the sky!
I remember a feature article on working for the National Enquirer written by a very talented young Australian whose name I’ve forgotten in the mists of time. This journo accepted a job at the Enquirer believing herself immune to the insidious effect the paper seemed to have on journalists who had worked there only a matter of months. It was either that or starve.
She told the story of being assigned, after only a month or so at the paper, to go and get some quotable quotes from the then aging Frank Sinatra; a celebrity well known for his hatred of the media, the Enquirer by name, and especially Australian journalists, in particular the female of the species.
He became her prey. They finally had their foot-in-the-door stand up stoush, where she was told in language most colourful that he would never have anything to do with the Enquirer. While being treated somewhat roughly by his minders she was reported to have screamed to the back of a departing Sinatra, “Don’t worry Frankie, we’ll get you when you’re dead…”
She had succumbed to the dark side of the force in less than two months.
The National Enquirer was renowned for paying morgue and funeral home attendants to take quick happy snaps of the recently departed celebs for publication in subsequent editions.
In a country that for decades has thrived on the vicarious pleasure resulting from the questionable intrusion into the macabre of the rich and famous, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that there is a growing demand from all and sundry for the release of gruesome photographs of a dead terrorist.
One expects this sort of request from the conspiracy theorists and conservative red necks.
One does not expect such outrageousness from mainstream media who should know better. I never expected to include the NYT, Wash Post or even CNN in the same category as the National Enquirer, but this week saw them tarred with the same brush. Despite the understandable sense of satisfaction felt with the death of this man, the mainstream media are supposed to have a set of standards that should see them take the high moral ground over the Fox News and the National Enquirer level of gutter journalism. The mainstream media is not supposed to pursue the quest for ratings and sales at the expense of ethics and good taste.
What is surprising is that the moral tone has been best exemplified in the restraint that has come from the White House. I can’t remember a time during the past four decades when, given the opportunity for gloating and jingoist patriotic fervor in response to perceived ‘victories’, such an opportunity was passed over by US political leaders in favour of deliberate, well considered, diplomatic and appropriate responses.
President Obama brings a new style of intelligence, discipline and class to political leadership in the United States. Long may he reign!