In the wake of the Sydney siege, Akira Laska questions the 24 hour news cycle that has emerged as a consequence of the media digital revolution and how it’s affecting the reporting and reception of news.
It was the day that shocked the nation (and our news feeds).
Turning on the TV or logging onto social media, I was flooded with coverage on the Martin Place siege: live until the bitter end.
Ah, the 24 hour news cycle…
The coverage hasn’t stopped there…as we are now bombarded with everything we could ever hope to know (but really shouldn’t) about the whole debacle. Media corporates continue to inform us about the tragedy, competing with each other to lay their claim to being the most up-to-date on the situation and its aftermath, such as in this classy tweet by Rupert Murdoch, the owner of News Corp.
Ok, it might come across as a little ironic to pen an article on the 24 hour news cycle and very excess of news reportage that currently surrounds the siege. Nonetheless, it is an important task to address the situation as it stands in the media. In particular, I cannot help but think how counter-productive this sort of reportage is to us as a nation in the face of a terror campaign that is turning our own voracious desire for knowledge – our need to be informed as much as possible as soon as possible – against us. It certainly wouldn’t be the first, for example there’s Islamic State’s capitalisation on controversy through its social media channels, or even further back to the murder of Will Rigby in England and the audacity of the 9-11 attack.
As far as terrorism goes, the Martin Place siege epitomises this crafty use of the 24 hour news cycle. Picture a furious Sydney; a desire for retribution we have not seen since the Cronulla Riots and the resentment of a now seething, oppressed Islamic community… just ripe for radicalisation. Thankfully, this series of events remains a fiction, as we have stood together pledging our support to our fellow citizens in the #illridewithyou campaign. For me, the possibility of such a situation justifies self-censorship from journalists…not to mention the respect it shows for the victims and their wishes for closure (as our mothers always said: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it).
Yet, should we have expected ourselves to deprive those with a true need to know? After all, each hostage in that café had family or friends who would have been concerned for their loved ones. Do they not deserve answers, or some sort of assurance that their friend was safe? What about the family of the gunman, those who prayed hard to have their son back home? Should they have been left in the dark?
Suddenly, I now find myself in self doubt about this delicate debate. Do the needs of the state outweigh the needs of the individuals who have everything to lose and those who truly deserve to know?
It seems that there are no easy answers and it is these ethical questions that all journalists, media outlets, and even us bloggers must ask ourselves in these difficult times.