With the release of Tara Brown and her crew, the nation waits to hear their story. But what then? Will the massive ratings enable more of these narratives?
As you’re reading this, the 60 Minutes crew held on botched kidnapping charges in Lebanon should be well and truly off the hook. After cathartic phone calls made to family members, and perhaps beyond some dancing in airline aisles, the narrative will roll to its conclusion.
But while that story is complete, a darker tale will begin. What Tara Brown and her crew faced in Lebanon will become merely prologue. I presume that when the story goes to air, the cross section of the populace sucked into that timeslot will be colossal. If people still spoke over the water cooler on Mondays, then this would absolutely be one of the discussions that would bring us together. The Tara Brown tale, going off the presumed numbers, will be viewed as a watermark – both in those who view it, and those who show it.
In my short jog in the media game, I have seen there are those who have, and those who have not. It’s an industry powered on abject jealousy. Every narrative, and in particular, the responses to it, are seen as a benchmark – a new level to be bested by those who missed the boat. Hence, those who have not, overcome those who previously had, and the cycle continues unfettered. Which is why Ten, Nine, and Seven have their own duelling, identical cooking/talent/morning shows; but loyalty to one show is thin, for most of the audience tunes into all of them. Like my nan does.
And that’s where the danger lies, because there’ll be an audience for this. But, will the lesson learned be, “well, we got away with it” or “well…we got away with it…”?
If it’s the latter, I’m not saying that it’ll be a race to see who can get locked up first, but rather a rash of these dangerous, one-sided hero missions, starring an intrepid Australian journalist fighting a relatable injustice actioned by the hand of an (ethnic) antagonist. If we are to pursue the most dangerous stories, then logically we must travel to the most dangerous places. As the line gets murkier, the narrative becomes clearer. I’m naively fond of our country, and I’d hate to see us traipsing this cracked path. For on a larger scope, if we are to lose the crusades overseas, what of the overall damage wrought? Exposing wrongdoers, absolutely, but what of the rest of the population? What happens when the cameras turn off? What of the residual loathing felt by the citizens of these countries for being portrayed in such a manner? The worst of them, planted on Sunday night edutainment, as collective minds are reinforced on both sides. As the question circulated during the Tara Brown fiasco; what would happen if Lebanese journalists came here and did the same to us?
The base lesson in media is that there is nothing worse than an ignored story. That binary mindset has birthed the far-right news empires in the US and the rise of the paparazzo. This morning, how many snap meetings, or conference calls, or vision boards have been drafted with buzzwords in reference to the Tara Brown story?
Channel 9 does not solely wear the blame; the ABC’s Four Corners are similarly guilty, having being locked up in Malaysia last month. But where the two differ is the subject. While Four Corners pursued the Malaysian PM, 60 Minutes kept it entirely relatable.
Take a quick poll, pop your hands up.
Who cares about the Malaysian PM?
I’m not painting Tara Brown or 60 Minutes with the brush of sensationalism. Certainly not. I’m merely illustrating that the greater reaction matters. For it is us who colours the next picture we see.
I just hope the gut is wrong and I’m projecting my paranoia, but I feel we’re approaching a tipping point. After the stopwatch reaches sixty, will we admit that perhaps it was a step too far, and thusly we should check how deep the water is before we jump in; or stampede into the pool, and the first to hit the bottom wins our attention?