Do you remember the Sydney Siege in 2014? Of course you do, how could you forget? It was on almost every TV channel, it was trending on Twitter, and just about every Australian was talking about it on Facebook. There was round-the clock coverage on the event, the same footage was recycled over and over again, and journalists were clutching at straws for any new developments. The pressure was on; people wanted information and journalists had to deliver. The result was a coverage that was controversial, over-saturated, and drew attention to the dangers of the 24 hour news cycle.
When The Daily Telegraph released this “2pm Edition” with the siege still unfolding, the general public and media commentators were quick to criticize the news outlet for inaccurate reporting and fear-mongering tactics. In an attempt to justify their actions, The Daily Telegraph and other News Limited-owned outlets wrote a number of pieces claiming that the outrage over the front cover was an attempt to mask the public’s fear of the uncomfortable truth rather than concerns over journalistic ethics. In the article published by The Daily Telegraph on December 18th 2014, Sarah Le Marquand said that the job of a journalist is to “capture the mood and communicate the events of a moment in time with accuracy and integrity.” The irony of this statement is that despite what the “2pm Edition” claimed, IS actually had no affiliation with the attacker and to release such an inflammatory article while the siege was ongoing was incredibly irresponsible. The 2pm Edition was not done out of the necessity to inform or capture a mood, it was done out of the necessity to produce content and increase consumption. It was quantity over quality, print now and check the facts later journalism, something that is becoming more common in the 24 hour news cycle.
For my research project I will be examining how the 24 hour news cycle has damaged journalistic credibility and ethics. To do this I will gather reports and statistics regarding journalists breaking the code of ethics and focus on a number of high-profile cases, including the case previously mentioned. I will follow a news event over the course of 24 hours, recording any factual changes made to reports from five of the major Australian news outlets every half hour. I will also conduct a survey which will question participants on their consumption of news, their expectations of journalists and the coverage from news channels, as well as their perception of the reality and whether it meets their expectations.
The preliminary reading that I have done supports my proposed research and proves that this issue is worth investigating. In Stephen Cushion’s book ‘Television Journalism’ (p64, 2011), he said that because of the 24 hour news cycle and the ability to publish stories online, “journalists share the journalistic need for speed even if… it may compromise their own ethical standards.” A particular case Cushion makes reference to is the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and the pressure on the Indian news channels to produce continuous content. Cushion cites P.N Vasanti who stated that news channels would “sensationalise, [and] claim specious “exclusives”… to attract attention” (p.68, 2011). Steven Barnett, a Professor of Communications at the University of Westminster, takes these sentiments even further in his book ‘The Rise and Fall of Television Journalism: Just Wires and Lights in a Box?’ (2011). Barnett views 24 hours news as being a “shoestring operation with too few reporters… preferring to contrive drama rather than break new stories or expand horizons of existing ones”(p.206, 2011). These assessments of the 24 hour news cycle are concerning and raise questions over the current standards of mainstream journalism.
At the conclusion of this study, I hope to have uncovered the impact that the 24 hour news cycle has had on journalistic credibility and ethics and draw to light the issues that need to be addressed in order to ensure that news is obtained and presented in way that is cogent and ethically valid.
Barnett, S 2011, ‘The Rise and Fall of Television Journalism: Just Wires and Lights in a Box?’, book, A & C Black, p. 206, viewed 25 March 2016, https://books.google.com.au/books?id=ePwlksKTGX0C&pg=PA205&lpg=PA205&dq=journalism+and+24+hour+news&source=bl&ots=KUiX5MHL6I&sig=kXD-RCfDMEuq0Tm_5bta6bdJaDI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiCt8D0-MTLAhUCn5QKHaLGCCk4ChDoAQgeMAE#v=onepage&q=journalism%20and%2024%20hour%20news&f=false
Cushion, S 2011. ‘Television Journalism’, book, SAGE, pp. 64-68, viewed 25 March 2016, https://books.google.com.au/books?id=WuZSDrsGY2IC&pg=PA64&lpg=PA64&dq=journalism+and+24+hour+news&source=bl&ots=lvxKKWxKmM&sig=_zqRmZcHO830L1Cgx7tzwDqbVCY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjQ7PXt8sTLAhUKH5QKHbidAqkQ6AEIXTAJ#v=onepage&q=journalism%20and%2024%20hour%20news&f=false
Marquand, S. L 2014, ‘The Raw Truth Can Sometimes Be Ugly’, The Daily Telegraph, 18 December, viewed 25 March 2016, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/sarrah-lemarquand/the-raw-truth-can-sometimes-be-ugly/news-story/a765d47ed9b19070ecb891e9a7b0fa8e
The Daily Telegraph, 2014, ‘Death Cult CBD Attack, image, viewed 25 March 2016, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/opinion/sarrah-lemarquand/the-raw-truth-can-sometimes-be-ugly/news-story/a765d47ed9b19070ecb891e9a7b0fa8e