We enter dangerous waters when we deem some subjects above criticism and those who invoke the topics to be voicing immutable truth.
Last week news media around the world found themselves navigating shoals and reefs in a Force Five gale created by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The Duchess, Meghan Markle, invoked not one but two topics from that growing list of sacrosanct subjects – racism and mental health – and, while I have no doubt that life in the Royal spotlight pushed her to the edge of stability, their choice placed her words above criticism or even analysis.
Government assistance and the call for social platforms to pay their way have highlighted the role of the news media in Big Democracy – holding power to account and ensuring an informed electorate – but what about Small Democracy?
Small Democracy exists in the finer ends of the community. It is the stuff that enables us to live and work in an equitable and informed way at a local level.
It cascades from region to city to district to suburb. It targets all the community and it targets sections of the community.
At each layer, there is a need for robust information.
The Tuesday Commentary takes a break this week while we move into our new apartment. As you can see, the books are packed ready for the shift.
No journalist likes to leave a hole in the page so here is the beginning of a book I wrote in 2014, Trust Ownership and the Future of News: Media moguls and white knights (London, Palgrave). The issues it addresses are as real today as they were seven years ago.
I’m not one to rubberneck at traffic accidents, but I am fascinated watching the wheels fall off social media.
First Facebook and Twitter scored an own-goal by banning Donald Trump in acts that demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt what everyone (except Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey) knew already – they are publishers. We’ll return to the implications of that shortly.
Then Google strong-armed the Australian government over impending legislation and, by threatening to turn off its search engine, acknowledged what everyone (except Larry Page and Sergey Brin) knew already – it is a monopoly. We’ll come back to that, too.