Tabloids ‘shaping of the facts’ to fit biases and prevailing prejudices

by Alan Johnston, Pottsville NSW, Australia

In my late twenties I gained a degree in Biological Science and a Diploma in Secondary Education. Thirty years later, halfway through a degree in photography, I switched into a Master of Visual Arts. As part of my social documentary photography studies I was on the editorial team of the Australian Photojournalist Magazine (APJ).

At the time, David Hicks was the villain ‘du jour’ for the Australian media and I wrote an analytical article for the APJ on how the media, particularly the tabloid Murdoch press like the Herald Sun and the Courier Mail, were portraying David Hicks, who was then still incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay.

From the outset, attached to many stories about David Hicks’ capture in Afghanistan, next to headlines like ‘True Blue Terrorist’, was an infamous photograph of him holding a rocket propelled grenade launcher. This photograph had nothing to do with Afghanistan – it was taken in Albania three years earlier, and, as I wrote then:

‘In 1998 David Hicks signs up to train with (the KLA in Albania) a US-backed group, gets snapped posing ineptly with an unloaded, borrowed weapon on his first day, never gets anywhere near a fight, and is back home in South Australia six weeks after he left.’ 

But this photo was used to damning effect after being cropped to take out other young men who were also waiting for a pictorial souvenir. Its juxtaposition next to articles on Hicks’ exploits in Afghanistan was completely manipulative and spurious.

There you have it, tabloids shaping of the facts – even photographs – to fit biases and prevailing prejudices that editors and journalists know will play to their readership.

With respect then to the recent appalling article on Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine in the Courier Mail, titled “New age ‘medicine’ of Serge Benhayon leaves trail of broken families”, nothing has changed one iota. And why would it? In the tabloid world it seems almost impossible for a journalist to even approach the truth.

Josh Robertson, the Courier Mail’s ‘Confidential’ journalist and his co-contributor Liam Walsh, have just continued the dishonourable tradition of innuendo, distortion, snide implications, unattributed quotations et al.

Here in a stream are all of the loaded words and words in quotation marks they utilised:

… ‘controversial’ ‘new-age’ ‘bankrupt’ ‘breast massage’ ‘followers’ ‘million’ ‘negative energy’ ‘relationship workshops’ ‘Svengali-like’ ‘breakdown’ ‘radical changes’ ‘cult’ ‘sect’ ‘Serge said’ ‘reincarnated’ ‘holistic’ ‘boasts’ ‘supporters’ ‘sexual behaviour’ ‘more millions’ ‘blamed’ ‘mainly female’ ‘concerned’ ‘on drugs’ ‘influence’ ‘breakdowns’ ‘devastating’ ‘sub-sects’ ‘catastrophic’ ‘battling’ ‘lack endorsement’ ……

Doesn’t feel like Fox News’ (also Murdoch owned) ‘fair and balanced’ approach to me.

In contrast, from Serge, I have always felt the absolute fairness of it always being my choice, not the slightest imposition – ever.

70 thoughts on “Tabloids ‘shaping of the facts’ to fit biases and prevailing prejudices

  1. It is a sad reflection of life if we have come to the point where journalists do not portray the truth in their articles, once they were an incredible asset to society because they delivered newsworthy stories that were unbiased and allowed the reader to get a real sense of the truth, now we have a media that leaves the reader reading between the lines because they cannot trust that the article is true and unbiased.

  2. ‘Photoshopping’ the world may be a relatively easy thing to do. The problem starts when we present the photoshopped version as the true one, we stop distinguishing between them and start acting as if the false one is the true one. When con-fusion reigns, nothing good comes out of it. So, journalists have still to explore their role in feeding con-fusion.

  3. There is a air of true class to this article and it is great to have some facts also around the Hicks story. I remember that time and actually remember the photo and from memory it got some use. It’s amazing how we can manipulate anything like this and while it can be claimed it’s innocent we are starting to see more and more that it’s anything but innocent. When and how does this style of reporting end, do we wait or do we actively take an action to support it’s end and if we are simply turning off to this media is that enough now?

  4. I remember seeing that photo of David Hicks in the newspapers – wow, the context that it was presented in was very different to the reality of the situation that the photo was taken in.

  5. Yes, I agree Alan, one of Serge Benhayons greatest strength is his transparency, he is not afraid to show himself, how he lives and what his relationships are like. He has an open house, people are invited over for dinner all the time, he simply has nothing to be afraid of as he has nothing to hide. He is always very determined to bring all the details to the table and not leave a stone unturned in showing his intentions and purpose, he is an open book.

  6. Serge is one incredible man. He never ceases to amaze me. I have been attending presentations and courses for nearly 12 years. Not once have I been made to feel uncomfortable because Serge imposed his beliefs on me, or others with any hidden agenda. This man is so clean lies have to be written about him.

  7. The tabloids wield language like a weapon and it looks like they won’t stop at anything to get their prize, a sensationalist story that whips up the readership and keeps them baying for more.

  8. The integrity and truth lived and presented by Serge Benhayon exposes the sorry state of much of tabloid journalism.

  9. ‘…have just continued the dishonourable tradition of innuendo, distortion, snide implications, unattributed quotations et al’. a damning picture…. but sadly true. This is not the integrity we deserve to have as basic journalistic standards.

  10. Great example with the photograph of David Hicks. If someone wants to tell a story they will always be able to find photos, “facts”, statistics and whatever they want to back them up. All of these things can be used and manipulated to suit an agenda. Integrity and truth get bypassed when you are serving your agenda and wanting others to believe your story. This is quite different to simply presenting something when standing on the foundation of truth and integrity.

  11. This has been a wake up call to many people showing the lies that are fabricated by the press with its own agenda to paint a certain picture to the public. There is no true truth in the media today, if there is it is buried manipulated and changed into lies, all for sensationalism and profits.

  12. I think the world are now in a place where rarely do we expect the truth from the media- we know it is a circus and see time and again if a journalist attempts to present the truth they are ‘silenced’ or given a very hard time in the industry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.