Just a note: apologies for taking so long to post on this blog. According to my Facebook page, it hasn’t been updated for eight (or probably more) days. This is unacceptable. I’ll try and publish more frequently in the future.
On “The Bolt Report”, Newscorp columnist Andrew Bolt and “The Australian’s” Sharri Markson was debating about free speech and limits that should be placed on media personalities in terms of what is said. This came about after former “Financial Review” columnist Mark Latham went on an abusive tirade at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival on Saturday. Markson blasted Latham, saying that he had no right to abuse the audience that attended the festival or attack “vulnerable people”, such as anti – domestic violence campaigner and 2015’s Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty and transgender former Australian Defence Force military officer, Cate Mcgregor, whom was abused on Twitter on an account using his name. Not surprisingly, Bolt argued free speech and how Latham, while some of what he said was repulsive, challenged the status quo and caused debate. Markson, however, argued that he overstepped the mark by abusing the audience.
I’m with Sharri.
Now, I’ve got to say that I don’t work in the media myself and have never studied journalism, so I can’t talk from a professional perspective, only what I think about what I’ve read and heard. I think Markson’s point about personal abuse is spot on. There is no room for it; in “traditional” media, blogs or social media. Period. Anyone who knows me or has read any of my blog posts know I’m really passionate about this because, as was exposed in 2014 with the death of New Zealand model, Charlotte Dawson, it can be quite deadly. I believe that there is absolutely no room for abuse in media.
To answer the question about free speech, of course we can make a point. Controversial ideas should be supported and encouraged. The key here is controversial ideas, not personal abuse. This is where a number of journalists have overstepped the mark, particularly, former Sydney Morning Herald columnist, Mike Carlton, who infamously hurled anti – Semitic abuse at one of his readers via e – mail. I saw an abusive tweet of his aimed at Markson, too.
In this day in age, social media and other online platforms play a major part in everyday lives and affects everyone both personally, legally and professionally. Most employers will check out one’s “digital footprint” before employing someone and from that day forward, the employee must be responsible for everything they post online to make sure that it doesn’t damage the reputation of the company or put anyone in legal hot water. I agreed with SBS’s decision to sack former sports commentator Scott McIntyre after he wrote vile tweets following the ANZAC centenary. Why? Because what he wrote would’ve dragged SBS’s reputation in mud if they didn’t take the actions they did. Mark Latham and Mike Carlton, same deal.
I believe that there are some things that don’t need to be said; that SHOULDN’T be said, especially on a public platform. Nobody has a right to abuse anyone else, and that includes on- line and in traditional media. I guess the trick is is to know where to draw the line.