Had dinner, another coffee, taken some deep breaths… and after re-reading and re-reading these bizarre two paragraphs posted at 9.17am today at The Australian’s Media Diary, I’m still going WTF?
A resident of north Queensland has just called into Sydney radio to say the roof of their cubby house was blown off during Cyclone Yasi.
Also, reports of garage doors being battered. Some poles are down. Palm trees have of course lost fronds.
I’m trying to understand why this piece of copy made it to the internet.
With a headline of “Much ado”, the tone of the piece is pretty much set. Cyclone Yasi: nothing to see here, folks. Much ado about nothing. Probably not the sentiments of those who have lost their homes and their farms, whose businesses are closed if not destroyed. The storm is still making merry with the inland, roads are blocked and washed away, power and communications are cut … we don’t even know, 12 hours after this post hit the Australian’s blog, just how much damage has been done. The Premier of Queensland says thousands will be homeless.
So is it a bad joke? Whose? Why repeat it as the sun is coming up on an unknown amount of devastation — there’s been a hell of a lot more than a few palm fronds blown away up north.
Is it repeating a serious caller — again, from whom, and why select this one for a moment of fame on a blog dedicated to “this week’s take on the Australian media”? (Why is it even on this blog?) “North Queensland” is a very big place — was the caller in Cooktown, perhaps, outside the immediate rage of cyclone Yasi? Or was it a resident cracking hardy while all around them turned to sludge? That’s one hell of a dry wit (always possible; northerners are a breed apart and hard to shake: see the duckhand video for making light of danger or, as the blog would have it, officialdom and hyperbole (a new euphemism for cyclonic winds, presumably)). Actually, that comment under the video does tend to suggest a tone that just maybe this cyclone isn’t as dangerous as we’re being led to believe – the absence of corpses might allow those who think that way a chance to say, see! But maybe it’s the ‘hyperbole’ that’s partly to thank for the absence of body bags.
But back to the Much ado piece that so incensed me: Why publish these two paragraphs that, on face value, do nothing other than trivialise the anguish of hundreds of thousands of people? Is the second paragraph also courtesy of the caller, or is that editorialising/reportage?
Without context, these come across as someone’s idea of a joke: I’ve got no idea who would be laughing.
It certainly detracts from the piece underneath, which seems to hose down a Crikey report, and its apparent endorsement by the blog, alleging a failure to give a damn about the people on Palm Island.
The Much Ado post reflects badly on the writer, it reflects badly on the masthead, and it further exacerbates the stereotypic perception of journalists as little more than vultures and sharks.
I’ve emailed the blog’s editor to ask about the context for posting this item, but I think my concerns above are valid.
ON a technical side, I also wonder if it’s not just a little disingenuous to have an open comments box on a column that, if previous articles on the blog can be judged by, never publishes them. What’s it there for: the Christmas party brag sheet?