The dilemma facing journalists in Australia today was addressed by Philip Castle, a veteran journalist for more than 30 years and Griffith University academic, at a public forum sponsored by Green Left Weekly at the Brisbane Activist Centre on August 9.
The forum, titled “Murdoch vs Assange: Media corruption versus the truth”, also heard from Jim McIlroy, a long-time correspondent for GLW.
In the face of the dominance of the Murdoch empire in this country, Castle said journalists face a battle to maintain the union code of ethics advanced by the Australian Journalists Association, as part of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance. "There is no guarantee that hacking practices like in Britain have not occurred in Australia," he said.
On the other hand, "What Julian Assange has done has tipped the balance internationally in favor of free speech in the media," he said.
He concluded we should welcome the advent of the "Fifth Estate”, the new media, which had played such a major role in the people's movements in the Middle East and Europe.
McIlroy summarised the issues raised by the Murdoch empire's hacking scandal in Britain, and contrasted the part played by WikiLeaks in exposing the secrets governments want to keep out of the public gaze.
He put forward ideas about democratising media access for alternative political parties and social movements, including expanded publicly-funded advertising before and during election campaigns.
A lively discussion from the audience ensued, taking up issues such as "commentary versus news" in the mainstream media, the myth of “balance”, and sensationalism replacing serious reportage in the big business press.
The forum also discussed ideas for building up alternative and community media sources as a counterweight to media empires such as News Ltd.