Hashtag: Leadership Spills and Journalism’s Thrills

So, after weeks of tireless speculation about a leadership challenge within the ALP the Canberra press gallery were proven right.

Who would’ve thought?

Quite frankly, I was sick to death of hearing about Rudd camps, Gillard supporters and whether or not Bob Carr was going to be the next prime minister. I rolled my eyes at the rumours, and at the journalists who weren’t embarrassed at asking politician after Labor politician whether there was going to be a leadership challenge.

And then it happened. I was at work, and so couldn’t check Twitter, but text after text rolled in from fellow journalism students informing me of events as they unfolded.

The whole debacle got everyone who is interested in breaking news (and Australian politics) whipped up into a frenzy. Twitter went into hyperdrive with ‘spill’, ‘Simon Crean’ and ‘Rudd’ all trending. But the third leadership spill in three years was over as quickly as it started. And I think it shows a lot about journalism as it stands today.

Earlier in the week it seemed Labor’s leadership crisis was all that could be talked about. The Age ran a front-page story about Bob Carr denying switching allegiance from Gillard to Rudd (in journalist-speak, this is called a beat-up).

Few stopped to pause, reflect, and analyse whether or not the rumours could ever be substantiated. And if there ever was a leadership spill, what the likely outcome would be. This does little to refute the poor reputation politics has with the general public – not to mention journalism’s reputation with the average reader.

Indeed, Michelle Grattan wrote that the Labor party has “given the impression of losing its collective mind … Kevin Rudd has been burned and the government looks a shambles”.

The leadership spill overshadowed topics that were, arguably, of equal importance to the public. One such example was the Prime Minister’s apology to victims of forced adoptions.

I really want to see less attention put on our “brutal political culture” and more emphasis put on analysing why this culture exists. I want to see both the Government and Opposition held to account. I want facts, opinion, and substantial debate – not rumours. If I wanted rumours I’d go back to high school.

The leadership spill happened, albeit unsuccessfully. Fine. Good on all the hardworking journalists who a) were right in their speculation and b) who reported on the event as it happened.

But at the end of the day it’s much easier to get caught up in a storm of excitement, but much more worthwhile to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

Broede Carmody

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