Media mogul Murdoch, and navigating bias
Updated: Jan 15
‘QLD suffers as Palaszczuk builds Trump-like wall’ was the headline of a Daily Telegraph story this week, as the Queensland Premier tightens restrictions and closes the border to people who have been in Sydney. The contents of the article isn't particularly relevant, but you can guess what it was about. Annastacia Palaszczuk has closed the borders to Sydney and people are Very Angry about it.
Please do us a favour and don’t go looking for this article. Avoid giving them your clicks, and it is behind a paywall anyway. As this article is being written, the initial fury has somewhat subsided after reading this headline, and what’s left is disgust for Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the Daily Telegraph.
Who is Rupert Murdoch?
We hear a lot about Murdoch, but who actually is he?
Net worth: 20.4 billion USD (26.8 billion AUD)
Citizenship: Australian born, but now lives in the US with citizenship
Job: Media mogul (former journalist)
Murdoch owns hundreds of media outlets all around the world, including The Daily Telegraph and The Australian in Australia, Sky News Australia, The Sun and The Times (UK), The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post (US), HarperCollins publisher, Fox News, and owned Sky and 21st Century Fox until recently. His outlets don’t only include these large-scale outlets, he also owns many, many local news media outlets. He owns NewsCorp, which, in Australia, publishes Quest newspapers in the Brisbane region, Herald Sun, The Australian, Courier Mail, News.com.au, and almost every popular local paper. He also owns magazines including Vogue Australia, Body+Soul, and GQ. He used to own Myspace for god’s sake. For a full list of his current and former assets, head to the Wiki page.
So what’s the problem?
The problem with having one person or entity owning such a high percentage of the world’s media outlets is that it means his personal bias and political interests are rampant. And Murdoch’s political interests are pretty far right. This means that every article that slams a politician in one of his media outlets is pretty much always going to feature a Labor, Greens, or left-leaning politician. It means that slamming said politician will benefit him and the political right. Reporting has an unquestionable impact upon outcomes of elections and campaigns. One extremely overused but relevant example is, of course, the 2016 US election. But it can be seen all around the world, including right here in Australia.
Lots of people believe that the media should be partisan, unbiased, and while this point makes sense in theory, it’s just not realistic. Every person has bias, so we can’t expect journalists not to be. More specifically, we can’t expect media moguls not to be. The very best thing you can do is be aware. You want to read right-leaning newspapers like The Australian and Daily Mail? That’s fine, but maybe balance it out by reading about the same event on The Guardian. The above spectrum has a substantial number of outlets listed as being centre, or what some people might categorise as neutral, but even those should be read with some scepticism.
News outlets’ only prerogative is not to inform people. It’s often to also push an agenda, turn people against one another, or paint things in a specific light. Particularly with opinion pieces, which allow the journalist or writer to, of course, have an opinion. There is a code of ethics that journalists should abide by, and it focuses on V. I. A.: verification, independence, accountability*. While this code was put in place in an attempt to stop fake news and hold journalists accountable for what they report, there are many ways to verify a fact that is not actually true. Whether it’s purposeful or not, a lot of reporting is based on inaccuracies, or one person’s recount of a story. In many cases, there is actually no way to verify the facts with 100% certainty.
While skepticism is healthy, at this point inevitable, and absolutely should be encouraged, reading a number of different outlets’ synopsis on an event or issue should not only be to catch out the evil journalists and media moguls of the world (yes, we do firmly believe Murdoch is evil). Sometimes bias is simply a result of one’s own experience and access. Just as we often only spend time with people who have the same or similar morals, ethics, and experiences as us, we will often only consume news that aligns with our values and seek to confirm what we already believe when we select content.
And yes, there is an elephant in the room. Cheek is a media company. You are currently reading an article filed under our Opinion tab, written by one person with existing opinions. Our articles don’t go through a big team, so less eyes looked over this piece than have looked over any piece in a big media outlet. The impetus for this article was based on a negative opinion of Murdoch, but we also have cited facts and figures. Facts and figures that you should look into on your own. The goal of Cheek Media Co. is not to report on issues and events. We aren’t a 24-hour news outlet, and we mostly deal in opinion and anecdotes. You could say that makes us even more biased. We founded Cheek to provide a platform and a place for discussion. We’ll never create partnerships or accept money from people who’ll dictate what we can publish and what we can’t. We’ll always welcome discussion. We’ll always make every effort to back up our reporting or make sure you know it’s an opinion only. That’s a promise.
*The Digital Resource Centre defines V.I.A. as the following:
Verification: “Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.”
Independence: “Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests…(and) remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.”
Accountability: “Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context.”