As someone who regularly sits at work and refreshes online news sites as a means of procrastination (or just to see if anything exciting has happened), I have noticed a steady decline in the quality of online reporting on Australian websites such as smh.com.au and the Daily Telegraph recently. The ABC’s Media Watch also noticed this and had a show dedicated to it not long ago.
While a lot of people would argue that the Tele is always trash, and yes, it is a tabloid, the print version of the paper offers a lot more substance than the online site. In the last week, the front page photo stories have included a debate on which rugby players have the hottest bods, multiple Big Brother stories with quotes from serious commentators (AKA the people who post comments on the Daily Telegraph site) as the sole basis of the story, and of course a couple of weeks ago there was the famous splash about Candice Falzon and Sonny William’s toilet tryst at the Clovelly… complete with saucy snapshots.
Clearly, these are the big issues.
And some of the crap that gets posted on the Sydney Confidential section is just laughable.
The SMH has all the hard hitting news in the early morning from the paper, and is nowhere in the league of trashiness that the Tele inhabits, but still, by the time lunch rolls around the front page of the site slowly starts to fill up with celeb stories, weird and wonderful tales such as the Japanese mistaking sheep for poodles, and general fuzz. And I haven’t even mentioned the loathesome blogs, like Skank in the City. I wonder how much Sam gets paid to ask a vapid question each day and quote experiences from her "friends" and "bloggers".
On Friday, the fuzz factor ups itself a lot on both sites. This is clearly a device to try and keep traffic on the site all day, considering most visitors are probably office minions like myself (with a grasp on sanity so weak that something as simple as a flickering florescent office light bulb could tear it from our hands) but what effect is all this trash talk having on news? And are we living up to all the terrible fears that media commentators had about online journalism reducing accountability and the quality of reporting?
It’s a bit of a worry.