Thursday, September 27, 2012

Art, Media, Life

I've recently stumbled across the wonderful HBO series, The Newsroom.

It's only just reached the cable stations here in Australia and probably won't be on free-to-air until late next year. This is the way things happen with Australian television. They've only just cottoning on to the fact that a huge number of people are downloading episodes of new shows off the internet, rather than wait for show to come on free-to-air. It was really great to see that the new season of Grey's Anatomy will be coming to our screens a week after playing in the US - not the normal, obligatory six months.

For those who haven't seen or heard of The Newsroom, it is an Aaron Sorkin tale of an idealistic group of people who take over a cable news show and present the news - not what is perceived to be the news. Aaron Sorkin is the brains behind The West Wing - another wonderfully idealistic, moderate leftie show if ever there was one. Many people outside of the United States have the belief that Jed Bartlet was one of the recent presidents. Many people have learned much about the American political process from this show. In some ways, The West Wing is a mix of social studies, popular facts and simple story lines. 

The Newsroom has many of the Sorkin trademarks - the liberal bent, the affable characters (I can't be the only woman with a secret crush on Josh Lyman...) and the want to show big A America in a different light. I like the fact that Sorkin is openly critical of of both Left and Right - although he does have a left-wing bent, opting for sensible and sane - well I see it as sensible and sane.

I really like the fact in this show, they go out of their way to  take out the tabloid and the fanciful and rely on facts, despite pressure from their senior management. They make decisions on what to show and what not show not based on what is popular, but what is fair. They don't take a stand on the the current government, going out of their way to be unbiased.

What a lovely, ideal world they life in on The Newsroom.

Following the news over the last few days has been hard - particularly hard if you're a woman in Melbourne.

As every media outlet in Australia has reported, a woman has been apparently abducted from busy street early on Saturday morning. A media worker, expat Irish woman, apparently happily married, she was last seen walking home after leaving workmates at a bar. It was after one a.m. She had a five to ten minute walk home. She never made it. Nobody has seen or heard from her since.

That this has happened is dreadful. No qualms about that. Would I walk alone down the streets of Inner Suburban Melbourne late at night? Probably not. My rule of thumb is if it's after ten, I get a cab if I haven't driven. If it's more than a few minutes walk - I'll have somebody join me or at least ring to say I got a cab / to the car / home okay. I'm a single woman - it's a no brainer - you make sure somebody knows where you are late at night. In this woman's case, her husband was waiting for her return. She never made it home - he was out looking for her an hour later.

The fact that this poor woman has disappeared is appalling and I truly hope that she is found soon, safe and well. Unfortunately, after six days, the chances of this happening are growing slimmer.

The fact that most women in Melbourne don't really feel that safe walking the streets at night in the early hours is also bad - but it's a fact. Most will relate that as much as you'd like to feel safe walking the streets in the early hours, it can be done, and there are safeguards you take. The day - nobody bats an eyelid about personal safety apart from minding your property and walking away from "dodgy" looking types. It should be a right that you feel safe out in public. Thankfully, almost all of the time, you feel safe on the streets - I appreciate that there are plenty of places in the world where this is not the case.

What has been most surprising was something that The Newsroom brought up in an episode where the folks of Atlantic Cable News were forced to report on a story which they didn't feel news worthy - where a young, pretty mother was being tried for murder, bumping all other news from the airwaves - much of which was of global consequence.

There are some similarities in the "news porno" which was delivered in the show and this unfortunate story of abduction. The biggest question which was raised in the show that has rung bells with me was would the coverage be the same if she was somebody different? This woman appears bright, beautiful, intelligent, with friends in the media - and I begrudge her none of this.

What I question is whether the news coverage would be the same if she was of a different socio-economic or ethnic bent. You rarely hear anything about the thousands of people who go missing every year, this story is different. As dreadful as the circumstances are, would the coverage be anywhere as extensive if the person taken wasn't attractive? What if she was of a different ethnic background? What would the reporting be like if she was a prostitute or a drug addict? Would it go reported at all?

The other thing that I ponder is heaven forbid, she is not found in the next few days, what happens to the story? What will supersede this story? What else will media find to discuss?

After being at home when the Japanese Tsunami, the Brisbane floods and the odd Cyclone, I've got to witness the best and the worst of the Australian free to air media. After two days, the term flogging a dead horse comes to mind. I remember calling all of the major networks the week after September 11, pleading that they put something else on the television - the overkill was dreadful. Although this case has not reached overkill status, it has bumped some big global stories too.

I really, sincerely hope that this woman is found safe and well. I do not think the worse of her for making the decision to walk the 800 metres back to her home by herself. I wouldn't do it - many people I know wouldn't do it, but I do not think this makes what has happened her "fault". It isn't.

If anything, it highlights that people don't feel safe walking the streets at night. I wish this wasn't the case - and with all the media hype, a lot of people will be looking very differently at a short walk home.

And maybe this is something we could do without knowing.


The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

The Newsroom is on over here - but I haven't watched it.

Terrible news about the abducted woman. That kind of thing worries me - and thankfully Mrs PM will always get a cab.



Pandora Behr said...

Highly recommend The Newsroom.

Tragically, the woman was found in a shallow grave early this morning. They have somebody in custody. Heartbreaking stuff.

magical_m said...

1. I am OBSESSED with The Newsroom. I started downloading it the minute after it was screen in the States and couldn't wait for each new ep to come out.

2. For years I've had a full-blown crush on Josh Lyman and I'm quite open about it. Dork-Sexy. He's totally on my "Hells Yeah I'd Go There" list.

3. The Jill Meagher situation is horrendous. No woman should be afraid to walk home alone and it makes me sad and angry that this can happen in our beautiful city. But, like you, I wonder about the number of other women who go missing each year whose faces never appear on our TV screens.

Stay safe.


magical_m said...

*screened*, even.