Front Page Faux Pas: Fight for Truth

Thursday, 17 April, 2014

‘Drop everything. We must supersede all front-page content with this now empty story after the Supreme Court’s outrageous straight-up denial of truth!’ This is probably not at all what the editors of the Herald Sun said to themselves on a Tuesday night a few weeks ago when the Supreme Court ‘silenced’ the following morning’s front-page story. It is, however, what they did, scrapping all other front-page stories on their 2 April edition, leaving only the mysterious Lawyer X. The story essentially stretched out little more than what was said in these two sentences: “We can’t tell you what the story was about. But we will fight for your right to know the truth”.

Restrictions like this are nothing new. In Australia we do not have a free press, and the Herald Sun would be well aware of this. The media are regulated through censorship laws that can be adjusted fairly easily by our state and federal governments. There are without doubt other things which the Herald Sun, and newspapers alike, are not permitted to report. So why then would they go to this extreme?

This is the Herald Sun saying, with few crumbs from their disposed news-filled mouths falling onto their later pages, ‘we’re for the people, and we’re fighting to tell you what you need to know’. Although, in reality, they are compromising the actual news they are delivering to do this. By stretching out their lack of useable information and dismissing more important content, the Lawyer X story becomes an object for which they can give themselves an indulgent pat on the back.

Sure, Lawyer X is an individual who is of importance, as editor Damon Johnston, said: “The police last night moved to prevent us from publishing important details that go to the heart of the public interest”. The thing is that if nothing can really be said yet, then a full front page is not warranted. There were other stories out there which could have replaced that regurgitated text, or filled those sinister voids of black ink. While some may be more pertinent for the public interest than others (you decide), here they are:

  • The $100 million growth fund to assist the car manufacturing in South Australia and Victoria has been delayed. Tony Abbott may have promised to deliver the amount, and set a deadline which passed over a month ago, but as of 2 April only $72 million had been raised by the federal government.
  • Privacy questions were raised after the AFP publically admitted to using drones in Australia. They said the drones were for crime scene investigations only but we all know it is only a matter of time before the things are ruling our skies, and as all science fiction suggests, developing sentience and enslaving the entire human race. As an expert said in a great little segment from ABC News, if you do happen to run into one “don’t try to grab it. They are basically flying lawnmowers so they will cut you up pretty bad”.
  • A man tried to kick himself out of a body bag at a funeral parlour in the U.S. state of Mississippi, after being falsely pronounced dead. The story, in a way, has rationalised the fear expressed by the narrator of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Premature Burial. Scary stuff.