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Front Page Faux Pas: Herald Sun and Hipster Beards

Friday, 21 February, 2014

Words by Nathan Fioritti

Print is not dead yet, and nobody is really authorised to break the bad news to print media. It’s lying there, certainly not in the same shape as it used to be— pages ruffled, spine weakened, ink fading— but still hanging in there. If you ignore these paradoxical pixels and hunt down the latest edition of Farrago, you will find that, with proof in hands, it is still possible to rejoice in the name of print media.

This column is about a specific segment of print media that is still kicking— newspapers, and what they are doing with the influence they still hold. It will hopefully assure you that you are not alone at times when you are so baffled by headlines that you question the very notion of news. Perhaps you too have watched every episode of The Newsroom, engaging in countless mental fist pumps while thinking— ‘News! Real news! You tell ‘em news team.’ Each of these columns will look at a particularly severe case of headline crime and offer a selection of more ‘newsworthy’ stories, ranging from plain outrageous to (occasionally) more serious.

I’d like to start by looking at the 28 January 2014 issue of the Herald Sun*. In this particular issue the headline ‘HIPSTERS CUT RAZOR PROFIT’, in stark bold caps, graced the top left of the front page. The story was about the impact of bearded hipsters on the profits of shaving companies, namely Gillette. Although it may seem like the kind of story Today Tonight could have run (had the show not been axed this February, a small victory for news in general), things could have been worse.

At the top of page nine of the same edition appears the headline ‘CARPARK PRISON’ and its subheading ‘No escape as families trapped for two hours after Docklands fireworks’. Meanwhile, Australia is still sending asylum seekers, who are exercising their human right to seek refuge, off to detention centres in Indonesia. Never mind that though; families were imprisoned in a car park for two whole hours, those poor souls. Thankfully, the story did not make the front page, but unfortunately it was still somehow passed off as news in lieu of the humanitarian issues on our doorstep.

So what important news was there to report? Oh, only corruption. On the very same day, a number of other news outlets were reporting that influential Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union officials in both NSW and Victoria had accepted bribes and other inducements by companies who are associated with bikies and organised crime figures. Surely that is more significant than system-defying bearded hipsters.

So, in light of this madness, here are a few more ‘newsworthy’ stories, aside from one on construction industry corruption, which could have run in place of the headline:

  • A collaboration of international scientists, including some from The University of Sydney, discovered which bacteria were responsible for the Black Death and the Plague of Justinian. Their findings also indicated that new plagues could emerge among humans in the future. ‘BACTERIA REVEAL POTENTIAL FOR FUTURE PLAGUES’?
  • It has been 15 years since a man who went by the name of John Titor claimed to have travelled back in time from 2036 using a device first installed in a ‘67 Chevrolet Corvette. Despite the many flaws in his story, for a bit of shock value we could even find one of his predictions that semi-came true and run a story suggesting that he may have come from an alternate reality. Perhaps one where the media landscape does not favour stories about minor profit cuts due to bearded hipsters, over ones of much more significance.

*As Murdoch’s News Corp. accounts for 59% of all daily newspaper sales in Australia, it is more than probable that a proportionate amount of time in this column will be dedicated to News Corp. publications.