Dear ABC News,
You really let me down this year. I wonder if you care about that?
Call me jaded, but your veneer of objectivity was shattered by a few things that you did in 2021 which I want to jot down. Red flags, if you will. Sad confirmations of an agenda beyond objective journalism, and, irrespective of the political ramifications of biased national broadcasting, a frightening indictment on our collective mental health moving forwards. Please allow me to elaborate.
Actually, before I do, let me just preface that this isn’t a naive attack on the news at large. Like every human trying to remain up to speed on current affairs, I must concede the technologically-catalysed loss of integrity from institutions once considered trustworthy information sources. News is supposed to equal objectivity, but money plus ego equals subjectivity, so in a world of budgets and deadlines, we’ve had to say goodbye to uninterrupted fact and hello to editorial opinion. Shame, but alas, it’s the way that the world has moved already.
So I tell myself not to fight the current, to lift my legs and just float downstream. Indeed, was it silly for me to ever expect you to uphold an unbiased narrative when your wages have always been paid for by the government of the day?
But beyond the politicisation of your curated newsfeed, the main problem for me lies in the emotional cost to Australia of your deliberately crafted selection of what stories are ‘newsworthy’. These conspicuous choices are what has compelled me to write to you today.
Confronted by relentless updates of an ever-increasing climate catastrophe, our vulnerability to poor mental health is as severe as ever. We’re drowning in statistics about how fucked up the world is, we’re gasping for any and every breath of positivity that we can gulp down in terms of hope for the future… and yet this year I’ve witnessed your choice to omit some big glimmers of golden, shiny hope. Was this by accident or design?
What a scary question to ask of the noble Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Negligence and ineptitude? Or subservience to shady governmental mandates?
Whatever your reasons, witnessing your missed potential of inspiring Australia has really frightened me. Plenty of good shit is going down – and that’s the shit we need to know about! Mushrooms can turn plastic into food! Hemp farms are carbon sinks! Why deny us the environmental wins that lift us up and out of the gloomy environmental bog hole that we’re trapped in?
Anyway, as I mentioned, there have been three major red flags for me this year.
To begin with, you endorsed bogus research about the Great Barrier Reef, publishing a story about “massive coral recovery growth” on the eve of a decision by our federal Environment Minister to vote against furthering the protection status of the Reef. The World Heritage Committee wanted to upgrade the Reef’s level of endangerment – you know, seeing as it’s adjacent to one of the world’s biggest coal basins, and on the brink of total ecosystemic collapse and everything – but Sussan Ley disagreed. Our Environment Minister pushed the Australian Institute of Marine Science to ‘leak’ something that would soften the blow. A fluffy faux-scientific ‘discovery’ about a single species of short-term coral growth – in no way reflective of total ecosystem health, and much to the contrary of widespread bleaching and acidification – to be distributed to as many Australian newsreaders as possible. Yours included. It was a disappointing piece of proof that even the ABC’s journalism is beholden to state-driven narratives at the expense of truth in relativity.
The second red flag concerned an Extinction Rebellion demonstration conducted on the steps of Parliament House in Canberra. Activists graffitied the pylons and walls in blood-red paint, and then set a pram on fire, leaving it to burn in front of our country’s most powerful decision-makers. Non-violent, non-disruptive, highly shocking to the status quo, and yet… you didn’t breathe a word of it.
Despite covering significantly less meaningful protests in the past, this one hugely symbolic event received zero mention on the ABC. How come, I wonder? Too offensive to the powers that be, too rattling for the bureaucrats who pay your bills? Is that a good enough reason for a supposedly objective national broadcaster to actively suppress critical discourse? Not so much a passing comment in the ABC newsfeed, much less the major headline it merited.
The final and most significant red flag only waved in my face just the other day. I was sent a story from another news source, about an Australian startup that defeated 2700 other entrants in a “pitch-battle” at COP26. This company has been producing bricks and plasterboard out of emissions. Literally taking harmful greenhouse gases from highly polluting industries and turning them into functional building materials.
As Earth keeps heating up in 2021, I consider that a fair dinkum water-into-wine miracle. But did it warrant a mention on the ABC newsfeed? Nah. Again, was this journalistic ineptitude or culpable negligence? I don’t want my national broadcasting institution to be described as either of those things. But what else is it then?
The reason I’m so triggered comes down to the amount of depression and paralysis already surrounding our climate change conversations. No one is eager to talk about it, because all there is to talk about – according to newsfeeds like the ABC – is how fucked we all are! And as such, with the clock ticking and CO2 ppm creeping ever higher, we need to be celebrating positivity more now than ever before.
In the face of so much emotional adversity, during this rapid shifting of our entire paradigm, we need to believe. Truly have faith that our actions are worthwhile, that what we do today will mean our grandchildren won’t be sheltering from wintertime flames in the future.
By withholding the good and promoting the fear, you’re condemning not only our country and our planet but our headspace too.
I know the ABC isn’t some malevolent Darth Vader of current affairs, broadcasting from the Death Star of Environmental Doom. I know there are probably tonnes of people in your newsroom believing fully in what they are doing as objective journalists, but I’m worried that the darkness is creeping in, and your integrity has clearly been polluted.
So I’ve written you this letter to express my sadness and ask you, please, stop depriving us of hope. Regardless of what comes down the newsworthiness flagpole, please share with us all of the good news, and let it inspire us even if it’s surfaced from the other side of the political pond.
Every iota of positive energy counts, and in this 11th hour of distress, we need all of it that we can get.