Talking point from Trans Tasman:
Time was (and we’re old enough to remember it) if a journalist heard the word “problem,” they’d know they had a story. One of the biggest shifts in journalism in the last 20-odd years is the word problem has been replaced. Now, the word is “offended.”
We now have a generation of journalists who believe as soon as they have someone saying they are offended by something someone else said – or wrote on the Internet – they have a story.
People say and do things at which many people take offence often but too often the substance of the issue being discussed is swamped by stories on people taking offence.
Alasdair Thompson’s comments on women’s sick problems and Damien O’Connor’s gaggle of gays and unionists are recent examples of this.
This is unhealthy, for a number of reasons.
In a free society with freedom of expression, you are going to hear things you don’t agree with. People are going to say things which might even upset you. But turning the “offence” into the issue encourages two things, neither of them very wholesome.
One is a certain degree of adolescent, emotive self-dramatisation. Much more damaging is it discourages people from expressing views which might run counter to the group-think.
In a small society like NZ’s there is already a tendency, in a tussle between honesty and excessive politeness, for excessive politeness to win.
By rights, the media should try, quite consciously, to lean against this tendency. Instead, it seems to be aiding and abetting it. Not a healthy development.
Emotion often makes better headlines than facts but it’s lazy journalism to concentrate on the offended rather than the issue.