What was ridiculous though was the amount of stage managing that was being done in Penrith that day, as well as the lack of investigative detail being done by the shepherded journalists. The rehashed rugby league funding announcement was proof of that. I heard from one of the journos from that pile of people following Abbott, that most of them read this post and weren’t very impressed – they thought I was being a bit unfair. But really, it doesn’t take much to do some research – or, just ask the local bloke. Kevin Cheng of the Penrith Press got it right and always gave me a grin for what I wrote about him in this post. It was a pity for Penrith that he has now left the country and is having a great time OS.
The next election, though, will see no change at all, from both the parties and from the journalists when they report on Western Sydney. They like to just run through the cliches and generalisations.
Today was another common day out on the election hustings – Captain Awkward being Awkward again, this time in Lindsay.
Another bland day being covered by the press pack forced to stick with the lead candidates, embedded, to use the phrase we heard during the Iraq Wars. It was yet another stage managed affair, of announcements, of candidates flanked by the campaign workers / staffers from the Liberal Party – all behind locked gates at Penrith Paceway and Penrith Stadium (known to some as Centrebet Stadium). The event showed, however, just how much of a gap there is between actual news reporting, gossip and the public outside the gate of these events.
While the media were inside the gate at Penrith Stadium there was a local resident and regular Twitter user @chrissiem, taking photos outside the locked gates, tweeting what the public of Lindsay were actually allowed to see at this event.
While the embedded media showed images like this:
And then, as the event went along, as we can see from the lens of @chrissiem, the public could see these images of the election campaign coming to their town – note the police, making sure ordinary voters went nowhere near the candidates or Tony Abbott.
And nothing can stop the bus, except maybe reversing from an awkward driveway.
This is an all too regular sight whenever campaigns visit the outer suburbs, leaders being cocooned from interaction from actual voters and people. Maybe that’s a good thing for candidates like Greenway’s Jaymes Diaz, who again refused to talk about those notorious six points of his.
The problem is that the embedded media are too close to the action, looking for small, distracting things while outside, the people who wish to be engaged with such things are shut out, unreported, unlistened to. You can guarantee that none of those journalists inside the gate would be wanting to wander away, talking to locals and listening to what they want – unless editors have asked for some loon footage that we see most times Western Sydney is covered. In any case, they got their fluff story, their Abbott gaffe – one to dominate the news bulletins.
It was undoubtedly patronising, silly, degrading and acts to trivialise Fiona Scott, the candidate for Lindsay. And if you look at the footage of Scott’s reaction to Abbott’s comment, you can see how uncomfortable she looks when he makes it. Though, perhaps it’s the only nice thing Abbott could say about Scott, considering what former Priest – turned – Liberal hopeful Kevin Lee (now the late Kevin Lee) has said about a conversation he had with Abbott about Fiona Scott and Lindsay.
And then the inevitable pictures come out, highlighting again just how awkward Abbott can look.
And yet this is still not the worst part of this story of the gap between the media and the news. One of the chief reasons Abbott was in Penrith was to announce an initiative for a community sport centre associated with the Panthers rugby league club. Problem is, it was something the local member for Lindsay, David Bradbury announced in June this year, along with Anthony Albanese – the press release explaining the detail is here.
This out and out stealing and rebadging of a Government initiative has gone unreported and unnoticed by the embedded media. And also by Phil Gould, the General Manager of the rugby league club, who probably should have known the truth of this matter (especially considering he was at the original launch with Bradbury) before tweeting that it’s Abbott who supports the community and Panthers, rather than the initial people responsible for funding the initiative.
The media train will continue to blandly report what is being said by the candidates, looking for amusing gaffes and the like, while actual news is left unreported and actual people are excluded. This is why our media coverage of this election will be as trivial, self serving and narrow as it ever was in previous elections. All spin, all press release, little substance.
Update – thanks to eagle eyed tweep @lanceleysandy, it turns out one journalist did get it right about the fact the Liberal Party is indeed just matching the Government’s commitment. It was a story by local Penrith Press journalist, Kevin Cheng that pointed that out. My response to that, however, is this – why wasn’t this pointed out by the major newspapers, such as the SMH, or the Daily Telegraph in their coverage of the event. This brings into question why, if it’s just a matching of an already made commitment, why it’s an “event” at all. Or whether Abbott at any point said that it was a “matching” of what was already there. No evidence of such admitting from this account from Lanai Scarr of the Daily Telegraph nor any of the reports of the event I have read since.
It certainly seems from the way the national media and Phil Gould tweeted about it, it was worth Abbott bringing to bus out to Penrith for the “announcement”. This means the question still remains – why didn’t the national media there press Abbott with a question as to why he was making an “announcement” and wasn’t admitting that this was just a matching of what was already put in place by the government. Maybe a Google search may have unearthed the fact Abbott was trying to pass off a Government funded initiative as something he was “announcing”. That passed the assembled embedded journalists by. Ultimately, the incident renders even more useless such events and the way in which they are reported by the national press pack following leaders.
Looking back over the Jaymes Diaz video footage, I noticed two things:
Ted Sage, the husband of the now former member of the Blue Mountains, Roza Sage, realising what Jaymes Diaz was going to be up for.
Even more amusingly in the background is the sight of controversial anti-mosque Liberal Party member / “Conservative Independent” Councillor Marcus Cornish trying to move a sign closer to the cameras as if to protect Diaz from their withering gaze.