Frontline: Truth? Essay, Research Paper
“Whoever holds the power tries to own the truth”. Write a persuasive article in which you explore the above statement in your prescribed and related texts.The manipulation and deviation of a “supposed” truth can often be distorted by the “big guns” of society. Whoever holds the power, in other words, tries to own the truth. Does society allow this ownership of truth to be accomplished, or does it simply defend with obstruction? Influential industry professionals, in particular present in the world of media, control the information we read, see, and hear, offering sometimes misconceived thoughts on events. Opinions prevail, as powerful figureheads decide what we inhale. And is this ethical? Through studies of Frontline and other sources, we see the relationships between those who hold the key, and the lock in which it is placed.
Pushing the boundaries of truth and reality are issues continually faced in the world of journalism, with society’s continuous entrapment in beliefs of “truth” taking first preference because it’s “in the media”. The ownership of truth by those who have considerable power cannot be underestimated as a convenient key into pastiche of truths, rather than the absolute. Often the higher informed societal figures are the least conscious of morale, social, and ethical issues. In the Frontline episode ‘Add Sex and Stir’, truth is manipulated for ratings and controversy, with absolute truth/journalistic ethics taking the backseat as “a leso story” is launched by Brooke that could potentially ruin the reputations of an entire netball team. Sexism prevails as journalists and media professionals sacrifice truth by “Reporting half the story and beating up the rest”. As seen through Brooke’s manipulation of fact through pastiche and editing, demonstrations of the classic “Take any story, add sex, and stir” were exemplified. Trying to own the truth? ‘Frontline’s’ distortion through the use of montage only clarifies preconceived notions. Through Brian’s quote about a gay cricketer’s homosexuality (”This guy’s a test cricketer? we could ruin his career”) we see sexism and bias take the lead. “This isn’t a story about lesbians, it’s about unfair dismissals”. Absolute truth? I think not.
Believeing everything we read, see, or hear can sometimes be a mistake better forgotten as organisations paid for telling the truth instead offer it as a subjective commodity. ‘Nothing to Report’, a poem by May Herschel Clarke and written in the 1940’s during the war period, relates to ‘Add Sex and Stir’ in that the disbantlement of truth is highlighted by the media demonstrating their power to withhold the truth. Mostly for propaganda purposes in order to encourage enlistment into the military, the withholding of information was supposedly “For the safety of the families”. Often the representation of truth is abandoned and the rights of the people to gain fact is neglected – “One minute he was laughin’? next, he lay beside me grinnin’ – dead”. If we can’t count on the media to tell us the truth, than who can we count on? “‘There’s nothin’ to report’, the papers said”.
The relentless pursuit for ratings together with intrusive journalism in modern society’s media hierarchy often stream past reality and actuality. Through Brooke’s use of irony in the Frontline episode ‘The Siege’ (”Some shows can be very unscrupulous”), we see firsthand the use of power in the pursuance of ratings at all costs. Ethics are abandoned in a certain desperation to be the first with coverage, with ‘Frontline’ continually “crossing the line” for exclusive interviews and footage; “?one media organisation breaking the air-exclusion zone”. As seen through Brooke’s interview with a crazed gunman’s mother, Brooke, realising the effect on the ratings the grandmother of the children held hostage could bring, unapologetically asked “Would you be able to cry again?”. Intrusive, abrupt, and misinterpretive? The media’s control of truth prevailed. Verisimilitude through the use of the hand-held H-8 camera and live photo interview were emphasised. Ratings, it would seem, are everything in the world of journalism. “?a pub crawl in Manly is better than a massacre of millions if you’ve got the pictures”.
The embodiment of “supposed” principles of the journalism body is accentuated in writing through the AJA Code of Ethics (1984-present) for journalism. “Respect for truth and the public’s right to know are overriding principles for all journalists”. Ironlically, we see through Frontline episodes such as ‘The Siege’ that truth is often pushed into the background as the media strives for a “good story”. The code of ethics displays the desired attitudes and responsibilities of journalists and their value to society as a reporting body; “They shall report and interpret the news with scrupulous honesty”. Do the owners of information linked with status try to own the truth? As seen through ‘Frontline’ exclusive interviews etc., we see this is indeed the case. Truth is neglected and vital stories considered irrelevant not pursued often leaving an audience with misconceptions of reality. The relentless pursuit for ratings and intrusive journalism take a hand, with those who own the power manipulating the truth. “They shall not? Be influenced by any consideration, gift, or advantage offered”.
The relentless pursuit for ratings coupled with public interest take centre stage in Frontline’s ‘We Ain’t Got Dames’. After losing its female audience, ‘Frontline’ ’s solution to the problem presented a seemingly patronising response? “What do they wanna see??Tonight on ‘Frontline’ – meet the Queen Mum”. In desperation to revive its female audience after accusations of being “too blokey”, the use of politician Cheryl Kernot blurred the lines between truth and fiction through a juxtaposition of realities; “How do you balance work and family?”. Stories are constructed for ratings, with a certain verisimilitude offered to persuade people to accept so-called truths; “Not to worry. We’ll be able to edit it”. Influential power-driven “cowboys” take the lead as audiences witness reenactments of sexual assault, and stories on dieting, pap smears, and the art of kissing. Truth is pushed into the background as Mike’s “sweat-shop” story is reconstructed from slave labour to a story about fashion. Whoever holds the power tries to own the truth? Puff-piece journalism together with public interest in image over substance ensures truth as a whole, is not exultant. “Cynical? We’re trying to keep up with our opposition”.
As in Frontline’s ‘We Ain’t Got Dames’, the distortion of fact for ratings and public interest take the upper hand in the newspaper article ‘Nothing Informal About Being Illegal’ (Daily Telegraph, August 21, 2001. Poorly reported incidents and truths results in unreliable information of little use to society but to “glam” stories up, establishing an unrealistic belief on various occurrances. The “lack of regards for journalistic standards” is explored through the opinion piede by Piers Akerman, and is also emphasised through lack of “informality” of reporting through “propaganda”. People expect and deserve the truth from these paid professionals, and when a “number of things said are not true” occurs, the public begins to rethink the honesty and integrity of their information source. The problem of the misconception of ‘informality’ and immigration were explored, with ratings and public interest seemingly taking the main role. Truth? Truth was lost somewhere in a blind fury as ratings were persued and manipulation proceeded. “At a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act” (George Orwell).
Do we question what is real, what is not, what is true, or what is false? In most cases the answer is no, with viewers happy to absorb without compromise or obstruction. Professional industry workers in the media who have acquired a great deal of power, try to own the truth, with “knowledge is power” never being more true. Obstruction is needed as we are constantly presented with statements accepted as truth without question. Camera and other medial techniques were employed to make each Frontline episode a manufactured, yet real, representation of reality. So what is truth? Is it the conformity with fact or reality, a verified proposition, an agreement with a standard or rule? If there’s pictures, anything’s possible.