After almost three weeks of violence between Israel and Hamas, the Australian media are still desperately searching for a ‘local angle’ to the story.
The MH17 tragedy, in which 37 Australians lost their lives, has led news bulletins for most of the past fortnight, including the rising body count of Australian victims, their funeral services, the difficulties around their repatriation and the posting of Australian investigators to the site.
In contrast, the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, in which almost three times as many people have died, has failed to capture the imagination of the Australian public.
Channel 9 news reader Peter Hitchener shared his thoughts this week, ‘Look, the first question we ask as a news reporter in Australia is can we compare the story to an MCG crowd, Phar Lap’s heart or Ian Thorpe’s feet? If not, then without a local angle – be it an Australian death, an Australian aid worker’s near miss or quick escape, or even a radical Australian Muslim convert – the situation in the Middle East is simply not a high interest story. The Australian public really need a local angle, in order to understand and contextualise these complex international situations.’
This attitude has been reflected in much of the mainstream media’s reporting of the war, with most TV bulletins including it in the ‘world news’ section or at least following coverage of MH17 and now, the Commonwealth games.
Hitchener again, ‘All I can say now is, thank god for the Commonwealth games, with the MH17 story slowing, we would have had to consider the possibility of leading with the Middle East conflict, but now we have at least another solid week of stories that Aussies can understand.’
Carrie Bickmore of Channel Ten’s ‘The Project’ noted that their quasi-news show has covered the situation almost daily, ‘Don’t you remember those cool graphs and animations we used? And the Gotye song we played in the background? And how we compared it to Game of Thrones so that Gen Y could understand it? And then we had Waleed Aly on, with his ‘Middle East Minute,’ don’t you remember? It was on right after the promo, er I mean story, about the hard luck travels of the latest Masterchef participant. You don’t recall?’
With the violence in Gaza showing no sign of slowing, in fact some are predicting the beginning of a third intifada, many journalists and producers are concerned. Channel Seven’s Mark Ferguson explained, ‘This really is a tragic situation in the Middle East, if it is not resolved soon then we will be forced to lead with it. The Commonwealth Games will provide enough material for about another week, but then there is a month until AFL & NRL finals, I’m really don’t know what we will do if the situation continues. Is Kevin Rudd still interested in the Labor leadership? I guess we could follow Clive Palmer around for a month. Wait a minute, there is that story of the 157 Sri Lankan boat people…’