While many Australians take free press and a functioning democracy for granted, there are factors that impact the freedom and impartiality of the media that readers should be aware of.
Ownership is a key factor, with privately owned news corporations strongly impacted by the world view of the individual who owns them.
According to Maxine, a classic example can be found in favouritism of one political party over another.
“If the owners are for or against a political party, they’re going to push that party on the front pages. There’s a famous front page, they’ve got Kevin Rudd dressed as a clown and it’s in a Murdoch press because they’re more inclined to support Liberals,” she says.
Politics isn’t the only arena where fair reporting can be the first casualty. Advertising also plays a part in what you see, read and hear. “You’re going to find that people aren’t going to be critical of a big mining firm because they want to get the advertising from them,” Maxine says.
“There are lots of things like business interest, advertising and ownership, and just the position of the newspaper. You’ve got to be aware of that when you’re reading it but most people aren’t.”
Fortunately, there is a simple way to gain a well-rounded picture of events that often encourage people to pick one side or another.
Whether it’s politics, climate change or any other topic that appears to have two or more conflicting viewpoints, reading a wide variety of media will give you a more complete understanding of the story.
If you really can’t stand the bias present in news, there is one drastic measure Maxine advised you can take as the election approaches. “Go old fashioned, read the policies and make your own mind up.”