Attention Journalists: Do your job

Last night on Media Watch there was a piece on the recent campaign by TCO in which they released a piece of content around “texting based disorders” being experienced by teens, such as textephrenia and post-traumatic text disorder. The release was picked up by numerous large scale media outlets and published as news.

The Media Watch piece took the attitude that what TCO did was unscrupulous and wrong. It asserted that TCO & Boost Mobile had misled the public.

Stepping back from what has already happened lets actually think about what was done here. TCO published a press release which clearly stated the research was from Boost Mobile. The paper had ridiculous names like textephrenia and post-traumatic text disorder. To me, if you’re over the age of 16 this should ring a fair few warning bells as the names alone reek of satire and any release or piece of ‘research’ that comes from an interested party should be viewed with a certain level of skepticism.

From my 2 cents all blame sits with the media outlets. It would have taken 1 phone call and 2 minutes of research to de-bunk the report and save themselves the embarrassment of being caught out for publishing this. I saw someone on Twitter say that to blame the media entirely is akin to blaming the victim of a conman for being ripped off, however I would disagree. In life your job not to thoroughly investigate everything you do, there is no need for you to find out the origin of the lettuce on your sandwich at lunch, as a journalist the ONLY thing you are really paid to do is source information and ensure it is credible. If journalists aren’t doing their jobs what exactly are they being paid for?

Full disclosure: I am friends with the team at TCO though have never done business with them

EDIT:

Tim over at Mumbrella did some actual research and spoke to people and came up with a much better post around this issue in which he points out that TCO didn’t actually issue the press release – though he agrees with my key points, which is what really matters now, isnt it?

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8 thoughts on “Attention Journalists: Do your job

  1. I agree with MW that TCO’s ‘release’ was false, but in fairness to TCO they are working in the knowledge of the market.

    Stuff like this gets picked up and run with by lazy editorial organisations only interested in ‘views’ and ‘clicks’ rather than quality content.

    The responsibility lies with all parties.

    Lack of responsibility for actions isn’t a gen y thing is it? They learn their behaviour from somewhere.

    Is anyone teaching anyone ethical behaviour anymore?

    Is anyone teaching good journalism anymore?

  2. To me false releases are symptomatic of a larger issue within the Australian media.

    While TCO’s actions are questionable to a degree, you need to ask ‘if the media fact checked, even somewhat frequently would anybody even attempt to send this type of release?’

  3. A little blame lies with each party, in my opinion. TCO for producing something that tried to pass off as research, and the media for being so poor at their jobs that they fell for it.

    Although there’s another option – they don’t care about the validity of the content, just that it creates some sensationalism. Mission accomplished.

    Also, has no-one picked up on the irony of TCO’s name?

  4. If you refer to Tims post over on mumbrella (link in article) it actually wasn’t TCO that did the press release.

  5. Thanks, I’d just started reading that and thought I’d drop back over and adjust my position… now more inclined to agree that the media was at fault. The ads are clearly a) fictitious and, more importantly, b) ads. They do not attempt to pass themselves off as anything else.

    Nice to see Tim agrees with me here as well: ‘If the PR content is entertaining then the newspaper won’t ask too many hard questions about whether it’s true – just whether it’s a good story.’

    Thanks for the discussion.

  6. The media and marketing/spin/PR merchants now exist as an open symbiotic cabal. Neither element involved in the MW piece, and countless daily manifestations of the same scenario, can be absolved of their ethical responsibilities.

    I agree that the journalists involved committed the more serious ethical faux pas. However, that does not make it acceptable to indirectly toy with people by inventing psychological and/or medical conditions to sell more units of Product X. Especially when using quasi-citations to actually academics as support. This was a main element of the MW investigation.

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