Tuesday, January 05, 2010

I'm Probably Being Pedantic

I just heard someone on the television in the next room inform the Australian public that Lake Eyre is a salt pan that fills only once in a generation. What? In my memory there have been a number of times the lake has filled. The most recent before the 2009 event was in 2000. I looked it up to make sure I was right. So either generations are contracting or this was laziness. I know which I think it was.

I may be being pedantic about what was probably a little poetic licence but television is one of the major sources of information for many Australians. If commentators (especially those from media sources that pride themselves on providing accurate information) are unreliable they create a pool of people in the community who are ill informed. In this case it's not all that important. It's a long standing myth that's being perpetuated but will have no lasting effect.

Edit: okay, I've now realised that they were talking about the lake being totally filled and in 2000 it was only partly filled but the point I was making is still valid I think.

But what if it had been something that did matter - something like an allegation that asylum seekers threw their children overboard to force the hand of authorities for example? This is where we need to understand that as far as possible news and documentary sources should be accurate whatever the issues, however big or small.

So does it matter that someone incorrectly stated something that could easily have been checked? Yes, I think it does because the media helps shape public opinion and a misinformed public can be a dangerous thing.


Satima Flavell said...

I really think that the Children Overboard debacle was due to a government cover-up. A small report turned up the national papers a day or two after the orginal story broke, saying that the chief of the navy (I think) had claimed the story to be untrue. But this was never followed up or given any further space. There may be a lot of skullduggery going on that we don't hear about.

Imagine me said...

Yes, I saw that too at the time but it doesn't excuse the media for not publicising it more fully.