THIS journalism business, particularly the quality journalism we have been hearing so much about, good heavens but it is hard for a simple reader to figure out! We know it is “quality journalism” because it is in The Phage, and by the definition favoured by Robert Manne and others, that is enough. But for the baffled rest of us, well it can be a real head-scratcher.
Take this morning’s Phage, for example, which reports with breathless credulity that conditions inside the Baiada poultry plant, now at the centre of a rather nasty industrial dispute, are both unsanitary and unsafe. The article is supported by a portfolio of pictures, including the one below, which are published online above a caption that asserts without qualification that they are “bad conditions”.
The Age neglects to explain where it obtained the images, but it is reasonable to assume they were provided by the strikers – a provenance that might raise a question or two about whether or not they were stage-managed. The snapshot above, for example, just happens to have a couple of plucked fowls photogenically displayed atop a bag of other processed birds. And in the foreground, framed for maximum impact, is a bank of shipping cartons with the Baiada name prominently displayed.
Another snap (below) captures the Dickensian hell of the modern poultry industry with its pair of wheelie bins standing in front of an emergency exit.
Now some might see the photo gallery and raise an eyebrow. The dispute has been rancorous in the extreme, with arrests, punches, even allegations of industrial manslaughter. So all of a sudden, rising to the surface of this poisoned well, an album of one side’s alleged sins is offered to the Age, which publishes them with a condemnatory caption.
Well, you might think, the Age should have explained its informants’ possible motivation or, on a very good day, questioned the pictures themselves. Perhaps it might even have published a story noting that the dispute has now become so toxic that the strikers are attempting to ruin their employer’s reputation. Do poultry plants really leave uncovered chickens strewn about the shop floor, it might have asked, noting that food processing plants are visited regularly, often without warning, by health inspectors and the like? At the very least, the Age might have wondered how difficult it might be to drag two rubbish bins in front of a fire door, take their photograph and then wheel them back to somewhere safer?
They are questions an adult, even a reasonably dim adult, might be inclined to ask. But at the Age, no trace of healthy suspicions.
That’s quality journalism, folks. Quite a mystery, ain’t it!