Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Dissecting Australian media's Trump moment

  • 22 May 2019


Just before 10pm on Saturday night two things became clear: the election result, and the fact that the media had got it wrong. Colleagues in the press gallery were shocked by the Coalition win, while the seat outcomes were 'a mess'.

It seemed like Australia's 'Trump moment' — not in what voters did (as Matthew Knott pointed out, there are big differences between Scott Morrison and Donald Trump's politics) but in how many journalists misread the room.

Morrison heralded his win as a 'miracle' — and the media ran with it, leading to headlines like 'Messiah from the Shire'. However, while his win seemed amazing to those reporting on it, a look at a deeply divided and change-adverse Australia suggests the Coalition getting over the line should not have been so unexpected.

To do that, we first have to acknowledge that journalism in Australia has a diversity problem. Getting a job in the media and staying there requires a large amount of privilege and access that many people simply don't have. Journalism also has a class problem. This is evident in journalists asking people on the minimum wage if they 'dip into their savings', and news programs airing 'bits' in which a comedian tries to live off Newstart and blows the money on smashed avo and booze.

When I think about the newsrooms I have worked in, I have seen more diversity among the cleaners and the baristas than among the journalists. This is not a good thing. Media Diversity Australia is currently collating the first Australian data, but a cursory look shows a cohort that is overwhelmingly white and middle class.

Journalism actually used to be a trade, which you entered as a cadet straight out of high school. These days most journalists do one or more degrees before getting a job. The number of cadet positions has been greatly diminished, making them highly competitive. It is not uncommon for successful candidates to have worked as a casual for years at a news organisation, or even to have a masters degree.

Cadetships are not entry level anymore. In fact there are barely any entry level jobs in actual journalism. The small pool of jobs that do exist are usually only in reach if you have the connections and experience. This generally requires undertaking unpaid internships while at university.


"The people writing and selling the news in Australia often look vastly different to their audience. No wonder