Everything old is new again
I feel old. Not old and jaded, but carrying enough life experience to be walking around with an almost permanent sense of déjà vu.
This feeling was triggered most strongly a few days ago when I read about the appointed head of spin for the Victorian State Government.
For almost a decade of my career as a journalist (aka ‘the ‘90’s), Steve Murphy was responsible for managing the reputation of the Kennett Government.
His job was both gatekeeper and benefactor, depending on whether he wanted to discourage you from, or persuade you to run your story.
It wasn’t a popular position but, from what I recall, Steve wasn’t in the job to make friends – simply to ensure the media represented the government, and its policies – in the best possible light.
Almost two decades later, and after a stint in consulting and in the media, Murphy is returning to the political dark side – this time to control the current Victorian government’s messaging.
This recycling of skills is proof of my long-held theory that there really are no new stories. We’ve seen the emergence of new technology, which provides new mediums and formats for telling stories, but we haven’t seen the emergence of any new narratives.
Here are my top 5 news genres that seem to be stuck on ‘repeat’:
- The David and Goliath battle: this is where the Big Bad Corporate/Government Department is exploiting/ignoring the Little Guy and must be brought to justice. And who doesn’t identify with the battler?
- The Fallen Angel: We’re all familiar with the tale of the celebrity/sports star/public figure caught philandering/cheating the system/breaking the law. Let’s face it, everyone loves a scandal. And these are the kinds of stories that keep the gossip magazines in business.
- The Broken Record: aka the World First, the Greatest, Biggest, Longest etc. The media love stories that set new highs, whether it’s the weather, a sporting highlight or a frivolous event. If there’s a photo opportunity in it, the media will be there.
- The Tragedy: a child dying of a rare illness… the family who lost everything in a bushfire… the family of a victim of crime… nothing sells papers like the human face of tragedy.
- The Prophet of Doom: in this scenario the media delivers a message of imminent doom if immediate steps are not taken to rectify the danger. This genre is found across many sections of the media including financial, environmental and health. It is a method particularly favored by many tabloid columnists.
Because the media seems to be stuck telling the same old stories, I can understand why the Napthine Government would feel more secure entrusting its reputation into the hands of a man who has been around the block a few times – and played both sides of the media/PR fence.
How much more comforting must it feel to know your spin doctor has seen (and most likely managed) every conceivable form of announcement, policy, issue and scandal involving government, rather than risk your affairs with a 20-something Gen-Yer (who may be quick off the social-media mark, but doesn’t have the experience to know in advance how easily matters can so quickly spiral out of control)?