A MUST-see exhibition that exposes the increasing reliance on opinion over fact in our media opens to the public today (November 15) at the Museum of Australian Democracy.
Presented in an entertaining and interactive format that should hit home across the generations, the new permanent exhibition, “Truth, Power and a Free Press” is divided into four sections, each of which explores a different aspect of media in a democracy.
According to Daryl Karp, the director of MoAD, the exhibition, which begins a 12-month long conversation about media and the issues affecting Australian democracy, reflects an international “perfect storm” for the media, fraying at the edges as the line between business, media, and celebrity opinion becomes blurred.
A serious breakdown of trust between the public and media had seen the spread of misinformation and the proliferation of news sources, many of them very dubious ones.
“We need a shared space,” Karp said.
Holly Williams, the exhibition curator, said the exhibition had been informed by the work of leading Australian journalists and academics.
“It aims to empower visitors to become active media citizens and engage more critically with the news they read and the news communicated to friends and family,” Williams said.
And as she explained to “CityNews”, with a broad definition of the media, it was likely to appeal to visitors young and old.
On hand to help unravel the problems yesterday were ABC journalist Hamish McDonald and investigative reporter Joanne McCarthy, whose stories for “The Newcastle Herald” are believed to have played a role in initiating the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
McDonald, who had cut his journalistic teeth in Canberra, waxed nostalgic about the good all days of reporting from Old Parliament House – a replicated ABC studio is one of the many walk-in exhibits. He spoke of the much more intimate relationship that once existed between politicians and journalists before they moved up the hill to the new Parliament House in 1988.
Journalism, in his view, is more important than ever in an era when the serious possibility existed that Australian journalists could go to jail for doing their job. Australia was not doing well globally, either, having dropped from number 19 to number 21 in terms of press freedom, although he admitted that it was doing better than some other countries.
It was important, McDonald said, to listen to people like Joanne McCarthy, who was standing next to him, and to see what they did.
For her part, McCarthy spoke about the way people had been afraid to speak up about child sexual abuse. She was disinclined to agree that there was a rift between the community and journalists since, in her experience, members of the public had felt betrayed by their leaders and “they need answers”.
“Truth, Power and a Free Press” is nothing if not entertaining, with lots of cubby-holes to get lost in.
There is a 2.13m high media wall, staged with the help of SBS, that explores the pressures journalists face in their line of work, a riveting walk-in (it actually invites you in) analysis of the differences between fact and opinion, an oration on press freedom from Kerry O’Brien, and lots of objects to look at, including a used coffee cup in the old ABC studio and the printing press, imported from England by Henry Parkes in another era where good journalism was essential to the way of life.
“Truth, Power and a Free Press”, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.