Media Study - Lara Bingle, the mute victim
Last night's A Current Affair report did very little to contradict my suspicions that the whole, sordid Lara Bingle Bungle is a big, fat farce, insulting the Australian public's collective intellect with each highly orchestrated and sickly-slick PR move. Seriously ick.
While I wouldn't deny the importance of discussing the sexism that exists in the world of football, how technology is invading our personal lives or Brendan Fevola's culpability, for me, this story is more about the misuse of media power, the public mistrust that inevitably follows and the commercial interests that drive editorial decisions ahead of ethical considerations.
Someone with even the most basic media literacy skills might have observed that the Woman's Day cover feature is highly stylised – and I'm not just talking about the glamour shots of blue-eyed Bingle by the pool. It would be unsisterly to doubt Bingle's ability to string together an articulate response to Phillip Koch's questions, but, as social commentator and journalist Rachel Hills observes, it "looks like the questions were sent off to the PR and returned via email."
Case in point: "This is anything but a publicity stunt. It has been terribly humiliating for me. This is why I wanted to speak to the same magazine and to the same readers who would have seen the photo and read the article in last week's edition. This is my attempt to reduce the damage caused to me when Brendan circulated the photo."
In the world of celebrity journalism, this is nothing new – PRs often vet or veto glossy interviews to ensure their "talent" is presented in the best possible light. But the notion wasn't exactly dispelled by A Current Affair, either – though we see Koch is present at the photo shoot, and are told he spent "hours" with her, we don't observe him talking to her (oh, look, he's in the blue shirt next to her: they must be chummy!). And all his comments about her don't suggest a familiarity beyond a quick "hi" at the photo shoot. In fact, he looks plain awkward talking about her – like when you haven't prepared for an exam.
My guess? Max Markson replied on Bingle's behalf, pocketing a healthy cut of the reported $200,000 Bingle "allegedly" secured for the Woman's Day exclusive. Another win for PR; another blow for journalism's name. But, really, are we surprised? It's like a big game! No one takes glossip mags or tabloid-style current affairs shows seriously, do they?
Another betrayal was A Current Affair's billing of the Bingle report as an exclusive insight, which suggested she might have been interviewed. Bingle is once again rendered mute – the pretty model muse and innocent victim in the background discussed by media "talking heads" Mia Freedman, Melinda Tankard Reist, Dr Leslie Cannold and Koch himself (all who did add something legitimate to the debate beyond media ethics). Woman's Day editor Fiona Connolly was another notably absent talking head.
What's more, the repeated showing of the "shower shot" throughout the report just further objectified Bingle: she is now The Shower Shot; not a Real Person. How is this doing her a favour? If the ACA piece was orchestrated as a make-good for Markson and co. by the powers-that-be at ACP, then I wouldn't be a happy camper if I were in Bingle's shoes.
With all this embarrassing coverage and blatant kowtowing to Max Markson's interests (which are not necessarily in line with his client's best interests – being elusive is not a good look for a girl who wants the public's sympathy), Woman's Day is going to need a serious PR campaign of its own to win back the respect of readers.
Girl With a Satchel