Mags: Lara Bingle, Woman's Day, ACA. #2

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."

Oh, puh-leeease!

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.

Yours truly,
Girl With a Satchel


Ursula Jefferson said...

good call erica!

Rachel @ Musings of an Inappropriate Woman said...

Exactly. It's got nothing to do with Bingle's intelligence. It's about the way people sound when they talk versus the way people read when they write (although I agree that the responses almost certainly weren't written by Bingle - they're very dry and devoid of emotion or insight into her experience). I'd be disappointed if I'd bought the mag based on the cover and hype - it reveals nothing.

Anonymous said...

You said it perfectly.

Anonymous said...

Oh good call Erica. So agree with everything you said. Actually has anyone ever heard Lara speak? Is she real? Or is she a robot? I am joking. I have heard her speak on Sunrise and she sounds like a nice articulate young woman. But yes after reading the Woman Day's article and watching the ACA report (where she didn't even say a word!) makes me think, like Erica, it is all media spin. And yes the constant shower shots of Lara on ACA also made me gag. Why keep showing them if they have "hurt" Lara deeply. I agree with Lara that those photos should have never been passed around footy friends but when your comeback is so styled and glossed within an inch of its life one can't help but be a cynic.

NatWebster said...

If Bingle (and Markson for that matter) were serious about this being an issue of a woman's right to privacy or a version of sexual assault, then they would have donated their $200k or at least some percentage of it to an organisation like the White Ribbon Foundation. Instead it looks like it will just be used to buy Lara a few more lattes down at Bondi or some more Vuitton.

Interesting too that while they are proceeding with legal action, they haven't made a formal complaint to the AFL, which is essentially Fevola's employer. That smacks of doing this for publicity rather than actual change.

I vehemently disagree with the publication of the picture (including those outlets who keep showing it) and totally condemn Fevola's actions, but if the point of this is to improve Bingle's public image and endear her more to a particular target audience for her future endeavours then it has failed miserably. I also agree that it is a low point for journalism. In an era where media outlets are pushing the ethos of getting it first rather than getting it right, all we have is essentially a printed press release and not only do editors appear to be happy with that, they are handing over big fat cheques for the privilege. How disappointing.

Alison said...

Totally agree Erica. I am waiting for Bingle to settle the action quietly after 6 months or so and then "adopt" an "appropriate" charity as spokesmodel.

Those images must have been circulating for 3 years at least. She could have initiated action immediately and minimised any damage. Love that women should be able to take action against misuse of images taken without consent - remember legal commentators have pointed out that the action she has started have shaky legal merit- dislike the PR/Marketing implications.

Leah said...

Well said Erica.

I thought I read in a newspaper in the last couple of days that the questions were in fact forwarded to Lara for her to answer by e-mail instead of a face to face interview.

Anonymous said...

It's being reported that Lara is giving a portion of the proceeds to a domestic violence charity...

Anonymous said...

Those answers are definitely written - and I doubt by her. Why is she allowing herself to be used by that slimebucket Markson like this? Great summation Erica.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, I am SO WITH YOU. Finally, someone voicing a female perspective that isn't "aw, poor Lara"!
Thank you =)

Bon said...

Here here! I think the moment I heard that Bingle was being paid for an interview by the very same magazine that printed the offending photo was the moment I lost any sympathy for her, or interest in the outcome of this whole saga. If she was so offended by it, she should have gone after the Woman's Day as well as Fevola, instead of accepting their money to tell her story. The whole thing has Max Markson written all over it, no wonder people have been saying that he has orchestrated the whole thing from the beginning - because it looks and smells like a massive publicity stunt.

Bee said...

I didn't catch the CA story, but Markson was on TT last night and said Lara would be donating a proportion (refused to give a figure) to a charity - can't remember which, but think it was a domestic violence one. The cynic in me says - yeah $200.

Really well said Erica.

Miss M said...

I have read somewhere that lara undertook hours of media relations training in prep for her interview with Woman's day, but at the end it was conducted via email.

BTW - Markson is a vile vile human being and an embaressment to the media / PR profession. He is an ambulance chaser of the worst kind.

And Lara - where the bloody hell is your brain girl. Shut up and let this all sail away - unless you really really need the publicity.

Jaime said...

Well put Erica. I'm glad that someone is putting out there, the whole 'ick' factor that is residing with so many women out there at the moment.
I have no time for anyone involved in this dreadful piece of PR propaganda.

Lady Melbourne said...

Really well done Erica, your insights are always spot on. Mind if I twitter this, if you haven't already?

Anonymous said...

erica, your a smart cookie. Well put and said. I too find it hard to sympathise for lara. Seriously if she knew the photo was out there last why did not she not sue fevola then and there. What she waits till Womans Day post it. Then she accepts money from them after they printed the ad. Does she not feel humiliated and hurt by there actions. She is a silly silly woman surrounded byt stupid people. Markson is only does what he has been doing for a long time. Why didnt he family and friends advise her any better. Hell she should know better irrespective of being 19, 22 or 90.

Rochelle said...

Exactly what you said!

Poppy Gets a Life said...

Great summation of the issue.

I haven't even seen the photos, nor did I watch the ACA show.

Kind of bored by the whole thing, but think it is great that you are analysing it more deeply than the mainstream media.


Julie said...

Well written Erica. To me, the amount of coverage this 'story' is getting is a eally sad indictment on society. I can't wait for it to be over. I mean the second story on the news? Are you kidding me?

Anonymous said...

Hey couldn't agree more with what is an insightful take on the whole industry. The media is beholding to agents whose cattle get the nod and we see it increasingly on commercial television and her eit on radio. This one could bring an agent undone and wreck the clinets relationship. A message that greed isn't everything though and life usually picks the right players.